Day 18 – That our flag was still there

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’er 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’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

America would have to have one of the best national anthems in the world. Not only are the lyrics and music wonderfully patriotic and uplifting, it has an awesome origin story.

Today we visited Fort McHenry which is managed by the fantastic national parks service. The fort was attacked by the British during the
war of 1812 when the British were trying to take Baltimore. This battle, know as the Battle of Baltimore was primarily a naval assaults and the fort was bombarded for 25 hours. However, due to the excellent fortifications the for suffered only minor damage. One the morning after the battle, the fort raised an oversized American flag, measuring the 30 ft × 42 ft (9.1 m × 13 m) . Francis Scott Key was on a truce ship in the Chesapeake bay and say the flag flying over the fort and knew that Baltimore had been saved. This inspired him to write the poem. However, it did not officially become the national anthem until 1931.

The fort itself is very well maintained and includes some interesting museum displays. The fort also has a flag raising ceremony in the morning. This morning a group of students had organised to participate in the ceremony. The students were all very respectful and one talented member sang the Star-Spangled Banner while the flag was being raised. I think this is a great way for young people to participate in history.

Today we also saw one of the bloodiest moments in American history, the battlefield of Gettysburg. This battle was fought between 1-3 July 1863 and was considered a key turning point in the American civil war. This battle stopper the advancement of the confederate forces into union territory. However, these battle was extremely damaging to both sides with thousands of men left dead, wounded or captured.

The Gettysburg site is maintained by the national parks service and includes a museum and visitors centre. The visitors centre includes a very comprehensive museum. Also included is a short film about the civil war and the battle of Gettysburg. The museum also includes a cyclorama, which is a large painting, which displays what it may have been like on the day. The museum also includes information about the masterful Gettysburg address delivered by President Lincoln.

While you can book in for a bus tour or private tour of the area we elected to purchase an audio tour for about $25. The tour is conducted from your own vehicle and includes a driving map of the key sites. The tour provides excellent information about tactical and historic facts relevant to the event. The battlefields are set up basically as there were on the day and provide deep insight on the horror of the experience, as well as the courage of all men, whether confederate or union.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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