Francis and Mary lived in Georgetown, west of the capital from 1804 to 1833. Francis was a lawyer.
In the days following the attack on Washington in the War of 1812, the American forces prepared for the assault on Baltimore, which they figured would come by both land and sea.
Word soon reached Francis Scott Key that the British had carried off an elderly and much loved town physician of Upper Marlboro, Dr. William Beanes, and was being held on the British flagship "Tonnant". The townsfolk feared that Dr. Beanes would be hanged. They asked Francis Scott Key for his help, and he agreed, and arranged to have Col. John Skinner, an American agent for prisoner exchange to accompany him.
On the morning of September 3, 1814, Key and Col. Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard a sloop flying a flag of truce approved by President James Madison.
On the 7th they found and boarded the Tonnant to confer with British Gen. Ross and Adm. Alexander Cochrane. At first they refused to release Dr. Beanes. However, Key and Skinner carried a pouch of letters written by wounded British prisoners praising the care they were receiving from the Americans, among them Dr. Beanes.
The British officers relented but would not release the three Americans immediately because they now had seen and heard too much of the preparations for the attack on Baltimore. They were placed under guard, first aboard the H.M.S. Surprise, then onto the sloop and forced to wait out the battle behind the British fleet.
At 7 a.m. on the morning of September 13, 1814, the British bombardment began, and the flag was ready to meet the enemy. The bombardment continued for 25 hours, the British firing 1,500 bombshells that weighed as much as 220 pounds and carried lighted fuses that would supposedly cause it to explode when it reached its target. However, the bombshells weren't very dependable and often blew up in mid-air. From special small boats the British fired rockets that traced wobbly arcs of red flame across the sky. The Americans had sunk 22 vessels so a close approach by the British was not possible. That evening the cannonading stopped, but at about 1 a.m. on the 14th, the British fleet roared to life, lighting the rainy night sky with grotesque fireworks.
Key, Col. Skinner, and Dr. Beanes watched the battle with apprehension. They knew that as long as the shelling continued, Fort McHenry had not surrendered. But, long before daylight there came a sudden and mysterious silence. What the three Americans did not know was that the British land assault on Baltimore as well as the naval attack, had been abandoned. Judging Baltimore as being too costly a prize, the British officers ordered a retreat.
Waiting in the predawn darkness, Key waited for the sight that would end his anxiety; the joyous sight of Gen. Armistead's great flag blowing in the breeze at the Fort. When at last daylight came, the flag was still there!
Francis wrote on the back of a letter he had at the time a poem of what he just witnessed. Finishing it later in the day back in Baltimore on September 14th, it was published by his brother-in-law, Judge J. H. Nicholson, titled "Defence of Fort McHenry".
September 20, 1814, newspapers printed the poem. To the verses was added a note "Tune: Anacreon in Heaven."
In October 1814, a Baltimore actor, Ferdinard Durang, sang Key's new song in a public performance and called it "The Star-Spangled Banner".
Francis became forever famous for that poem. He continued as a lawyer and still wrote poems.
He died of pleurisy in Baltimore and later was buried in Mt. Olivet in Frederick, MD. A book of his poems were published years later.
A copy written by Key of the 1814 poem remained with the Nicholson family for 93 years.
A son, Philip Barton Key, was shot and killed by General Daniel Sickles in 1959 in Washington DC for having an affair with Sickles' wife.
A son - John Ross Key died young.(1809 - 1837)
A Grandson - John Ross Key (July 16, 1837 - 1920) - an artist - worked as an engineer for The Confederate Army. A mapmaker in SC and VA, was was a LT in rank.
A Grandson - Clarence Key was tall, 6 feet, with a full bread. He served Co. "B", Second Texas Cavalry, then 26th TX Cavalry and 33rd,Serve Co. "E", 26th Tenn Inf.
Clarence and John’s father John Ross Key died young (1837)and they were raised by grandfather, Francis Scott Key.
Another grandson - Francis Key Howard (1826 to 1872) was an editor of Baltimore Exchange newspaper.
He wrote editorial about Lincoln’s suspending the Writ of habeas corpus.
Francis Howard was arrested on order of US General Banks on Sept. 13, 1861 then sent to Ft. McHenry (where Francis Scott Key was 47 years earlier).
Eight grandsons of Francis Scott Key served in Confederate Army.
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Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson married Edward Shippen. The manuscript of the Star Spangled banner was passed through the Shippen family to Rebecca's and Edward's son Lloyd. Lloyd married Florence Hawley Brush. They sold the manuscript to a Texan in the 1930's, who in turn donated (or his family donated) it to the Maryland Historic Society. My father grew up with it hanging in the front hall of their house in Washington DC. I am Rebecca and Lloyds great granddaughter.
Harford counties) and a judge of the Court of Appeals. Also, Judge Nicholson was the brother-in-law of Francis Scott Key and it was Judge Nicholson who suggested the music for the "Star-Spangled Banner" and had it published. The original copy of the poem was in the Nicholson family for 93 years.
to cast the deciding vote for Thomas Jefferson in his battle with Aaron Burr over the presidency. Nicholson's vote for Jefferson resulted in a tie between Jefferson and Burr in the Maryland delegation and, therefore, insufficient State's votes to elect a candidate. Nicholson persisted in voting for Thomas Jefferson for President through 36 ballots until the Federalist members of the Maryland delegation gave up their fight for Aaron Burr. If Nicholson had been prevented by illness from voting in an equally divided Maryland Congressional delegation, Burr would have been elected President on the first ballot and the whole course of American history might have turned out quite differently. Later, Judge Nicholson became Chief Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit (then comprising Baltimore...
of the same year against Samuel Chase, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; participated in the defense of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812; Office Other: President, Commercial and Farmers' Bank in 1812, served as chief justice of the sixth judicial district of Maryland and was associate justice of the court of appeals from March 26, 1806, until his death at his home in Baltimore County, Md., March 4, 1817; interment in the family cemetery on the Lloyd estate, known as Wye House, near Easton, Talbot County, Md. Source: Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, Ancestry.com and Nicholson family written by R. Harris in 2009.
Judge Joseph Nicholson - He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives who, painfully ill, was carried into Congress to ...
The Walters Gallery in 1953 sold it to the Maryland Historical Society for the same price. It is displayed there today. Source - John T. Marck , Maryland - the Seventh State.
Joseph Hopper Nicholson (1770 - 1817)
A Representative from Maryland; born in Chestertown, Kent County, Md., May 15, 1770; completed preparatory studies; studied law; was admitted to the bar and practiced; member of the State house of delegates 1796-1798; elected as a Republican to the Sixth and to the three succeeding Congresses and served from March 4, 1799, until his resignation on March 1, 1806; one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in January 1804 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against John Pickering, judge of the United States District Court for New Hampshire, and in December...
Key, upon finishing his poem, gave his copy to his brother-in-law, Judge J.H. Nicholson. Nicholson suggested the tune "Anacreon in Heaven" and had the poem printed, copies of which two survive today. First published in the Baltimore Patriot on September 20, 1814, it became known across the country as"Star-Spangled Banner." Eventually, Congress on March 3, 1931, made "Star-Spangled Banner" the official National Anthem of the United States. The copy that key wrote in the Indian Queen Inn on September 14, 1814, remained in the Nicholson family for 93 years. In 1907 it was sold to Henry Walters of Baltimore. In 1934 it was bought at auction in New York from the Walters estate by the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, for $26,000. The Walters Gallery in ...