By Mike Wilson
While Britain recognized the United States as a sovereign nation following the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the British were accused of interfering with the fledgling country’s ability to conduct international trade, the Royal Navy’s impressments of American merchant sailors and interfering with the United States’ desire to expand its territory. Because of these and other actions, Congress declared war on June 18, 1812. Of interest to the United States in general and Maryland in particular, this war gave us “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Georgetown lawyer Francis Scott Key and American Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner were aboard the HMS Tonnant, a French 80-gun ship of the line that had been captured and in service with the Royal Navy, outside Baltimore Harbor to negotiate the release of a prisoner, Dr. William Beanes. After Key and Colonel Skinner secured the release of Dr. Beanes, they were allowed to retire to their sloop, however they could not return to Baltimore because of their knowledge of British strength and plans to attack that city. It was from the sloop that Key, Skinner and Beanes witnessed the 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on September 13–14, 1814. It was from this sloop that Key wrote the poem “Defense of Fort McHenry” which later became the National Anthem.
Every summer, the United States Coast Guard puts in service the Francis Scott Key memorial buoy marking the best guess location where Key wrote the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Friday June 8th, the Coast Guard Cutter James Rankin, one of 14 Keeper Class coastal buoy tenders, placed the Francis Scott Key memorial buoy in service. The Rankin is responsible for the maintenance of over 400 buoys in the Upper Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries including the Potomac River up to our Nation’s Capital. After placing the buoy in service, the Rankin steamed to Fort McHenry then returned to its homeport at the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay.
2012 marks the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 and there are a variety of activities scheduled in Baltimore to commemorate the Bicentennial. More information can be found at these websites: