The War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner Lesson

This lesson focuses on "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its author, Francis Scott Key. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is one of the few institutions to house a copy of the poem signed by Francis Scott Key. This poem captures the events of September 1814, when the British unsuccessfully attacked Baltimore Harbor. Fort McHenry at the center of the harbor was under siege for over twenty-four hours but did not fall to the British. Francis Scott Key’s poem, later put to music, describes the attack and the American Flag that survived the bombing.  

Originally titled "The Defense of Fort McHenry," this poem was written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 after he witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. The poem was later set to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven" and renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner." President Hoover signed a congressional resolution to officially name it the National Anthem in 1931.

Essential Questions

What document or artifact best summarizes the United States and why?
What role does analysis have in historical construction?

Objectives

  • Students will be able to identify a specific research topic and develop questions relating to "The Star-Spangled Banner."
  • Students will be able to locate primary and secondary sources for "The Star-Spangled Banner" and summarize in writing the findings.
  • Students will be able to identify and describe "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its significance in the history of the United States.

Other Materials

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has several water colors, etchings, and other art related to the War of 1812 that may serve as visual materials. For additional sources on the War of 1812, see our online gallery Forming a Nation: The War of 1812.

Guide to Primary Source Planning

Preparation for using the "Preserving American Freedom" project in the classroom

 

Suggested Instructional Procedures

Primary Source

The Star-Spangled Banner, c. 1840

Process

  1. Introduce the War of 1812. Review the course of the war and the British burning of Washington, D.C., prior to the attack on Baltimore in 1814 (include major names, events, and vocabulary words).
  2. Have students look at "A View of the Bombardment of Fort Henry." Ask them what they notice in the picture and how a person might feel if they were watching that. 
  3. Hand out copies of the Star Spangled Banner.
  4. Listed below are a few questions / assignments that maybe used as review of the reading.
  • Have students create their own drawing or etching that depicts a stanza or segment of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
  • Have students summarize each stanza of the poem and compare their summary with the textbook's description of the war.
  • Questions that students may answer in a short essay or a few sentences would focus on Key's account of the bombardment of Fort McHenry. Why did the British attack this fort? How long was the siege? What national symbol survived the fight? What were the conditions of the battle?
  • Ask students why "The Star-Spangled Banner" is played at events. List some events at which the Star-Spangled Banner would be played.

 

 

Vocabulary

Ramparts:  A defensive or protective barrier.
Vauntingly:  To call attention to pride fully and often boastfully
Havoc:  Wide and general destruction
Resposes:  Be lying, situated, or kept in a particular place.
Haughty:  Blatantly and disdainfully proud
Hireling:  A person who serves for hire, especially for purely mercenary motives

The unit and lesson plan complement Preserving American Freedom, featuring fifty of the treasured documents within the vast catalog of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The documents read online will contain annotations that define and explain many key terms, figures, and organizations.

Related Resources for Students

Preserving American Freedom contains contextual essays by eminent historians that elaborate on the documents and their historical period. For this lesson, Revolution and the Founding Freedoms may be particularly helpful.