A Play Too Much Original Podcast

The Forgotten Verses of The Star-Spangled Banner | Signal Cannon

by Billy Donahoe

September, 1814.
British naval forces begin moving toward Fort McHenry in Baltimore after setting fire to Washington. A lawyer and soldier by the name of Francis Scott Key is dispatched by President James Madison on a peaceful mission to facilitate a prisoner exchange.
Aboard the British vessel HMS Tonnant, Key successfully arranges for the prisoner’s release, but is held captive in the harbor while the British fleet pounds Fort McHenry with cannon fire overnight.
In the morning, as the mist clears, Francis Scott Key witnesses the raising of the ceremonial American flag above the fort. The British had not taken Fort McHenry during the night and retreated to beyond artillery range. Francis Scott Key, inspired to commemorate the victory, begins writing a poem to the tune of a familiar drinking song.
That poem you know as “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But what do you really know about Francis Scott Key? And what about the song’s next verse? That’s today, on Signal Cannon.


  • Signal Cannon is produced by me, Billy Donahoe. It’s distributed by Play Too Much. 
  • Our theme music was written by Eric Donahoe. Show art by Julianne Waber.
  • “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the U.S. Army 1st Armored Division Band.
  • “Hail Columbia” performed by the United States Navy Ceremonial Band.
  • Mike Pence Inauguration from PBS NewsHour. “Four Ruffles and Flourishes” performed by the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. “Hail Columbia” performed by the United States Marine Band.
  • “To Anacreon In Heaven” is from The Smithsonian Museum of American History.


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