[Marxism] Patriotic Ballad Uncut and Wet

Mark Lause markalause at gmail.com
Fri Jul 4 21:09:33 MDT 2008

Actually, the story behind the "Star-Spangled Banner" (originally "the
Defense of Fort McHenry") is amazing and interesting enough.

The War of 1812 started as an attempt by the politicians and
expansionists to seize new territory while England was busy fighting
Napoleon.  In short order, Napoleon was out of the picture and the
wrath of the most powerful empire in history (to that point) turned on
the United States, which realized at about that time that it had this
massive coastline that simply couldn't be defended and a war that the
population in much of the country had really not been behind.

Americans responded with a popular effort to do what they could.  In
New York, hundreds volunteered, trade by trade, to put makeshift
fortifications into place.  The famous poet (and union printer) Samuel
Woodward celebrated the work of
     "Plumbers, founders, dyers, tinmen, turners shavers,
     Sweepers, clerks and criers, jewelers and engravers.
     Clothiers, drapers, players, cartmen, hatters, tailors
     Gaugers, sealers, weighers, carpenters and sailors!"

All laboring as "The Patriotic Diggers."

Once the British were focused, they found that they could land their
well-trained veteran troops almost anywhere and move pretty much with
impunity through the American countryside.  Most famously, on August
24, 1814, they entered and burned much of Washington, DC, before there
was really that much there, of course.

The British moved on Baltimore September 12-15, and the population
mobilized to defend their city.  Trade unionists and African-Americans
took up arms to protect their homes, alongside the property owners.
When the British landed 5,000 men at North Point to march on the city
from the rear, some of the militia ventured out from their works to
meet them in a sharp engagement that resulted in the death of the
British commander and the blunting of their attack.

On September 13-14, the British fleet tried from the other direction,
using mortar boats and their new Congreve rockets in an attempt to
take Fort McHenry.  It was this overnight bombardment that inspired
Francis Scott Key, watching from a British ship, to write the poem.

The interesting aftermath was that when Key went into Baltimore to
find a printer to put his poem into circulation, he couldn't find
anyone available.  (He eventually found a young apprentice who did the
work.  All the journeymen from the Typographical Union were out on the
barricades ready to meet the British if they made another attempt.

Finally, another endearing aspect of the national anthem is that it
was put to a drinking tune.  For an entertaining presentation of the
original (probably as a school project) on YouTube, see


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