O, say can you see? Stories of a national anthem

From Tim Grove, author of A GRIZZLY IN THE MAIL AND OTHER ADVENTURES IN AMERICAN HISTORY

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copyright Michael Lowery copyright Michael Lowery

On September 13 and 14 Americans will commemorate the bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore, a mostly forgotten battle in U.S. history… except that it gave the United States its national anthem. The song is a stirring tribute of the battle by a man inspired at the sight of his young country’s flag still flying in defiance over a fort after a long night of incoming bombs and rockets by the formidable British navy.

I had the privilege of working on a major project to preserve the flag, the Star-Spangled Banner, when I worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. At one point I experienced a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with this national icon. I remember putting my face within a foot of its fibers and feeling two distinct emotions: awe from the power of this historic object imbued with symbolism and shock at the flag’s…

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