Witness to Fort's Bombardment
"Ruffian, Patriot, and Philanthropist..."
John Quincy Adams. Born in Calvert County, by 1813 John Stuart Skinner was a Purser for the U.S. Navy, in charge of purchases and accounts for the United States Chesapeake Flotilla. When the British came up the Patuxent River and threatened Washington, Skinner performed a Paul Revere-like ride from Baltimore to Washington to warn the city of their approach. Because of his actions, Skinner's property—-which is now the site of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum—-was burned by the British.
In 1819, Skinner founded The American Farmer, the first agricultural paper published in the United States, and he was also the editor of the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine, and the Plough, the Loom and the Anvil.
Skinner was also put in charge of exchanging prisoners for the United States during the War. In September 1814, he was assigned to work with the assistance of attorney Francis Scott Key in obtaining the release of Dr. William Beanes, of Upper Marlboro. Several army deserters had plundered farms near Upper Marlboro as the British forces returned from the attack on Washington, and Dr. Beanes, among others, seized these marauders. One prisoner escaped, and returned with a contingent of British marines to secure the release of the others. Beanes was arrested by the British and taken aboard one of their ships during the attack on Baltimore. Key and Skinner were summoned to seek his release.
Thus Beanes, Key, and Skinner were present during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, where Key was so moved that he composed a poem. Skinner claimed he took Key's poem to the newspaper where it was published on the evening of September 20, 1814, under the title "Defense of Ft. McHenry." Other accounts suggest that it was actually Judge Joseph Hopper Nicholson who took the poem to be published.
In 1931, this poem, and the music it was set to in 1814, was officially designated as the U.S. National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Portrait of J. S. Skinner, Lithograph by F. D'Avignon, courtesy the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland.
(Inscription under the painting on the right) N.C. Wyeth painting by the Dawn's Early Light shows Key and Skinner (Looking through spyglass). Image used with permission of New York Life Insurance Company. N.C. Wyeth, most recognized for his children's book illustrations, began his career in 1902 painting America's adventuresome heritage.
(Inscription above and below the image on the far right) The Poem. Francis Scott Key's The Star-Spangled Banner
One of the early hand written versions of The Star-Spangled Banner written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland.