Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Star Spangled Banner's Mumbai connection

Facsimile of the manuscript draft of "The Star-Spangled Banner.

First appearance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in print, September 15, 1814.

FRANCIS SCOT KEY "Through the clouds of the war the stars of that banner still shone in my view, and I saw the discomfited host of its assailants driven back in ignominy to their ships. Then, in that hour of deliverance and joyful triumph, my heart spoke; and "Does not such a country and such defenders of their country deserve a song?" was its question. With it came an inspiration not to be resisted; and even though it had been a hanging matter to make a song, I must have written it. Let the praise, then, if any be due, be given, not to me, who only did what I could not help doing, not to the writer, but to the inspirers of the song!"







HMS MINDENBuilt by the Indian company Jamshedji Bomanji Wadia in 1810, launched from the Duncan docks in Bombay (now Mumbai) and christened on 23 June of that year, she was the first Royal Navy ship built outside of the British Isles AND AMERICAN NATIONAL ANTHEM WAS WRITTEN IN THIS SHIP

Star Spangled Banner's Mumbai connection

It won't be too inappropriate the odd historical link between mumbai and this song. one has to go almost 187 years back to september 1814, when newly independent united states was at battle with BRITAIN again during the war of 1812, a two-year war that set theboundaries between the us and canada. by august 1814, the british forces seemed to be in the ascendant. they had had a numbeof successes, most notably, the sacking of washington where they burned the capitol, the white house and the offices oftreasury departments on august 24, 1814. from there they moved on baltimore, attacking fort mchenry in baltimore harbour from september 11 to 13. just before the battle, dr william beanes, a local magistrate in the town of upper marlboro near baltimore hadstragglers from the british forces thrown in jail. one of them escaped and reported beanes's action, which the british commander took as a hostile action. a detachment of british soldiers went to upper marlboro to take dr beanes into custody. as soon as they heard about this, two of dr beanes's friends, francis scott key, a baltimore lawyer and colonel john stuart skinner went to baltimore to plead for dr beanes's release with the british commander. he agreed, but detained the americans aboard one of his troop ships, the hms minden until the attack was over, to prevent them passing on any military information to the american army. the attack was fierce and to the americans watching the bombardment from the boat, it seemed like the fort was likely to surrender. as the sun went down, key saw that the large red, white and blue flag of the new republic was still flyng from the fort, and expected that by the next morning it would have gone as a sign of the fort's surrender. but when morning came, the americans were amazed to see the flag still flying, although scarred from the battle. key was so moved by this sight that he wrote these words right where he was on the ship: "oh say can you see, by the dawns early light what so proudly we hailed by 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?" he later finished the poem back on land, and published it, anonymously, as "the defense of fort m'henry" in the baltimore patriot on september 20, 1814. it was quickly reprinted elsewhere, then set to music and renamed the star spangled banner." it became one of the most popular american patriotic songs, finally being officially made the national anthem relatively recently, on march 3, 1931. and the mumbai connection? the hms minden from where key saw the bombardment was constructed in MUMBAI it was made by the wadias, the famous parsi ship builders (and ancestors to bombay dyeing's nusli wadia) at the duncan dock in bombay harbour, which is still an active dry dock in the naval dockyard. the hms minden was the first ship from india that was commissioned into the royal navy, where she saw active service around the world, including during the war of 1812. she had a somewhat ignominious end, serving in hong kong as a seamen's hospital until she was declared too old for use and broken apart there. but the next time you hear the star spangled banner playing, you can remember her brief moment of fame and the connection she makes between theUSA'Snational anthem and MUMBAI CITY

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