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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid