Tag Archives: Civil War

History Education Resources | A review of Teachinghistory.org’s Civil War poster

Even if these were not momentous times we are living through (does this make the ’90s seem dull–all that prosperity and pop-culture?), there are always reminders of momentous times.  Last Sunday we remembered 9/11, ten years later.  This year is the National Road’s bicentennial as we remember the pioneer spirit and its side-effects in expanding and founding our nation.  Next year will inaugurate the bicentennial of the War of 1812.  And, of course, this year marks the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  We study these subjects, anyway, even if there is no rounded-number anniversary, but when these moments come it is worth a little extra emphasis to put the past in perspective, both in terms of the chronology and years since the event, but also in the progress or regress in human actions from point A to today’s point B.  Plus, there a wealth of opportunities and resources spring up on such anniversaries that are well worth exploiting!

In honor of the Civil War’s big birthday and the start of the new school year, Teachinghistory.org has unveiled a new free poster for classroom walls.  This poster, much like their general history poster (click here), it is geared as much to exploring how we learn about the past–not as from a textbook, but as a historian doing research–and the types of questions and sources we engage for that purpose.  In other words, it is about historical method.  The Civil War poster also tries to tempt students, to tease them, to pull them into the investigation on their own accord.  I think it may well be successful in sowing seeds of curiosity in young minds, but any teacher who posts it has to take advantage!  It cannot just go up as a passive “tool”–it needs to be built upon.  This is something that a lot teachers do not do.  They tape it up and hope the poster will speak for itself and inspire or teach.  To help with this, Teachinghistory.org provides an additional research: an interactive online version of the poster.

This is the perfect opportunity for history teachers and parents to make use of and build upon a great eye-catching, tool.  At http://teachinghistory.org/civil-war, the poster’s pictured artifacts and documents are presented.   Scroll over them, and click on the individual items to be linked to lesson-plans and videos for instructional ideas and resources.  For example, there is a series of videos of historian Tom Thruston who explains a book of slave receipts to expound upon the realities and legalization of slavery, its regional influence and its absolutely mundane, accepted nature of its existence in American society.  These are designed to assist the teacher in using the artifacts that the poster includes.  Because of the different types of artifacts, one has the opportunity to make a several learning projects for small groups and build upon each group’s learning experience by having them teach the subject to their fellow classmates, either in small groups or in class presentations.

Once a teacher has used the poster as part of the active learning, the poster remains an active learning tool.  Students who look up at the slave receipt and the other artifacts will be reminded of the exercise and will continue to think about it and make links that they had not thought of before every time they see it.  Active, thoughtful, considering learning is the the great skill that all subject should teach, with each subject enhancing it in particular ways and bringing the subject’s value to it.  History has its own particular value that, among other things, encourages self-reflection.  The Civil War is one of American History’s most important moments for self-reflection.  If in using this poster, teachers initiate the students in active learning of the event, it will be a great tool for educators to introduce that national self-reflection along with history and historical method.  Well done, Teachinghistory.org, well done.

 

Tomorrow, look for my review of Teachinghistory.org’s Spotlight series.

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Word of the Week, 8/8-8/12/11 – Dixie

Dix·ie (dikse), n.  1. the Southern States of the United States; Dixie Land.  2. a lively song about the South, written in 1859, sung during the Civil War,  and still popular. —adj. of or having to do with the South of the United States; Southern.  [American English; origin uncertain]

~ The World Book Dictionary

Most likely, the term is simply a reference to the Mason-Dixon Line, the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland that separated the slave states from the free states…

By the 1830s the term Mason and Dixon had come to figuratively denote the boundary between the slave and free states.  Somewhere in the transition from meaning the boundary to denoting the southern states, Mason was lost and all that remained was Dixie.

~ Word Myths, Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends, David Wilton

David Wilton, author of the book Word Myths, explains that the earliest written record of the word Dixie is found in the song, Johnny Roach, written by Daniel D. Emmett in February 1859.  Astonishingly, to modern sensibilities, Emmett was a black-face performer from Ohio.  Emmett also authored the more popular song, Dixie’s Land, which he first performed in April 1859.  (See the YouTube video below.)

Wilton reports that Emmett claimed that the word was already in use when he requisitioned it for his songs.  It was a term he picked up as a traveling showmen, saying “Dixie’s Land” referred to the Southern States.

The term beget another song that became a rallying tune among Confederate troops and sympathizers.  If Wilton is correct in tracing the origin back to the Mason-Dixon Line dividing the North from the South, or the free states from the slave states, it made a logical nickname for the CSA.

 The association with this cause gave rise to several other words, most notably:

Dix·ie·crat  n.  1. one of those Democrats who opposed first the civil-rights program of the Truman Administration and later the civil-rights plank of the 1948 platform of the Democratic Party: The Dixiecrats took four states from him [President Truman] in ’48, but he was elected, nevertheless (Newsweek).  2. a later follower of the Dixiecrats.  [American English < Dixie + (demo)crat]

 ~ The World Book Dictionary

Wilton also addresses several false eponymous origins for Dixie:  1) It has been suggested that the word is a reference to Manhattan slave owner, Johan Dixie (also spelled Dixy), a benevolent slave owner whose slaves were sold down South either because he died or because the law in New York changed–the origin suggested by references to how good life had been in “Dixie’s Land”; no evidence exist to support this claim.  2) In 1951, Mitford Mathews uncovered evidence of a musical performer, named Dixey, who performed in Philadelphia–Mathews suggests a connection between Emmett and the artist, but as Wilton points out, this does not agree with Emmett’s explanation and no other evidence exists.

Other false origins include a link to the French dix (ten) which appeared on bilingual monetary notes printed by the Citizen’s Bank of Louisiana and dispersed throughout the South.  Wilton has found no evidence that the bills were referred to as dixies, nor that the term was associated with the banknotes in the region before modern times.  Another false origin, dating back to the late 19th century, is in reference to a game of tag played in New York, but there is no evidence to support these claims; in fact, the evidence provided in the game’s song lyrics suggests that it was in use after the Civil War.

A Google image search of Dixie brings up artwork incorporating Confederate flags and slogans (or photographs and magazine covers of the country band, the Dixie Chicks).  The term remains a loaded one, frequently conjuring up the country’s oldest divisions, repeatedly renewed through Supreme Court decisions, political machinations, regional events and civil protest.

One of my strongest associations with the word, comes from an interview from a former Washington Redskin–the first, in fact, to break the color barrier on the team, which was the last organization in the NFL to do so.  The team’s owner greeted him gruffly and asked him to join the room in singing “Dixie“.

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Opening Day thoughts about baseball and history

Baseball is one of the oldest games in America.  Whether you follow it or not, it is deeply ingrained in our culture and our history.  In my Sports in America history class, I recently took a large chunk of class time to show The Tenth Inning from Ken Burns’s Baseball PBS series.  Sports are such a huge part of our culture.  They intertwine with our lives socially, economically, morally and sometimes politically.  Sports competition is a metaphor for business, political candidacies, casual relationships and academics.  They also mirror our society in its troubles, successes, pessimism and optimism.

We see globalization in politics and economics expanding in our professional sports.  We see cheating in college sports as much as we see it in college academics.  We see scandals of the familiar variety blown up in the media.  We see uncommon philanthropy quietly pursued on the sidelines, in the off season.  We see winning motivate hard work and greatness, as well as shortcuts and duplicity.

Watching Ken Burns’s wonderful work, a tapestry of contemporary music, sports photography, sports writers and history, one observes the escape from Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals to the juiced home run race of McGuire and Sosa.  Almost no one wanted to talk about steroids then!  Sports reporters recalled the cocaine scandal of the ’80s and shuttered.  One also notes down in Houston a stadium still named after Enron.  And, one recalls with chills and tears the season of 9/11 when everyone who had begun to detest the New York Yankees suddenly rallied behind them . . everyone outside of Arizona, that is.

It is serendipity that I happened to show this concurrently with the Barry Bonds perjury trial and Opening Day-week.  In full disclosure, I am not a baseball fan, but I am a romantic for its entanglement in America’s past–I envy baseball fans.  (While I live in Baltimore, I keep an eye on the hometown Pittsburgh Pirates, despite their indomitable success at losing, and shake my head at the incompetence and greed of Pirate’s ownership daring to operate in the same city as the Rooney family and Mario Lemieux.)  Otherwise, I am fully on the outside looking in, not fully comprehending the rules and beauties of the sport, but nonetheless appreciating its entrenchment in our culture.

Part of baseball’s magic is that it is played in the summer.  But, the other part comes from its roots, predating the Civil War, and being integrally caught up in American history.

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Come visit Saratoga Springs, NY!!

In memory of Patricia “Patty” Mary Elizabeth Joyce Reeves, a member of the Wilton Historical Society. (September 21, 1932 – October 12, 2010)

I was recently in Saratoga Springs for a funeral and thought it would be fitting to talk about the city in today’s post in memory of “Grandma Pat.”  Grandma Pat (technically my grandmother-in-law) was one of the first people to comment on my posts and was herself a history buff, so this is, I believe, an appropriate tribute.

Many folks know about the revolutionary era battle for Saratoga Springs–it is well documented, so I am not going to spend time on it in this post.  Instead, I am going to break this post into three parts based on 1) the Canfield Casino in Congress Park–now the sight of the Saratoga Springs History Museum, 2) a travel article reprinted from the New England Magazine, in 1905, “Saratoga Springs,” and 3)  the narrative history found in The Saratoga Reader, Writing about an American village, 1749-1900.

Saratoga Springs History Museum, Canfield Casino in Congress Park

 

Canfield Casino in Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, NY

 

The Saratoga Springs History Museum is in Congress Park, housed inside the old Canfield Casino.  Originally one of the main attractions to the city, along with the horses and the springs, the casino does double duty for the city, today, as the main hall is rented out for occasions such as weddings.  In its heyday it was a popular site for the high-rollers from New York city who regularly dropped six figures like it was pocket change, according to the docents.  Today, visitors can pay $5 to see the exhibits, which include a small sampling of pre-Columbian archaeological finds and a wide smattering of other artifacts from the colonial era through to the early mid-1900s.  On the second floor there are really three exhibits.  The first is a collection of women’s fashion over the last two hundred years, “Two Hundred Years of Fashion Exhibit.”  (Full disclosure: I brushed through that section pretty quickly… but if you are into fashion and textile history it’s probably pretty cool.)  The second exhibit is the only one focusing on the building’s past specifically, the “High Rollers: The High Stakes Gambling Room,” which includes an original bar from that age (interesting side note: women weren’t allowed to gamble and so were provided a reading room).  Finally, there is an exhibit focusing on the small town’s extensive history of fires: “Historic Fires in Saratoga Springs Exhibit.”  The third floor, featuring “The Walworth Mansion–six rooms from the 1880s,” covers a rather wide array of American social history, running from the Civil War through to the Spanish American War, through the eyes of one family with ties to Kentucky, Washington DC and, obviously, Saratoga Springs.

 

High Rollers: The High Stakes Gambling Room at the Saratoga Springs History Museum

 

As a casino, Canfield was a successful casino in the resort area of Saratoga Springs.  It ran, successfully hosting JP Morgan, the Vanderbilts and Whitneys and their like, until 1907, when reformers successfully banned gambling in the city.  At this point, the docent explained, the gambling moved out to the lake, having been taken over by the criminal element that ran it in speakeasies.  The town had always attracted, as one Saratogan described it, a frivolous interest.

 

Parlor of the Walworth family mansion from the 1880s, Saratoga Springs History Museum

 

The Walworth mansion exhibit is a curious one.  As visitors walk into the doorway of the rooms an audio narrative comes on telling the family story the perspectives of different individuals in the family.  As far as that goes, I think it is a great way to introduce young people to history and the different perspectives that come down to us, though they are a little long and are rehashing the same general story–this may tax a young person’s patience.  The family deals with Civil War loyalties, domestic abuse, religious conversion in a Presbyterian corner of the world , women’s suffrage and the ill effects of the Spanish-American War.  The exhibit is supposedly based on seven rooms from the old mansion that was torn down almost one hundred years after these rooms were lived in–they are billed as coming from the 1880s–but, sadly the exhibit does not describe the methods of preservation and research to explain or make the case for how authentic this reconstruction actually is.  Nor, do they explain how they came to create the personal narratives recorded by actors–what sources they used, how they chose the individuals featured, etc.  Actually, this would in general be my complaint about the museum: not enough literature and explanation.

Apparently some odd things have happened up there on the third floor and the Ghost Hunters, from the SciFy channel, visited a while back.  The Casino was featured on episode 18 of season 6.  The episode includes another haunted site, so if you want to watch the portion relevant to Saratoga Springs, you’ll want to wade half way through it.  (This has apparently increased the number of visits to the museum.)  In the introduction to the feature, they explain some of the history of the building . . . as for ghosts?  I am not qualified to comment on anything in that area, but I did not notice anything on my visit!  (The episode is available in 5 parts on YouTube.)

“Saratoga Springs” by Louis McHenry Howe, New England Magazine, 1905

It was to Saratoga in those long-forgotten, prehistoric springtimes, when the Hudson tore apart its ice fetters and thrust them down into the sea, that the bravest and the feeblest alike of the haughty Iroquois tribe, abandoning their winter tepees, made their way over trails so firmly trodden down that the visitor to-day may trace them, sometimes for miles through the forests surrounding Saratoga.

It is by means of this introduction that Howe launches into the history surrounding the popular vacation and resort area.  Notice too, that it is published while the casino is still open for business.  The publication, The New England Magazine, was published in Boston as a continuation from the Bay State Magazine and appears to have run from 1886 to 1917 (although, I have not verified that).  My copy is a reprint of an original found in the collection of Minnie Clark Bolster and sold at the Saratoga Springs History Museum.  The article is a travel feature and tells us itself why the reader should be interested in Saratoga Springs:

What, it may well be asked, has been the magnet that has drawn man to this spot since earliest time?  The proud Iroquois, treading with light moccasin the forest trail, would have answered: “Game! for so many stately bucks and sleek-sided does, fierce wolves and fiercer panthers, never elsewhere did Indian see.”

“Society,” would have been the reply of the famous beauty, Betty Holcomb, travelling to the Spa by easy stage coach, from far Virginia, crowds assembling at each post station to catch a glimpse of her lovely face.

“The finest racing in the world,” would answer the gentlemen sportsman of to-day, learning luxuriously back in his private car as it tears across the miles that lie between Wall Street and the Saratoga Race Track.  All of these answers would have been right so far as they went, but the root of the matter would not be there, for the last analysis of Saratoga’s greatness will show that the foundations of her fame lie in her wonderful mineral springs.

The description of the town in this extended essay is one true to its time that describes what New England and New York society valued and of what popular knowledge consisted.  A geological explanation follows to explain the existence of the “wonderful mineral springs.”  Still, the majority of the essay is centered around the horse races, clearly the primary feature in the town’s popularity according to Howe.  There is surprisingly little about the Revolutionary War battle that took place there and shares its name with the small city.

As a primary source, this is valuable in the access it provides to the lifestyles of the wealthy.  While there is a great deal of discussion involving the local tribes, much of it inaccurate or misconstrued and virtually all of it romantic, there is no mention of the lives of anybody outside the wealthy class.  This is probably suggestive of the magazine’s readership, but that could be misleading.  Certainly, the accompanying photographs in the article focus on the estates and diversions of the wealthy–the publication does not provide credits for these photographs, so I take them to have come from the article, but it is possible that they have been provided for the modern reprint from Saratoga Springs archives.

The Saratoga Reader, Writing about an American village, 1749-1900 by Field Horne

This is an interesting collection of personal narrative descriptions of the history of Saratoga Springs.  It is in some respects a charming and pleasant read, in others a potentially useful collection for the high school and undergraduate researcher.  For a more serious researcher it supplies a useful trail to open inquiries into Saratoga, colonial, revolutionary, Civil War, New York and New England life.  The editor, Field Horne, admits to selectively excerpting and compiling this collection with a bias towards personal narrative accounts (as opposed to travel guide descriptions, for example) and sources that highlight American life in this part of the country.  Based on this, I would suggest that correspondence with the author could very well provide a rather extensive, larger collection that did not make the cut, but may prove useful for various historical inquiries.  It provides a bibliography, index and glossary that are well done and very helpful.  The way the book is laid out it is rather like a film of Saratoga’s history, with each scene a brief snapshot from one individual’s perspective.

What a historian or instructor will not find in this collection are sources in dialogue with each other, or even really multiple perspectives on similar subjects (with the exception of the springs themselves).  Each source is in isolation.  So, to return to my movie metaphor above, imagine a film where each scene is in isolation and the individual’s perspective is only accounted for in his/her particular scene–even if the individual may be relevant in the next scene, the audience is now cut off from that perspective.  The secondary source material providing some biographical information for each of the authors is also without citations.

While obviously each individual whose works contributed to this collection was literate, there is still a fairly wide swatch of American society represented even if not the widest economic representation.  The author was particular in his transcription of these sources , so their written accounts are not polished by the author and their voices are their own.  Many links to American life in general are drawn through his selections, in particular the local connections to greater American questions and politics, whether this is the written material from international observers moving through the area after the French and Indian War, young abolitionists or business men writing in their journals about presidential debates.  This is largely the story of American leisure, primarily that of the wealthy who would make their sojourns either with intent to Saratoga Springs or as side trips from the larger cities in the region.

* * *

This is the sort of place I really enjoy visiting.  It is a place that has made the conscious decision to preserve its past and incorporate that past into its modern city-life.  Also, it is pedestrian friendly which allows for leisurely exploration of its local businesses and history.  In the fall, it was shockingly beautiful with all of its trees cycling through their autumn attire and we were lucky to be strolling through the city during gorgeous weather.  For history buffs and folks interested in historic preservation it is a great place to visit.  I look forward to returning under happier circumstances.

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Visiting Ft. McHenry

Satellite view of Fort McHenry.

FORT MCHENRY, NATIONAL MONUMENT AND HISTORIC SHRINE,  National Park Service (NPS), Baltimore, MD

I have lived about six miles from Fort McHenry for just over two years but only visited it for the first time today.  (Don’t judge me!  It’s been a hectic couple of years—a goodly chunk of it was spent in DC!)  I thought I would share some of the particulars about visiting the park.  I do this for a couple of reasons:  Firstly, in a couple of years we will begin the celebrations for the Bicentennial of the War of 1812the event that put Ft. McHenry on the map and that Francis Scott Key witnessed, stirring him to write the poem that is today our national anthem.  Secondly, it is precisely the sort of local flavor that I want to occasionally season the blog with.  Besides, it seems like the right sort of post as the summer boils away.

To start, I wanted to cover some logistical points.  Most weekends do have a planned event.  That said, we went on a Tuesday and there was hardly anybody there when we first arrived, which was kind of nice even though we failed to beat the heat.  Also, the changing of the flag ceremony (held at 9:30 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.—participation encouraged!) is one of the few events going on daily, weather permitting.  While parking is free, it is a $7 entrance fee for ages sixteen and up.  Technically, if you’d like to save the money, you can show up and simply walk around the fort, taking in the earthworks and the view from the point.  To get in the fort you pay at the visitor center and receive your sticker, which must be visible.  (Once purchased, they will give you two receipts, one of which is actually a seven day pass that is good for the subsequent six days.)  There is a small exhibit, a short film, a typical gift shop and restrooms.  From there you can walk out to the fort.  There is a small food stand with hotdogs, chips and beverages, but we packed a lunch and ate at the picnic tables in the shade right next to the parking lot.  Once you are on the fort grounds there is little cover from the elements, so come prepared for them—fortunately, we had some Gatorade in the house to slightly appease the group who had a smaller appetite than I for guns and fortifications under the August sun!

A model of the fort as it appeared during the War of 1812.

The fort itself was in use up through the twentieth century.  It was decommissioned after WWI, according to the volunteer answering my questions, and was temporarily used as a training site for the Coast Guard during WWII before it was returned to the city of Baltimore and became a National Park.  So, the fort, in its current design and construction, is not exactly as it was in 1814 when the British showed up to attack Baltimore.  In 1814, all of the fort’s buildings were single-storied and the outer works were not quite as built up as they appear today.   But, the star-shaped configuration had been paid for by the wealthy citizens of the city of Baltimore—particularly a man by the name of McHenry!  (As the guide told us, McHenry figured he put enough money and work into it the fort ought to have his name, thus, foreshadowing the process for naming stadiums all over America.)  The star-shaped design is critical for the fort’s survival.  The brick prongs are reinforced with the earth behind them.  Each prong is both pointed and sloped to reduce the effect of incoming projectiles—every hit is a glancing blow.  Eliminating a direct hit helps thwart enemy artillery (canons), but it also turns the ground around the fort into a nasty meat grinder for infantry (soldiers on foot) or cavalry (soldiers on horseback) because the approach is in between the prongs or over them, giving all the advantage to the defenders.  In the case of Ft. McHenry, it did not come to this.  Rather, the fort was only attacked by the British navy, which was forced to fire mortars and rockets from just beyond the range of the fort’s guns.  Both of these weapons had the advantage of sending their projectiles up into the air and then falling into the fort, but they did not succeed in defeating it.  In fact, according to the film only four men died, twenty-nine wounded.  The British gave up and sailed down to New Orleans only to come up short against Andrew Jackson (whose role in the victory would propel him into the presidency).

Maryland was a copperhead state during the Civil War (meaning the state, while positioned on the North’s side of the border, was sympathetic to the South).  Baltimore, in particular, was home to many influential residents who were leading the cause for southern sympathy.  Lincoln took preemptive action and arrested some of these secessionists.  In doing so, he suspended the right of Habeas Corpus along the military lines from Washington to Philadelphia.  (Habeas Corpus, a right predating the U.S. Constitution and originating in English common law, states that an individual cannot be arrested without being charged, to prevent unlawful seizure of citizens.)  At that time, the fort served as a prison.  Despite the Writ of Habeas Corpus issued by Chief Justice Taney, Lincoln and the U.S. Army held prisoners in violation of our country’s laws, such as Lt. John Merryman of the Maryland State Militia.  Merryman had sabotaged train lines to impede the Union army on his governor’s orders.  (http://www.nps.gov/fomc/historyculture/the-writ-of-habeus-corpus.htm and NPS volunteer, 8-11-2010)

Particularly at the flag changing, but also at other times and events,  the NPS Rangers don the military garb of the fort’s defenders.  On our visit we were given a musket demonstration, by one such historic interpreter dressed in the finery of the early uniforms, before the financial burdens of the war required a less adorned uniform of an artillery soldier (which the ranger said looked very similar to the Civil War uniforms of the North).  He explained the steps for firing his replica 1789 Springfield Musket, 65 caliber.  The first step is to cock the musket, then put powder in the pan, next put powder in the barrel, then the musket ball (which he did not include), pound it down with the ram rod and finally point and fire.  The musket, lacking any rifling on the inside of the barrel, is not terribly accurate, but when a volley is fired into opposing ranks it can have a devastating effect.   In response to my query, he affirmed that the U.S. military, like the British soldiers, trained with live rounds—one of the reasons the British had sometimes had an edge against the French in prior years.  Unlike the British, however, he explained that the elite Americans could only fire three rounds a minute, which, if accurate, is one shy of the vaunted elite of the Red Coats, especially those seasoned in the conflict against Napoleon!  (NPS Ranger, 8-11-2010)

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There is one final anecdote I want to relay.  Our last stop for the morning was actually returning to the Visitor’s Center as we had hurried to get to the flag ceremony.  The film, very typical of the NPS (produced in 1984-5, “The Defense of Fort McHenry”), is told from the viewpoint of Dr. William Beanes, who was captured by the British for his involvement in arresting British soldiers after promises had been secured from the invading officers.  According to the agreement his town’s homes and property would not be molested so long as the British force was left unmolested.  His point of view is unique because after his arrest he was held aboard a British ship until Francis Scott Key, the prominent Georgetown lawyer and also Beanes’ friend, would partake in the negotiations for his release.  The British, grateful for the medical care Beanes had provided to wounded British soldiers, agreed to the release following the attack on Baltimore to prevent them from warning the city.  The  British released Beanes and his negotiators to an American truce ship during the assault on Baltimore and Ft. McHenry.  The fight carried on well into the night, then all was silent and dark.  Beanes’ party waited shipboard through the dark hours before the dawn not knowing the outcome.  The waiting continued until the fort’s morning gun fired and the incredible Star Spangled-Banner was raised above the fort, inspiring Key to write the poem that would become our national anthem.  (The Star-Spangled Banner is an example of the second flag adopted by our country, with fifteen stripes and stars—the only flag with fifteen stripes as the next one would revert to thirteen stripes for the original colonies.)

The film concludes with a waving flag and the opening strains of our anthem.  At this point, dramatically, the blinds pull back and reveal the fort with the flag flying.  Everyone stood, many of us thinking that the film was at its conclusion and preparing to leave, but a slightly bossy septuagenarian had walked into the room and ordered us to turn, face the fort’s flag, put hand over our right heart and, “Sing along!”  I, at least, was unaware that the entire anthem was about to blaze forth.  What could have been a rather moving moment of patriotic warm-fuzzies was somewhat spoiled with feelings of having just been scolded by a grandfather or ordered by a drill sergeant.  Then he instructed us to follow him for a quick presentation in the exhibit space—which was perfectly enjoyable—but, I feel that this could have been a fully positive event if the film had included a disclaimer telling us at the beginning what they expected or that the presentation would end with the singing of the anthem. (“Please, join us in singing . . “)  I do not think the dramatic effect would have been lost, just the feeling that we’re doing something wrong or being bullied!

(In the YouTube link below you can see just how absurdly enormous the original flag was, or you can click on the hyper-link in the above paragraph to visit the Smithsonian’s website about their exhibition for the original Star-Spangled Banner.)
(Follow the below YouTube link to hear the entire national anthem with the lyrics. 2 min. 45 sec.)

Decorative relief from the Basilica of St. John, Ephesus, Turkey

musket

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