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War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled banner

On June 1, 1812, the United States of America declared war on the British. Several international factors led President James Madison to declare war after years of failed negotiations and laws aimed at preventing another conflict with the British.

Early in the war, the United States launched a series of attacks in hopes of attaining a quick victory; unfortunately, they were met with strong British resistance in Canada. In August 1814, the British set fire to the Capitol building and the White House in Washington, D.C. The British attacked Baltimore in September.

In Baltimore Harbor, Fort McHenry endured over twenty-four hours of bombing but did not surrender to the British, who withdrew their attack. During the attack, Francis Scott Key penned his famous poem "The Star-Spangled Banner," known today as the national anthem of the United States.

The War of 1812 came to end in 1815 with the ratification of the Treaty of Ghent. The war produced many famous generals, politicians, and presidents, but arguably the most recognizable remnant of the War of 1812 is "The Star-Spangled Banner," written by Francis Scott Key.


Arts and Culture

Government and civics

War of 1812

Big Ideas

US History

Essential Questions

  • What document or artifact best summarizes the United States and why?

  • What role does analysis have in historical construction?


  • The United States has chosen writings, material artifacts, and historic sites to identify a common cultural heritage.

  • Historical causation involves motives, reasons, and consequences that result in events and actions.


  • Analyze historical causation for a specific event.

  • Explain why certain writings, oral traditions, material artifacts, architecture, and historic places have been maintained in the present and given for the benefits of future generations.

Background Material for Teacher

The unit and lesson plan are a part of Preserving American Freedom, which presents and interprets fifty of the treasured documents within the vast catalog of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. In this project, documents are digitized with transcriptions and annotations, as well as with other user-friendly elements, that will help both teachers and students to better understand the materials in the lesson.

End of Unit Assessment

A variety of traditional assessment styles can be applied to these readings. Traditional assessments can include a variety of quizzes (multiple choice or fill in), an essay, or a short paper highlighting all three documents. Primary sources may also be incorporated into a larger paper, student presentation, or class discussion led by student based questions. An alternative for those students who are unfamiliar with primary sources may be assessing notes taken during the reading to be used later as an open-notebook quiz.

To assess core standards CC.1.4.5.H and CC.1.4.5.I, one essay option would be to have students write a short persuasive essay pretending that the official national anthem is being chosen and arguing for why The Star Spangled Banner should be chosen over other patriotic songs (America the Beautiful, God Bless America, etc.).


Plans in this Unit

The War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner Lesson

Grade Level

Grade School

Standards/Eligible Content







PA Core Standards







The Freedom Teacher Fellow was funded through a Bank of America grant for the digital history project Preserving American Freedom.

About the Author

This unit was created by David Reader, HSP's Freedom Teacher Fellow in the summer of 2012.  David is a social studies teacher at Camden Catholic High School.  The introduction to lesson plan was authored by Christopher Damiani, Programs Assistant at HSP.


Subject Guide

Military Records, Military History, and Wars

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