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I Never Heard That: By Dawn’s Early Light

By Dawn’s Early Light

by Pamela J. Adams

Two years ago, an American tradition was thrown into the national spotlight. A moment that parents proudly shared with their children at every sporting event became racist and bigoted overnight. Immediately people chose sides, with many just blindly jumping on the politically correct bandwagon.

Most Americans know Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner. Several know it was during the War of 1812. Since he owned slaves, critics automatically labeled Key and his poem racist. However, they never mention that as a lawyer, he also represented blacks, pro-bono, who sought freedom under a 1783 law. Regardless, it does not negate the patriotism and pride Key experienced during that fateful morning.

While at war with France, British forces captured American seaman, impressing them into the Royal Navy. In addition, Britain heavily restricted international trade with America. As a result, the United States found itself once again at war with Britain.

On August 24, 1814, British forces invaded America's capital, Washington D.C. Several buildings were set ablaze, including the Capital and the President's home, known today as the White House. During the siege, several Americans, including well-known surgeon Dr. Beanes, were taken prisoner. President James Madison contacted the prominent D.C. attorney, Key, to negotiate the prisoners' release. Accompanied by U.S. government agent John Stuart Skinner, Key boarded the HMS Tonnant to try to mediate a prisoner exchange.

Successful, Key and Skinner prepared to disembark with the American prisoners, yet plans abruptly changed. After accidentally overhearing the British's plot to attack Baltimore, Key and Skinner were denied their immediate freedom. Instead, they were placed on a truce boat until after the British's attack on Fort McHenry.

Hostilities began just before dawn, with no apparent end as dusk approached. Fort McHenry's inferior weapons were low on ammunition as well as men to man them. The darkness only intensified their already critical situation.

If the America flag was not still waving above the fort in the morning, Key knew it would be the end of the republic. Major George Armistead took command of Fort Henry in 1813 aware of its interest to the British. Therefore, he requested "a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance." Both a large 30 foot by 42 foot garrison flag and a smaller storm and battle flag were delivered on August 19, 1813.

Key fixed his eyes on that flag as the last bits of natural light disappeared. Now, only the blasts of British shells illuminated Old Glory throughout the night. When the battle ended the next morning, September 14, 1814, after 25 hours of constant fighting, Key waited until the sun rose to see if he was still an American or now a British subject.

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O’ve the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’ve the land of the free and the home of the brave?

As light appeared, only one thing was for sure: the battle flag had been lowered. Key could see another flag rising but could not immediately make out the details. It seemed like forever until enough light existed and a breeze opened up the flag, revealing the stars and strips of the red, white and blue.

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream;

’Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Elated in victory, Key's attention turned to America's rival. Britain had never gotten over their loss in the American Revolution, much like Hillary voters in 2016. Known as the "Second War of Independence," America had to fight again for their freedom. Not willing to lose again, Britain hired German Hessians as mercenaries and promised slaves freedom for fighting on their side.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,

A home and a country, should leave us no more?

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Many today look at this verse through their own eyes and immediately condemn it as racist. However, those who view it through Key's eyes can recognize it as a condemnation on Britain who used others to fight their battles. Even Britain's arrogance in the war could not shelter their hired and bought soldiers from fleeing or death. His critic regarded their choice to side with Britain, not condemnation of their race. One of the colonist's grievances against the crown which led to the Revolutionary War was their forced slavery upon America. Every effort to abolish or even reduce slavery was vehemently rejected by the king. Yet, as with the American Revolution, the British were happy to grant freedom to slaves if they were willing to die for those that originally enslaved them. On the American side, the soldiers who valiantly fought side by side to defend Fort McHenry included whites and blacks, some even escaped slaves, with the goal of preserving America's independence.

For Key's final stanza, he focused on whom he believed the real victor in the battle was. Both in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, odds were heavily against America. As Key states, America won because they placed their trust not in themselves, but in God.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.

Blest with victory and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

By the time Colin Kaepernick started sitting during the anthem in 2016, the country had already been through eight years of racial strife under the blessing and direction of President Barack Obama, the Democrat Party, and the mainstream Media. So, when a reporter noticed Kaepernick in a photo sitting during the anthem, he was intrigued. The significance of that statement is that until this controversy, except for the Super Bowl, the World Series, and other such major sporting events, the National Anthem was usually not televised. Kaepernick was only noticed in a photo. However, once the reporter published Kaepernick's reasons, the media couldn't get enough. Since then, every anthem became front page news, even down to little league games, as the media spends endless hours discussing who was standing, who wasn't and who won't be this coming season.

While half the country cheered Kaepernick taking a stand by kneeling, the other half were disgusted by his display of disrespect to those who fought to give him the freedom to kneel. Those heroes include blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Christians, Atheists, Muslims, males and females. Feeling the same patriotism Key felt as he saw the flag fly above Fort McHenry, NFL fans began voicing their objections, in many cases withholding their money and viewership. In response, players doubled down while coaches stood by wringing their hands and the media propagandizing it all for clicks.

In addition to racism, Kaepernick claimed his protest was against police brutality. As the wife of a cop, no one wants to see such abuse of power. However, it is hard to take such protests seriously when nearly 7,900 blacks were killed in 2016 by other blacks, yet where is Kaepernick's outrage over this brutality? That same year, there were 233 police involved shootings of blacks with only 16 of "unarmed" victims.

While even one unjustified killing is too much, that also goes for my husband's friend and coworker who was ambushed by a young black man who bought into the Black Lives Matter hysteria. Calling 911 on himself, he lured a cop to his place specifically to shoot him. As the cop lay on the ground, the young man walked over to him, took the cop's gun, and shot him point blank with his own weapon. Three months later, Kaepernick was wearing socks depicting cops as pigs.

As many were disturbed by the protests, the vast majority had more of a problem with the fact that they were doing it at their work, in uniforms that were supposed to be non-political. The First Amendment gives them the freedom to speak their mind, but what other businesses stand by as their employees destroy their industry and demean their customer base? Players are free and encouraged to hold protests and support causes on their off time, but how many actually did this past off season when they had all the free time to do it?

While the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner does reference slaves, if Kaepernick would have kept reading, he would have discovered the fifth verse added in 1861. Looking for inspiration in their fight against slavery, Union troops wrote a verse to celebrate the unchaining of millions of enslaved individuals.

When our land is illumined with Liberty’s smile,

If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,

Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile

The flag of her stars and the page of her story!

By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,

We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!

And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave

While the land of the free is the home of the brave.

While I'm disgusted by the actions of the players, the anger, violence, and division that is forced upon our nation every day is even more despicable. What's worse is I'm beginning to believe it's all by design. United we stand, divided we fall. Our necessity for learning our past is to avoid repeating the bad parts, not so we can keep punishing ourselves for them.

But that’s just my 2 cents.


About the Author

Pamela J. Adams was a high school math teacher in an inner city school system but her passion is research and history. Pam has authored several genealogy books along with compilations of her historical blogs, Liberating Letters, which she maintains at her website You can find more details about her books on her Amazon Page.

You can follow her current blogs at her Liberating Letters Facebook, Twitter, and Patreon accounts. Her desire is to provide a tool for teachers, parents, grandparents, and citizens to preserve and pass on America's rich history to students, family, and all people who love freedom and liberty. Pamela was also a contributing writer to before joining Pandora’s Box Gazette. Read more untold stories and how they still relate to us today at

You can read Pamela’s “I Never Heard That” column on the 2nd Wednesday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.

#PamelaJAdams #LiberatingLetters #NationalAnthem #FrancisScottKey #AmericanRevolution #OldGlory

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