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66 Francis Scott Key 1779-1843
Autograph letter to his father, John Ross Key, 1 p.
Georgetown, September 2, 1814
An influential Washington attorney, Francis Scott Key was called upon during the War of 1812 to undertake a mission to obtain the release of William Beanes, a prominent physician who was confined aboard a ship in the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay following the British retreat from Washington. In this letter to his father, Key offers the earliest known account of the event which occasioned the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." His letter expresses the distress caused by the continuing hardships of the war and his pessimism over the outcome of his mission; nevertheless, the young man was successful on September 5 in securing Beanes's liberation. However, his return to Georgetown was delayed by the British bombardment of Baltimore, and it was on the night of September 13 that Key waited in the harbor to see the American flag flying over Fort McHenry and wrote the words that became the national anthem.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred C. Berol

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