The “Dawn’s Early Light”

By Del Duduit

Honest Americans have a deep love in their heart for the Flag and what it represents.
Historical landmarks have been the target of vandalism and destruction over the past few weeks.
But I want to draw attention to one that is important to me, and hopefully millions of Americans throughout the nation.
It’s one of my favorite stories in history and my prayer is that it will always remain a focal point of our heritage.
I want to go back re-visit how Francis Scott Key came to write the National Anthem – you know – the beautiful and inspired poem many athletes will not honor.
Let me set the stage.
At the time in 1814, Key was a 35-year-old lawyer and received permission to board a British ship in the Chesapeake Bay during the ongoing War of 1812. He hoped 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 and the Americans in Baltimore Harbor.
They were allowed to go back to their own ship; however, they were heavily guarded so they would not warn the Americans of the pending attack, 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 enraged and came a short time after the British army attacked Washington D.C. and burned the Capitol and The White House.
By all accounts and from what Key witnessed, Fort McHenry had fallen. The Americans had been defeated. 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 tattered Red, White and Blue American Flag fluttering amidst the clearing smoke and the rising sun.
America had not surrendered or lost, but somehow, had won the battle. Filled with inspiration, Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner – which was originally called Defense of Fort McHenry. Just try to put yourself in his shoes and REALLY read his incredible and moving account of the aftermath of the battle.
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 the Lord’s mercy 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 beat 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.”
Jesus rose from the tomb and raised His own flag in victory. We celebrate our independence as a nation this week, and our freedom from sin every day.
For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. (DEUTERONOMY 20: 4 KJV)
Not everyone will stand up for the Lord either. This is sad, but it won’t deter me. I will continue to honor the Savior and our American Flag too.
God bless the U.S.A. and Happy 4th of July!

Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.