Crowd turns out for annual prayer breakfast

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Not often does an American patriot from the past stand and speak at a prayer breakfast.

But on Tuesday, Francis Scott Key did just that.

The Rev. Ed Shirley came in character as Francis Scott Key and was the featured speaker at the Troy Exchange Club’s “One Nation Under God” Prayer Breakfast at First Baptist Church in Troy.

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Shirley told the story of how the “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem of the United States of America.

During the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key, a Washington lawyer, went to Baltimore to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes, a civilian prisoner of war, and witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry from a nearby truce ship.

Shirley said that, as the War of 1812 waged on, the citizens of Baltimore began to prepare for a possible British attack.

“Three areas of water protected Baltimore,” Shirley said. “Fort McHenry’s commanding officer Major George Armistead wanted a flag that was so large that the British would have no trouble seeing it from any position.”

Shirley said Mary Pickersgill, an experienced Baltimore flag maker, was chosen to make the flag from 400 feet of wool. The stripes were two-feet wide and the stars were two feet wide from point to point. The practice at that time was to add a stripe and star for each state, so there were 15 stars and stripes on the flag.

“When the flag was completed, it was 30 feet by 42 feet and could be seen at a great distance,” Shirley said.

It was this flag that appeared to Francis Scott Key in flashes as rockets and bombs shelled Fort McHenry in the darkness of Sept. 13, 1814.

Shirley said Key’s prayer was that, at dawn, the flag would still be flying over Fort McHenry.

“When the firing ceased, it was dark all over and the flag could not be seen,” he said. “Then around 1 a.m. the firing began again and the flag was still there. When the sun rose, through the early morning mist (I) could see our flag still flying … but at an angle. Our soldiers knew how important it was for the flag to fly. Many of them had died keeping the flag flying. Their bodies were stacked against the bottom of the flag, holding it up at an angle.”

Francis Scott Key, an amateur poet, was so moved when he saw the flag emerge intact in the dawn’s early light, that he began, that morning, to compose the poem, “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” which was later renamed, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and was made the national anthem of the United States of America by a Congressional resolution on March 3, 1931 and signed by President Herbert Hoover.

“In God is our trust,” Shirley said. “Our country cannot stand without the love of Jesus Christ and the hand of God that protects us. Our strength comes from trusting in Christ.”

Exchange, America’s Service Club, is a group of men and women working together to make their communities better places to live through programs of service in Americanism, community service, youth activities and its national project the prevention of child abuse.

The Troy Exchange Club invites those who are committed to community service to consider membership in the local chapter.