The Star-Spangled Banner was written while the British bombed Fort McHenry, named after Secretary of War James McHenry.
Dr. James McHenry served as a surgeon during the Revolutionary War.
He was taken prisoner by British when General William Howe captured Fort Washington, New York.
Paroled in 1777, James McHenry was at the Battle of Monmouth, then became an aide to General George Washington in 1779.
On September 24, 1780, James McHenry was riding with General Washington and Major-General Lafayette to inspect the defenses of West Point.
A breakfast was planned that morning with the fort’s commanding officer, General Benedict Arnold.
Being delayed, Washington sent McHenry ahead to give his apologies to Benedict Arnold.
McHenry arrived only to find confusion in the fort, as Arnold had planned on betraying West Point and capturing General Washington.
Just moments before, Arnold’s treasonous plot to betray America’s military had been discovered, with the British spy, John Andre, having a map of West Point hidden in his boot.
Arnold fled to the British ship, Vulture.
On May 8, 1783, Yale President Ezra Stiles stated:
“A providential miracle at the last minute detected the treacherous scheme of traitor Benedict Arnold, which would have delivered the American army, including George Washington himself, into the hands of the enemy.”
The Continental Congress issued a Day of Thanksgiving, October 18, 1780:
“In the late remarkable interposition of His watchful providence, in the rescuing the person of our Commander-in-Chief and the army from imminent dangers, at the moment when treason was ripened for execution.”
After the War, Dr. James McHenry was elected to the Maryland Legislature and sent as a delegate to the Continental Congress.
He was at the Constitutional Convention and signed the U.S. Constitution.
George Washington wrote to James McHenry, July 31, 1788:
“I earnestly pray that the Omnipotent Being, who has not deserted the cause of America in the hour of its extremest hazard, may never yield so fair a heritage of freedom a prey to anarchy or despotism.”
James McHenry served as Secretary of War under Presidents George Washington and John Adams.
He transitioned western military posts from Great Britain’s control to the United States under the Jay Treaty.
He advised the Senate against reducing military forces.
James McHenry is credited with establishing the Department of the Navy, based on his March 8, 1798, recommendation that the “War Department should be assisted by a commissioner of marine.”
As Secretary of War, he added his voice to those demanding a military academy to train officers, laying the groundwork for the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Charles Carroll, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote to James McHenry, November 4, 1800:
“Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time;
they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure and which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”
After public service, former Secretary of War James McHenry became President of the first Bible Society in Baltimore, Maryland, stating in 1813:
“Neither … let it be overlooked, that public utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures.
The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness.
In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw intrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong intrenchments.
Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience …”
“Consider also, the rich do not possess aught more precious than their Bible, and that the poor cannot be presented by the rich with anything of greater value. Withhold it not from the poor.
It is a book of councils and directions, fitted to every situation in which man can be placed. It is an oracle which reveals to mortals the secrets of heavens and the hidden will of the Almighty …”
“It is an estate, whose title is guaranteed by Christ, whose delicious fruits ripen every season, survive the worm, and keep through eternity.
It is for the purpose of distributing this divine Book more effectually and extensively among the multitudes, whose circumstances render such a donation necessary, that your cooperation is most earnestly requested.”
After his death on MAY 3, 1816, James McHenry’s wife, Margaret “Peggy” McHenry, wrote:
“Here we come to the end of a life of a courteous, high-minded, keen-spirited, Christian gentleman.
He was not a great man, but participated in great events and great men loved him, while all men appreciated his goodness and purity of soul.
His highest titles to remembrance are that he was faithful to every duty and that he was the intimate and trusted friend of Lafayette, of Hamilton, and of Washington.”