Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day


Announce and proclaim among the nations,
Lift up a banner and proclaim it;
Keep nothing back.  ~Jeremiah 50:2
     A banner is a reference to a flag or a standard declaring allegiance to something or someone.
     The War of 1812 was fought between Britain and the United States.  The British troops landed in the Chesapeake Bay area and marched towards Washington.  Efforts to stop the British failed.  The city was evacuated.  The Capitol and the White House were burned.  The British pressed onward towards Fort McHenry which protected the port of Baltimore.
    In the middle of this upheaval, two Americans were sent out to one of the British ships under a flag of truce.  They were on a mission approved by President Madison to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes.  Beanes was a popular elderly physician who had been captured from his home.  The release was negotiated over a long dinner with the British Vice-Admiral.  Unfortunately, the dinner conversation had also included discussion of plans for the attack on Baltimore.  The two men could not be allowed to leave.  They knew too much.  Arrangements were made for them to be detained on board the British Ship Surprise until the battle was over.
     The attack on Fort McHenry started on a rainy morning.  After an initial exchange of fire, the British moved outside of the range of Fort McHenry’s cannons.
     The two negotiators and the newly released Beanes watched the attack from the deck of the Surprise.  Throughout the day they were comforted to see the huge American flag proudly waving above Fort McHenry.
     The cannon fire stopped suddenly in the middle of the night.  Through the darkness the men couldn’t tell if the British forces had been defeated or if Fort McHenry had fallen.
     The rain cleared as the sun began to rise.  One of the Americans stood on the deck of the Surprise peering through the lifting darkness, anxious to see if his flag still flew.  On the back of an envelope he scribbled the first lines of a poem he called the Defense of Fort McHenry.
"Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?"
     Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember those who have died so that we could be free.  Like the flag that flew over Fort McHenry, God’s banner over us should be visible, even in our fiercest battles.
Announce and proclaim among the nations,
Lift up a banner and proclaim it; 
Keep nothing back.  ~Jeremiah 50.

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