Francis Scott Key


Francis Scott Key Famous memorial

Keymar, Carroll County, Maryland, USA
Death 11 Jan 1843 (aged 63)
Baltimore, Baltimore City, Maryland, USA
Burial Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland, USA
Plot Orginally, Area H, Lot 436, then crypt in monument
Memorial ID 578 View Source

Lawyer, poet who penned the national anthem of the United States of America. Born at Terra Rubra, his family's 1,865 acre plantation in Frederick County just north of Keymar which today is in Carroll County, Maryland, the son of judge John Ross Key and his wife Anne Phebe Penn Dagworthy Charlton. He went to St. John's School in Annapolis and then continued to study law with his uncle's firm there. He considered the ministry more than once in his life and became a leader in the Sunday school movement. His published works include The Power of Literature and Its Connection with Religion (1834) and the posthumous collection Poems (1857). By 1805 he had his own well established practice in Georgetown, a town of 5,000, just a few miles from the Capitol. The tranquility usually found here had been broken by the British attack and capture of Washington where they had set fire to both the Capitol and the White House, the flames of which could be seen forty miles away in Baltimore. While at war with France they were trying to keep control of world shipping and had entered the Chesapeake Bay both to interrupt trade and to prepare for an assault on Baltimore. Learning that a much loved elderly physician of Upper Marlboro, Dr. William Beanes was hostage on the British flagship Tonnant, Key together with Col. John Skinner, an American agent for prisoner exchange, set sail on a sloop from Baltimore flying a flag of truce approved by President Madison. After much negotiation the release was arranged, but they had seen and heard too much of the preparations for the attack on Baltimore. They were forced to wait under guard behind the British fleet. It was from this position that after a long night of battle where they were assured by the ongoing shelling that Fort McHenry had not surrendered. Long before dawn there was a sudden and mysterious silence and waiting in the darkness that anxiety was finally broken when daylight came, the flag was still there! This led the amateur poet to write on the back of a letter in his pocket the lines that would become central to our national anthem. Later that same month the Baltimore Patriot published the completed verses under the title "Defence of Fort M'Henry" with the added note "Tune: Anacreon in Heaven." A Baltimore actor sang the new song in a public performance the next month as "The Star-spangled Banner" and it became a popular patriotic song. In 1931 Congress enacted legislation that made this the official national anthem. He was appointed the United States District Attorney and appeared many times before the Supreme Court. Married in 1802 to Mary Tayloe Lloyd, they had six sons and five daughters and continued to live in Georgetown until around 1833. He died in Baltimore from pleurisy while visiting his daughter Elizabeth Howard and was first buried at Saint Paul's Cemetery there in, but was removed to his family's lot in Frederick in 1866. The Key Monument Association erected a memorial in 1898 and the remains of both Francis Scott Key and his wife were placed in a crypt in the base of the monument. There are cenotaphs at Fort McHenry, on Eutaw Street in Baltimore and at the Presidio in San Francisco, California. His collateral relative, F. Scott Fitzgerald was named for him.

Bio by: D C McJonathan-Swarm


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 578
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Francis Scott Key (1 Aug 1779–11 Jan 1843), Find a Grave Memorial ID 578, citing Mount Olivet Cemetery, Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .