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This Week in History: How Our National Anthem Was Born

Frances Scott Key was a 35-year-old Washington lawyer who'd been opposed to America's entry into the War of 1812 from the beginning. But on the evening of September 13, 1814, he found himself watching as a prisoner on a sailing ship deck as the ships of the world's mightiest navy rained shot and shell down on Fort McHenry, a small fort protecting the city of Baltimore.

The British, having set Washington on fire and raided Alexandria, began heading north toward Baltimore, where they met a Royal Navy fleet headed in from the Chesapeake Bay. They launched their bombardment in the rain.

A view of the bombardment of fort mchenry

This colored etching, depicting the bombardment of Fort McHenry, was created in Philadelphia around 1816. (Photo courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society)

Key, who was being held custody on a British ship within view of Fort McHenry, later remembered thinking it unlikely that the Americans guarding the Fort could withstand the attack, which lasted more than 24 hours.

But the next morning, he made an observation that would later be forever preserved in history:

The American flag was still there.

"Overcome with joy," as he'd later say he was, Key began to jot words down on a piece of paper: "O say can you see …"

The resulting poem, called "Defence of Fort McHenry," was almost immediately set to music as "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The Battle of Baltimore happened 200 years ago this week. And today, the President headed to Fort McHenry, where he saw the original manuscript written by Key at the Fort.

Take a look:

France Scott Key's original manuscript copy of

France Scott Key's original manuscript copy of "The Defence of Fort McHenry." (Photo courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society)