Last Updated: November 4, 2017
 

How the KEYS name came to be....


Francis Scott Key lived in Georgetown from 1804 to 1833, he was a lawyer.   In the days following the attack on Washington in the War of 1812, the American forces prepared for the assault on Baltimore, which they figured would come by both land and sea.

Word soon reached Francis Scott Key that the British had carried off an elderly and much loved town physician, Dr. William Beanes, and was being held on the British flagship "Tonnant".   The townsfolk feared that Dr. Beanes would be hanged. They asked Francis Scott Key for his help, and he agreed, and arranged to have Col. John Skinner, an American agent for prisoner exchange to accompany him.

On the morning of September 3, 1814, Key and Col. Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard a sloop flying a flag of truce approved by President James Madison.

On the 7th they found and boarded the Tonnant to confer with British Gen. Ross and Adm. Alexander Cochrane. At first they refused to release Dr. Beanes. However, Key and Skinner carried a pouch of letters written by wounded British prisoners praising the care they were receiving from the Americans, among them Dr. Beanes.

The British officers relented but would not release the three Americans immediately because they now had seen and heard too much of the preparations for the attack on Baltimore. They were placed under guard, first aboard the H.M.S. Surprise, then onto the sloop and forced to wait out the battle behind the British fleet.

At 7 a.m. on the morning of September 13, 1814, the British bombardment began, and the flag was ready to meet the enemy. The bombardment continued for 25 hours, the British firing 1,500 bombshells that weighed as much as 220 pounds and carried lighted fuses that would supposedly cause it to explode when it reached its target. However, the bombshells weren't very dependable and often blew up in mid-air. From special small boats the British fired rockets that traced wobbly arcs of red flame across the sky. The Americans had sunk 22 vessels so a close approach by the British was not possible. That evening the cannonading stopped, but at about 1 a.m. on the 14th, the British fleet roared to life, lighting the rainy night sky with grotesque fireworks.

Key, Col. Skinner, and Dr. Beanes watched the battle with apprehension. They knew that as long as the shelling continued, Fort McHenry had not surrendered. But, long before daylight there came a sudden and mysterious silence. What the three Americans did not know was that the British land assault on Baltimore as well as the naval attack, had been abandoned. Judging Baltimore as being too costly a prize, the British officers ordered a retreat.

Waiting in the predawn darkness, Key waited for the sight that would end his anxiety; the joyous sight of Gen. Armistead's great flag blowing in the breeze at the Fort. When at last daylight came, the flag was still there!

Francis wrote on the back of a letter he had at the time a poem of what he just witnessed. Finishing it later in the day back in Baltimore on September 14th, it was published by his brother-in-law, Judge J. H. Nicholson, titled "Defence of Fort McHenry".   Later it was renamed to the "The Star-Spangled Banner".

Francis Scott Key became forever famous for that poem. 

                                     Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
                                     What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
                                     Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
                                     O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
                                     And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
                                     Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
                                     O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
                                     O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The Clarksburg KEYS are proud to bear the name of such a great American.   Exactly 200 years from that day, on September 1st, 2014 the Clarksburg Keys will gather at the Frederick Keys stadium in Frederick, Maryland to sing our National Anthem in honor of our namesake Francis Scott Key.   Please come out and cheer on the boys.