The Star-Spangled Banner You Didn’t Hear During the World Series

President Herbert Hoover finally made it official in 1931, when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially declared our national anthem.  It’s as patriotic an anthem as it is difficult to sing, but we only sing the first verse at public events. I have to admit that I never paid much attention to the other three verses until I read Alan Taylor’s new book, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.

The third verse speaks directly to the British policy of liberating slaves in the Chesapeake region of Maryland and Virginia and their recruitment into the army.

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.

The “land of the free and the home of the brave” takes on a whole new meaning after reading this verse. I suspect that you will never hear our anthem quite the same way.

3 thoughts on “The Star-Spangled Banner You Didn’t Hear During the World Series

  1. grandadfromthehills

    Interesting. We do have some skeletons in our closet. One that truely disturbs me is Wounded Knee. However, we cannot let our past hold us back from what we need to do. An old saying here in Texas is that you cannot stop a good man doing the right thing that just keeps on coming. Some Ranger uttered that about bringing law into lawless towns.

    Just keep doing what’s right!

    Sam Vanderburg
    Gun Barrel City, TX

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Let me be clear, this post is not meant to point out our “skeletons” but to simply point out an aspect of a song that is rarely acknowledged.

      Reply
  2. James Kabala

    Hmm – the verse is difficult to parse, but I think the “slave[s]” are supposed to be the same group as the “hireling[s]” (a traditional insult toward professional soldiers serving for money as opposed to militia serving for patriotism) – in other words, slaves of British tyranny, not actual slaves. It seems like a case of unconscious irony rather than openly gloating over recaptured slaves. But I could be wrong.

    Reply

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