News / USA

Remote Fort Helped Elevate National Anthem

"The Star Spangled Banner" display at Old Fort Meade Museum in South Dakota. (VOA/J. Kent)
"The Star Spangled Banner" display at Old Fort Meade Museum in South Dakota. (VOA/J. Kent)
Jim Kent
FORT MEADE, South Dakota — "The Star Spangled Banner" plays when an American wins at the Olympics, is a favorite at Gospel concerts, and is routinely played at the start of every American baseball game.

What many don't know is that a remote outpost in the American West played a key role in elevating the patriotic song into the country's national anthem.   

Historically, "The Star Spangled Banner" is associated with Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, where the 1814 British bombardment of the fort prompted Francis Scott Key to write the song's lyrics.

But it was at another fort, in the Great Plains state of South Dakota, where the song was first played at official occasions.
Remote Outpost Helped Elevate US National Anthem
Remote Outpost Helped Elevate US National Anthemi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


Fort Meade was built in 1878 to protect settlements in the northern Black Hills, especially the gold-mining town of Deadwood.

During its early years, the fort was garrisoned by various U.S. Army units, including the 8th Cavalry. In 1892, a new commander was assigned to the post and, according to Fort Meade Museum director Randy Bender, Col. Caleb Carlton arrived with a personal mission.
Members of the South Dakota’s 196th Army National Guard Regiment conduct a retreat ceremony at Ft. Meade, South Dakota. (VOA/J. Kent)Members of the South Dakota’s 196th Army National Guard Regiment conduct a retreat ceremony at Ft. Meade, South Dakota. (VOA/J. Kent)
x
Members of the South Dakota’s 196th Army National Guard Regiment conduct a retreat ceremony at Ft. Meade, South Dakota. (VOA/J. Kent)
Members of the South Dakota’s 196th Army National Guard Regiment conduct a retreat ceremony at Ft. Meade, South Dakota. (VOA/J. Kent)

“This had been a topic that he and his wife had discussed many times," Bender says, "…the fact that all these other countries had their national airs that they would play at official occasions and America had none. His wife, Sadie, was actually the one who suggested 'The Star Spangled Banner' would be a good one, because of the unusual circumstances that it had been written under, the respect that it showed for the flag and Carlton agreed with her.”

So he issued an order requiring that 'The Star Spangled Banner' be played each evening at the retreat ceremony, when the flag is lowered.

“Traditionally, all the soldiers or sailors would muster at 1700 [5p.m.], the end of the day, and it gives the soldiers the opportunity to pay their respects to the colors,” says Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Couser, who serves with the South Dakota Army National Guard.

He says the significance of the retreat ceremony, then and now, can’t be overstated. 
Fort Meade, South Dakota, circa 1878 (Courtesy Old Fort Meade Museum)Fort Meade, South Dakota, circa 1878 (Courtesy Old Fort Meade Museum)
x
Fort Meade, South Dakota, circa 1878 (Courtesy Old Fort Meade Museum)
Fort Meade, South Dakota, circa 1878 (Courtesy Old Fort Meade Museum)

"We are directed...if you cannot see the colors, you face and salute the music," Couser says. "Either way, it’s the same intent. Just think about all the blood and the honor that goes into that beautiful flag, and what it stands for, and all the people that shed their blood so we have the freedoms that we do.”

It’s with that same sense of respect that Carlton directed "The Star Spangled Banner" be the last song played whenever the fort’s band performed. The colonel also ordered all persons present to rise and salute, or men to remove their hats if they were civilians.

In a 1914 letter to the mayor of Baltimore, Carlton explained song's history at Fort Meade and noted that the governors of South Dakota and Pennsylvania, along with the Secretary of War and military commanders around the country, had, over time, become aware of what he had begun.

Congress did not make "The Star Spangled Banner" the national anthem until 17 years after Carlton’s letter, and only then at the urging of renowned bandmaster John Philip Sousa. But Library of Congress music specialist Loras Schissel says there’s no escaping the fact that the actions of Fort Meade’s commander contributed to the song’s selection.

"I think they were part of a movement to make 'The Star Spangled Banner' the piece that, when people would hear it, they’d stand up and popularizing this song as a tune that, musically, meant something special to America,” Schissel says.

Today, as South Dakota’s 196th National Guard Regiment conducts the modern Retreat ceremony at Fort Meade, museum director Bender is pleased the same respect is given to the flag now as was shown in 1892.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid