The Story of Dr. Beanes and the Star Spangled Banner is 200 Years Old

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Yesterday I explained how Dr. William Beanes of Upper Marlboro, Maryland managed to get himself locked in irons on a British warship bound for Baltimore.  It was during the War of 1812.  Dr. Beanes had several British soldiers detained in the Upper Marlboro jail and this angered the general of the British army.  He got his soldiers back and arrested Dr. Beanes.  The general intended to make an example out of Dr. Beanes and that was very bad for the good doctor.  For more details on how this all happened, please read yesterday’s post.

 The people of the town of Upper Marlboro were very upset to say the least.  Dr. Beanes was a good guy and he was also the town’s only doctor.  They needed help if they were to make an effort to get their doctor back.  They would have help because Dr. Beanes happened to be married to the niece of a popular Maryland politician.  John Hanson was active in federal politics and was the first president of the Confederation Congress.  That was the governing body of the United States during the short time that the Articles of Confederation were in place.  That is why route 50 in Maryland is called the John Hanson Highway.

 With his help, the town was able to search for a lawyer with connections that could negotiate with the British.  People of Upper Marlboro traveled to Georgetown in search of a lawyer.  It must have been something to travel through the ruins of Washington to get to Georgetown.  In Georgetown they were referred to a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key.  Mr. Key took the case and proceeded to contact an American liaison officer to the British army.  The two men gathered information and proceeded to Baltimore.

 Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the American defenders of the city were angered and defiant over the burning of Washington.  They vowed to defend the city from their stronghold at Ft. McHenry.  To show their resolve, the commander of the fort had an oversize American flag created by Mary Pickersgill for $405.90.  The giant flag was flying proudly over the fort when the British fleet approached.


Key and the American officer were granted permission to board the flagship of the British to speak to the general.  The general was initially resistant to any pleas made by the two Americans.  It was then that Francis Scott Key produced letters written by British soldiers describing Dr. Beanes’ treatment of their wounds.  It seems Dr. Beanes was true to his oath and he treated the British soldiers on the battlefield equally with the Americans.  This impressed the general and he relented.  He was willing to let Dr. Beanes go but now there was another problem.

 The Americans had now seen the dispersal of the British fleet on the eve of battle, and they might have gotten a hint of the British battle plan.  To be safe, the general ordered the Americans detained on a sleuth behind the British fleet until the battle was over.  There Francis Scott Key sat watching the battle and hoping for an American victory that would save Baltimore.  The battle raged all night and Key stared out at the oversize American flag flying over the fort.  When morning came it was apparent that the British fleet would not be able to fight their way passed Ft. McHenry.  There in the early morning light that oversize American flag still waved.  The sight was so inspiring that Francis Scott Key had to put pen to paper, and Dr. William Beanes was there to witness the moment.


Dr. Beanes returned home not realizing what his rash action against those British soldiers had produced.



Pete is a retired software developer, a writer, and a martial arts instructor. He lives in Maryland with his wife Cathy and they are enjoying their retirement. Pete is the author of four novels, "The Teacher", 500 Years from Home", and "The Long Journey Home" are available at; and "Pioneers" in available at the Kindle Book Store.

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Posted in History, Upper Marlboro

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