McDowell Technical Community College

Lana’s Lines

Oh, Say Can You See?

By Lana Ellis



For twenty-five exhausting hours Baltimore’s Fort McHenry was bombarded by the greatest naval power in the world.  About eight miles away a thirty-five year old lawyer boarded an enemy ship to negotiate the release of his friend who had been taken prisoner.  Even after a successful release negotiation had been reached the two men could not leave the ship due to the intense raging battle.  After a restless night amid the noise of war they noticed the silence.  Peering anxiously through the smoke filled air they beheld a beautiful welcomed sight – the American flag was still flying.  It was the morning of September 14, 1814 and the British had retreated in the midst of the War of 1812. Realizing the importance of that day the young lawyer, Francis Scott Key, penned the question, Oh, 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.” As he continued to write four verses emerged to become what is known as America’s National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”.

Today as I write it’s June 14 – Flag Day, a day set aside to show honor and respect to the stars and stripes of the flag of the United States of America.  It is also on this day in 2017 that a disgruntled man opened fire on a group of United States Representatives and police officers.  Five were injured including Rep. Scalise who arrived at the hospital in critical condition.  Many wars have been fought since the inception of the United States of

Copy of Original Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key.

America but the worst form of war is one within – Brother against Brother, Neighbor against Neighbor, Citizen against Citizen.  We can only pray that we will never have to experience another Civil War.  After all there is nothing “civil” about war.

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech noted for the phrase “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”  He most likely was aware of the words of Jesus who said, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.”  Matthew 12:25. (NASB) In light of that let’s take a look at the lesser known fourth verse of the Star Spangled Banner written by Francis Scott Key.                                                                                                                             

Oh, thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home 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.

Lana Ellis resides in Kingsport TN, next door to grandchildren.  She attends West Colonial Hills Baptist Church.