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Songs have always been part of America’s heritage and the people who settled Owen County brought with them the music and songs from Virginia and the Carolinas. Some of these songs were originally composed in Europe and sang on the ships traveling to America.
In the late 1700s, many Revolutionary War veterans received land grants in Owen County; and so the Conways, Garnetts, Hardins, Hunters, Karsners, Sanders, Vallandinghams, and others settled here. They probably sang the melodies of their forefathers, and also passed on to the next generation some of those songs of freedom that stirred the hearts of the men and women who fought for our country.
During the War of 1812, the Civil War, WWI, and WWII new songs were composed and sung by those going off to war and also by the families who remained at home to pray for the safety of their loved ones. Many of these songs were inspired by our fight for freedom; and one song in particular, which accompanies just about every major American function today, still moves the souls of its listeners.
The Star-Spangled Banner tells of a poignant moment in U.S. history when the War of 1812 was being fought with England, and of one man’s relief upon seeing the U.S. flag still flying after a vicious bombardment.
The British had burned down the Capitol and the White House in Washington, D.C., and were determined to take the port of Baltimore, which was protected by Fort McHenry. The attack began on Sept. 12, 1814, and after an initial exchange of fire, the British fleet withdrew to form an arc outside the range of Fort McHenry’s fire. During a heavy rainfall on the morning of the 13th, Francis Scott Key and a friend, who were being detained on a British frigate, witnessed the British bombardment of the fort. They caught a glimpse of the huge U.S. flag as it billowed in the wind above the fort walls. It was 42-feet long, with eight red stripes, seven white stripes, and 15 white stars, and had been commissioned to be big enough for the British to see at their three-mile distance. During the dark night of the 13th, it was difficult to determine whether the British had been defeated or the fort had fallen But as the rain cleared and the sun began to rise, Francis Scott Key peered through the dim light and saw the flag still aloft. Pencil in hand, Key scribbled on the back of an envelope the first lines of a poem he called Defense of Fort M’Henry. The poem was printed as a handbill and a well-known tune was suggested to which the poem should be sung.
Although some changes in spelling and punctuation have been made through the years, “The Star-Spangled Banner” became a favorite of the people throughout the land. In 1917 President Wilson ordered that it should become the National Anthem played by the military and naval services, and on March 3, 1931, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially designated as the National Anthem by an act of Congress.
Today there is a movement in America, which involves some members of our federal government, to change our National Anthem to something “kinder” and more “gentle.” However, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and other songs of its kind were written to honor those brave Americans, including many Owen countians, who fought and sometimes died for our freedom. These songs are part of our history and serve as a reminder that our freedom was bought at a great price. Let us not forget those who have gone before us nor those who are still serving in our armed forces and the sacrifices they make daily to keep America free – “Oh, say, does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave; O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
Everyone is invited to Poplar Grove Baptist Church at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for a potluck dinner and special presentation on the history of Poplar Grove. Tom Hall, pastor of Popular Grove Baptist Church, will be the featured speaker.