The Flag - The Fort - The Firsthand Witness

Posted in: Museums & Historic Sites, Francis Scott Key, Visitor Information

FSK Collage.jpg

Francis Scott Key, a Frederick County native, penned the words that would eventually be adopted as the National Anthem for the United States. The 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet was inspired by the iconic flag flying over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in the dawn’s early light following the British bombardment on September 13 and 14, 1814. The poem was set to music and later renamed. It became the National Anthem in 1931.

Key died in 1843, at the age of 63, in Baltimore. His family buried him there in a vault beside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. In 1866 they moved his body home to Frederick. He was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery to be among hundreds of other War of 1812 veterans. In 1898, the Key Monument Association reinterred Key and his wife beneath the granite monument bearing his bronze figure at the entrance to Mount Olivet Cemetery. All four verses from his handwritten manuscript are cast in bronze at the rear of the monument and by order of Congress in 1949, the American flag flies continuously over the Key monument.

Key’s handwritten manuscript has traveled very little since the Maryland Historical Society acquired it in the 1950s. In 2011 it traveled by armored vehicle, with a police escort, to Annapolis and to Fort McHenry. In 2013 it came to Frederick’s Mount Olivet Cemetery as part of ceremonies unveiling new interpretive exhibits at Francis Scott Key’s gravesite.

During this year when the bicentennial of the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner is being celebrated, visitors to this region may wish to visit the sites that tell the stories of its three key elements: the flag – the fort – and the firsthand witness. Frederick is easily accessible from Baltimore by I-70 and from Washington by I-270, and sits at the apex of a triangle that encompasses the important locations in Francis Scott Key’s life.

For more things to see and do in Frederick County, explore this site or visit our Events Calendar.