19th Century Impressions

Francis Scott Key

Francis  Scott Key was a lawyer before the start of the War of 1812. By 1814,  England defeated France and turned its full attention to fighting the  United States. In August 1814 the British managed to capture the city  and burn down the Capitol building and the White House. During the  attack, Key's friend Dr. William Beanes, a Maryland physician and  important patriot strategist, was captured and imprisoned aboard the  British warship HMS Tonnant. Key embarked on the mission to meet the  British fleet at the mouth of the Potomac River for a prisoner exchange.  The Admiral in charge refused to release Beanes until after the assault  on Fort McHenry. Sixteen British warships commenced bombing on  September 13 and continued for the next 25 hours. Early the next  morning, when the battle had ceased, Key looked out over Ft. McHenry,  where he saw the American flag still flying. Key was so inspired, that  he composed a poem to honor the fallen. Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel  John Stuart Skinner, Key and Beanes were allowed to return to Baltimore  later that morning, where Key's poem was soon published entitled "The  Defense of Fort McHenry." The verse quickly gained popularity as it was  reprinted in newspapers across the country and set to the tune of a  popular song, "To Anacreon in Heaven" composed by John Stafford Smith in  the mid-1760's. The combination of Key's words and Smith's music would  become known as the The Star-Spangled Banner.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, but grew up in Richmond, VA. When Poe was 2 years old his mother, who had separated from her husband, died of consumption. He was taken in by Mr. and Mrs. John Allan. Poe would always struggle with money. He tried making money by joining the Army at the age of 18, editor of a newspaper, literary critic and even opening his own magazine called the Stylus. In 1836, Edgar married his cousin, Virginia. He was 27 and she was 13.  He has lived in Boston, Philadelphia, Richmond, and New York. His first volume of short stories, "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque" was published in 1839. Poe received 20 copies of the book as payment, but no money. He published his first detective story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" making him the inventor of Detective novels. Virginia's health was fading away and Poe went into a depression. Virginia died in 1847, 10 days after Edgar's birthday. In June of 1849, Poe left New York for Philadelphia and then came to Richmond. He stayed at the Swan Tavern Hotel. He renewed a boyhood romance with Sarah Royster Shelton and planned to marry her. On September 27, Poe left Richmond for New York to gather all of his things and make a permanent move to Richmond. On October 3, Poe was found at Gunner's Hall, a public house at 44 East Lombard Street, and was taken to the hospital. He lapsed in and out of consciousness but was never able to explain exactly what happened to him. Edgar Allan Poe died in the hospital on Sunday, October 7, 1849.

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

At the start of the Civil War a young man by the  name of Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow wanted to enlist on the side of  the Confederates. Stringfellow was turned down four times in four  different counties because he was too thin. Stringfellow only weighed  about 100 pounds wet. Frank, as he liked to be called, came up with a  scheme to get into the cavalry. Not knowing whether it would work or  not, Frank captured a picket line and forced them to take him to their  commanding officer. With this bold move Frank Stringfellow convinced the  officer to let him join. Later, Frank was sent out as a scout to  ascertain the enemy’s strength and position. This earned Frank the title  ‘Spy’ and Frank Stringfellow used his new position to pass useful  information to the South for the duration of the war. Benjamin Franklin  Stringfellow's success in escaping and avoiding capture enabled him to  build the second biggest spy ring in the South.

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