Christian living, Inspirational

By the Dawn’s Early Light

By Del Duduit

Just the other day, Angie and I were watching Watters’ World on Fox News. He does these on-the-street interviews where questions are asked of ordinary citizens.

On this particular episode, he asked students at Arizona State University questions from the citizenship test – the same one immigrants must pass in order to become legal citizens of the United States. Simple enough, right?

Questions like — what month do we vote for president? Students responded with “April?” or “August?” or “December?” Keep in mind, these are AMERICAN COLLEGE STUDENTS – OUR future. ANSWER: November.

Another easy question – what year did America declare its independence? One future leader answered “1984?” ANSWER: 1776.

This segment was amusing and sad at the same time. How can students at a major university not know basic history? They would not pass the citizenship test. Should they be deported? Obviously not.

The history of our nation is important. As the 4th of July celebrations come to a close, I want to get a little sappy and have a brief history lesson about one of my favorite stories in history.  The account of how Francis Scott Key came to write The Star-Spangled Banner – now known as our National Anthem – is truly inspiring.

At the time in 1814, Key was a 35-year-old lawyer and was granted permission to board a British ship in the Chesapeake Bay during the ongoing War of 1812. He was hoping to convince the British to release a friend who had been arrested. During the visit, he and his friend learned of the impending attack the British were going to launch on Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor.

They were not let go but allowed to go back to their own ship. However, they were heavily guarded so they would not warn the Americans, according to

It was a rainy night on September 13, 1814, and Key watched in horror from his vessel as the British pounded Fort McHenry with rockets and shells. This went on for more than 24 hours. Bomb after bomb, rocket after rocket barraged the fort. The Battle of Baltimore was on and came a short time after the British army attacked Washington D.C. and burned the Capitol and The White House.

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By all accounts and from what Key had witnessed, Fort McHenry had fallen.  All hope was lost. The Brits were going to win. The night sky, as he later wrote, became red with flares and shells. He described the scene as “fire and brimstone.”

But then came the morning. Then came “dawn’s early light.”

What he saw in the distance was a miracle. I can only imagine he must have done a double-take. Then a grin had to come over his face. It wasn’t the Union Jack flag he saw flying. It was the red, white and blue American flag waving amidst the clearing smoke and the rising sun.

America had not surrendered, but somehow, we had won the battle. While still aboard the ship, Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner. Just try to put yourself in his shoes and REALLY read his incredible and moving account of the aftermath of the battle.

Did you know there is a lot more to the Star-Spangled Banner than what is sung to begin all sporting events in the U.S.? You always hear the first eight lines, but below is the entire poem written by Key.


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?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry 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!

Key clearly gave credit to God as he should. Without God’s power and guidance, we too will fall. The forces of evil pound Christians daily with shells and flares, hoping to destroy and claim our fort. The same forces pounded Christ, hung Him on a cross and buried His body in a borrowed tomb. For three days, all hope was lost.

But then came the morning. Then came “dawn’s early light.”

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” I Thessalonians 4:14

Jesus rose from the tomb and raised His own flag in victory. I want to be in His army – don’t you?

We celebrate our independence as a nation today, and our freedom from sin every day.

God bless the U.S.A.

What does God and country mean to you?

4 thoughts on “By the Dawn’s Early Light”

  1. Thank you for putting Key’s entire poem in your post, Del. I appreciate it.
    Like Beckie, my family has a long record of service.
    * My grandfather fought in the Spanish American War. That is on his tombstone.
    * One of my great uncles is buried in Flanders Field, a casualty of World War I.
    * My father served as a Marine Master Sergeant in the Pacific arena of World War II. He led men into battle in all of the hot spots there.
    * My husband is an Air Force Viet Nam vet.
    * Our son followed in his footsteps and served in the USAF.
    * We currently have a grandson who followed his father’s footsteps and now serves in the US Army 82nd Airborne.
    The dedication to service of country of my family members brings me both great pride and great humility. Having lived in a Middle Eastern country for a year in the 1970s, where we could get imprisoned if we accidentally insulted a citizen there, I came home with our Pledge of Allegiance as a prayer each time I say it. I am so thankful to live in America.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love our country and I love history lessons, Del. My Dad served in the Air Force and now my son is serving in the Air Force. Two years ago, on the 4th of July, I stood with tears in my eyes and watched my son graduate from basic training. We are proud to live in this great nation and proud that our son has chosen to serve and often sacrifice to protect the freedoms we often take for granted. But nothing compares to the sacrifice made by Christ Jesus for our eternal freedom.

    Thanks for this timely and important post and showing the spiritual connection to freedom.
    Happy Independence Day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beckie — thank you so much. I’m humbled by your words and humbled God gave me direction to write this blog. It just came to me within minutes after reading the story about Francis Scott Key. What a great Lord we serve in such a great nation.

      Liked by 1 person

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