In 1814, at the Indian Queen Hotel in Baltimore, thirty-five year old amateur author Francis Scott Key (pictured) scribbled the words to his famous poem "Fall of Fort McHenry" on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket; ironically the lyrics were set to the tune of a popular British drinking song becoming the rebel anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner".
The Fall of Fort McHenryVice President Elbridge Gerry had sent Key and his colleague John Stuart Skinner to appeal for the safe return of President James Madison who had been arrested by British Redcoats at Bladensburg as he fled the burning White House. They boarded the British flagship HMS Tonnant in Chesakpeake Bay and spoke with Major General Robert Ross and then-Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane over dinner.
However Ross and Cochrane were fully engaged in their war plans and Kay and Skinner were moved to the aptly named HMS Surprise where they witnessed British gunboats slipping past the Fort McHenry and effecting a landing in a cove to the west of it. Despite a determined defence by troops from Fort Covington, once the shell and Congreve rocket barrage had stopped, Key observed that the Union Jack had been hoisted in place of the fort's smaller "storm flag".