Regrettably, the War of 1812 is known as the “forgotten war.” Though it is true that it may not be as well remembered by our people, its effects upon our county still echo throughout our land every day. It was out of those dark and bleak circumstances that we defined America and her future. The War of 1812 not only gave birth to our national anthem, but it defined our identity and solidified that fervent patriotism that would become the legacy of our young country. We found the strength of character in our victory and proved to the world that we would endure; that this American experiment was no longer an experiment but the beacon that would lead the world in the pursuit of freedom and prosperity.
During the War of 1812, our morning of hope came only after a long night of darkness. That darkness culminated in the “Burning of Washington” where the British invaded Washington, D.C. and burned many public buildings including the White House. That night a hurricane moved in as if by the hand of God with entrenching rains and even a tornado to put out the fires and push the British back to their ships.
The next move for the British was to mount what they expected to be a fateful attack on Baltimore. On September 11, 1814 the British fleet arrived by sea signaling the land attack by the awaiting troops on land. The British troops attacked at 10:00 AM that morning of September 11 but were surprisingly beaten by the American troops. The British troops retreated and awaited the sea attack by the Navy. However, the British ships were unable to enter the Baltimore Harbor to mount an attack on the city. In anticipation of the British attack, the Americans had sunken 24 of their valuable merchant ships across the mouth of the harbor to prevent the British entrance. Being unable to enter the harbor, the British attacked Fort McHenry instead. On the morning of September 13th, nineteen British ships began the assault on Fort McHenry. Throughout the day and on through the night, for the next 25 hours the British ships fired on the American fort. During the attack a small American “storm flag” flew over Fort McHenry. But the following morning, the Americans hoisted the huge 30’ x 42’ American flag which had been specially made for the anticipated British attack. It was that morning of September 14th, with giant Old Glory flying over Fort McHenry, that the Americans won the decisive battle of the War and turned the tables of fate to victory.
It was also that morning of September 14th that Francis Scott Key caught a glimpse of the massive Old Glory and penned the poem that would eventually become our national anthem. Key had been held by the British on one of their ships until the attack was over. He had to wait out that long night of bombing. “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there.” Although he could not see the flag during that night, Key knew that as long as the attack continued, the Americans were not defeated. The continued attack was a continued sign of the American’s determination to win the battle.
One cannot recall these accounts of the War of 1812 and not think of their paralleled events of recent. It was also on September 11 at 10:00 AM that the first of the two twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed due to the awful attack on our country. We suffered much doubt, fear, and pain in the days following. Just as Francis Scott Key found hope in the flag waiving over the fort, it was also on September 14th that we pulled from the wreckage of rubble a surviving American flag. It was the flag that was flying over the main plaza of the World Trade Center when it collapsed. Though tattered and torn, we held that flag as a sacred survivor. We also hung two giant flags, one on a building at ground zero and one on the Pentagon, just as the soldiers of Ft. McHenry, in defiance to our enemies and as a symbol of our eventual victory.
These experiences, both from September of 1814 and 2001, are gems for the generations of America. They are tangible evidence of our national character and faith. We know that victory comes at the cost of sacrifice. Our country has always been filled with patriots who were willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole. We have been willing to “sink the ships” of sacrifice to secure the victory. And we have.
We should never forget what makes America exceptional and what has carried us through to victory time and time again. America will always face three different kinds of enemies: enemies foreign, domestic, and economic. With the current problems we face, we should never doubt. We should never despair. We have been in impossible times before facing each of these three seemingly impossible enemies. Victory has been our legacy and it will be our future if we can hold fast to the faiths that have made us great.
America has always held to three great faiths for strength in defeating our three enemies. The first is our faith in God. From the Declaration of Independence and through each storm we have passed, we have trusted in the “Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.” Our motto, “In God We Trust,” is not meant to be idle lip service but a sacred declaration of our faith. If our founders recognized God’s sustaining influence in the birth of our country, how could we ever doubt after witnessing our long legacy of prosperity and blessings. In our troubled times, we have always trusted God for our protection, preservation, and prosperity. We have placed our motto on our currency, and our continued trust in God’s hand and acknowledgement of his sustaining power is the currency by which we can purchase our future protection, preservation, and prosperity.
Our second source of power is our continued faith in our people. We carry a faith in the virtue of our people. We know that ordinary Americans are exceptional, and that they, not our government, are the true source of our greatness. The collective contributions of everyone and not a select few create our national synergy. We believe in each other. We know that when the American people are united in a common cause, no road block will stop us. Our persistence and hard work can accomplish the seemingly impossible and trump overwhelming foes. The day we lose faith in our people to govern ourselves is the day we are shattered into helpless multitudes of floundering factions. We must not fail to have faith in our neighbors across our country. We must remember that although many shall fall from our lofty responsibilities, the backbone of our country is good and that opposition will bring out the heroic in our people.
Our third great faith is placed in our system: freedom. Our system is not pure anarchic freedom, but is coupled with a strict moral code, responsibility to the whole, and accountability. Our system is that of equal opportunity and not equal outcome. Freedom and opportunity are the mother of our ingenuity and success. With these as our tools, there is not a problem for which we will not find a solution. We realize that great success can be born of lessons learned from failures. It is not the extremely talented, the gifted intellect, or the noble birthright that are blindly rewarded in our system but persistence and hard work. Though our economic system is inherently cyclical, it is successful. We have in the past and will in the future pass through tough economic and political times. But, the answer to our trials is not to change the system, but to weather the storm and find the real solutions that will lead us through and on to prosperity without breaking the system. Our economic system is living and it changes directions and shifts resources from one sector to another. We need to have the faith in it to allow it to make these changes and adjustments. No, it is not comfortable, but it is necessary if we want to progress. For over two hundred years, we have experienced that on the other side of every downturn is an upturn. Consistently we have been carried from one valley to a peak, from one slump to the next breakthrough. Our pattern is a forward consistency of growth and success. May we leave it alone, and it will ever be so.
Our future path to victory over our enemies foreign, domestic, and economic has been paved by our past. Though the enemies may change, the victory will always be forged with America’s faith and determination. We must secure and strengthen our faith in God, our people, and our system. Each time we see Old Glory, may we remember what three faiths keep her flying over our land. If we will secure America’s faith, we may be assured that no matter how dark and bleak the night, no matter how ferocious and long the attack, when the morning dawn breaks we will see Old Glory flying over the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Jared Kimball Turner