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A New Nation is Challenged

Author Russell MacClaren pens this short for Independence Day


Under cover of nightfall in 1814, a fledgling nation is challenged by the the world’s most powerful empire. For the second time in forty years she battles an army with superior numbers, better equipment, better training and more discipline, an army that has recently defeated Napoleon.

British troops storm the nation’s capital in Washington D.C. and leave its buildings burning. President Madison and his wife stay long enough to rescue precious documents. They barely escape as the city is overrun. The invaders proceed to Baltimore, a port British suspect of giving sanctuary to American privateers.

The guns of Fort McHenry keep the British from entering the city and endangering its population. Major Armistead commands the fort’s garrison of barely a thousand men. Despite dwindling numbers and damaged cannon, Armistead’s men persist, and the enemy assault of ground troops and naval gunfire fails to breach American ramparts.

Admiral Cochrane, the British naval commander, cannot sail his flotilla into the harbor due to a fleet of scuttled merchant vessels that block his passage. Discouraged by a resolute American garrison, the death of Major General Robert Ross and a timely burst of severe weather, British ground troops withdraw.

Throughout the deluge, the American attachment flies a small storm flag above the fort. When morning comes, the troops of Fort McHenry lower that flag and replace it with a banner 42 by 30 feet, so large it can be seen for miles.

Francis Scott Key, a youthful lawyer and aspiring poet, is a passenger on a vessel displaying the flag of truce for a negotiation with the British. He watches the siege with concern for his country, but when day breaks on the huge banner, he takes heart and is inspired to pen words that will be heard and sung by countless millions of his countrymen for generations.

Published inHeroesHolidayReflections

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