Forty-seven years after he penned the Star-Spangled Banner, and eighteen years after his death, a grandson of Francis Scott Key, Francis Key Howard, found himself a prisoner in Fort McHenry. The editor of the Baltimore Exchange, and a Confederate sympathizer, Howard was imprisoned for his vigorous editorial protesting the suspension by the Lincoln administration of the writ of habeas corpus and the arrest of the mayor and city council of Baltimore by the Lincoln administration. Howard would be held for fourteen months in various Union prisons until his release.
On September 14, 1861 he looked out from his prison cell in Fort McHenry at the flag waving in the breeze. He later wrote down his reflections at that moment:
“On the morning of the 13th of September, 1861, at my residence, in the city of Baltimore, I was awakened, about half-past twelve or one o’clock, by the ringing of the bell. On going to the window, I saw a man standing on the steps below, who told me he had a message for me… I desired to know the purport of it, when he informed me that he could only deliver it to me privately. As it had been rumored that the Government intended to arrest the members of the Legislature, When I opened it, two men entered, leaving the door ajar. One of them informed me that he had an order for my arrest. In answer to my demand that he should produce the warrant or order under which he was acting, he declined to do so, but said he had instructions from Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State.
I was forced to submit; and ordering the servants to remain in the room with my wife, and giving decided expression to my feelings concerning the outrage perpetrated upon me, and the miserable tyrants who had authorized it, I got into the carriage which was waiting to convey me to Fort McHenry.
I reached Fort McHenry about two o’clock in the morning. There I found several of my friends, and others were brought in a few minutes afterward.” When I looked out in the morning, I could not help being struck by an odd and not pleasant coincidence. On that day, forty-seven years before, my grandfather, Mr. F. S. Key, then a prisoner on a British ship, had witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. When, on the following morning, the hostile fleet drew off, defeated, he wrote the song so long popular throughout the country, the “Star-spangled Banner.” As I stood upon the very scene of that conflict, I could not but contrast my position with his, forty-seven years before. The flag which he had then so proudly hailed, I saw waving, at the same place, over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a despotism as modern times have witnessed.”