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 rocket’s 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?

Thus reads the first para of Star Spangled Banner, USA’s national anthem. USA was a stark contrast to United Kingdom. The latter believed that being noble requires you to be born in the noble family. That it is not your deeds that determine your place in this world but your birth. A handful few gets to decide what is good for everyone else, the lesser men.

United States declared independence with the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

A bunch of rag tag men holding rifles beat the ass of British Royal forces and laid foundation of the nation that would become world’s economic engine.

The national anthem in similar fashion is an embodiment of America. It is not written by a fancy poet, it is not an abstract thought but it is truly the words that Lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key felt when he watched the British Navy bombarding Fort M’Henry of Baltimore in 1814.

Francis Scott Key was a prison of war of British. British had returned all PoWs to USA as per their agreement except for Mr. Key because he knew British plans to bomb Baltimore. He was supposed to be freeded up later.

He watched the bombardment from the British Royal Navy ship HMS Minden. Throughout the night British were bombing the fort and at some time the bombardment stopped. This meant either British have given up or that the Americans have lost. Scott Key anxiously waited to see the result and in the morning with the dawn he saw the star spangled banner still flying over M’Henry. [1]

He penned down few lines that day and completed the poem later. Little did he know those lines might be the greatest expression of patriotism in USA.

Now some people have disputed that the ship was not HMS Minden but the source for this claim is letter by William C Noyes to Lincoln who offered him few broken pieces of Timber of the ship Minden which was broken up after the end of its service.

The Rockets ! 

But that is not the only Indian connections. One of the most unusual words in the first para is “rockets”. There were no missiles in 1814. So what were these rockets ? These are what British called “Congreve rockets” and are attributed to a William Congreve.

In reality like many of the things British appropriated from Indians, these rockets in fact were invented and refined in India under the Islamic tyrant Tipu Sultan. These rockets were very effective against the British so after they won a hard battle, they sent the samples of the rockets to England where Congreve worked on them to mass produce them for British. British used them very effectively against many enemies and these rockets formed the foundation of moden missiles.


[1] Letter from William C. Noyes to Abraham Lincoln”

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