Francis Scott Key

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Francis Scott Key was born on his parents' plantation in Frederick, Maryland, on August 1, 1779. He penned the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner" while being held prisoner by the British during the War of 1812.

Education and Early Career

Key and his younger sister were educated at home since there was no schools near them. Key, at age ten, was sent to St. John's Grammar School in Annapolis, where he stayed with his great aunt. He graduated at the top of his class in St. John's College. On the advice of his Uncle Philip, who was a lawyer, Key studied law with Judge Jeremiah Case. Key became a lawyer in 1800. He set up his practice in Fredrick, Maryland. In 1802, Key married Mary Taylor Lloyd and soon after, moved to Washington D.C., because his Uncle Philip had invited Francis to be his law partner.

War of 1812

Key joined the army during the War of 1812. He was sent to the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay to secure the release of his friend William Beanes, who was being held prisoner. Key, with the help of Colonel John S. Skinner, managed to negotiate a release for Beanes, however they were forced to remain with the British until the attack on Fort McHenry and Baltimore was over. Throughout the night, Key emerged occasionally from the cabin to look for the American flag flying over the fort, and everytime he looked it was still there. Key was inspired by this symbology and decided to write a poem. Key finished the poem and set it to the song called "To Anacreon in Heaven" by John Stafford Smith. The song was originally known as "The Defence of Fort McHenry", but became more popularly known as "The Star-Spangled Banner." In 1931, "The Star-Spangled Banner" became the national anthem of the United States, which it still is today.

Francis Scott Key died in his sleep on January 11, 1843 at the home of his daughter Elizabeth in Baltimore.