Francis Scott Key was born in whta is today Carroll County, Maryland. His father John Ross Key was a lawyer, a judge and an officer in the Continental Army. His great-grandparents were Philip Key and Susanna Barton Gardiner, both born in London, England, immigrated to Maryland in 1726.
He studied law at St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland and also learned under his uncle Philip Barton Key. Philip Barton Key (April 12, 1757 – July 28, 1815) was a Representative from the third district of Maryland, and later a United States federal judge. Unusually for a politician in the early United States, Key had been a Loyalist in the American Revolution.
Born in Charleston, Cecil County, Maryland, Key pursued an academic course. During the War of Independence he served in the Maryland Loyalists Battalion as a captain. He fought with the British Army from 1777 to 1781, until he was captured by the Spanish in Pensacola, Florida with the rest of his battalion. He was kept as prisoner for a month in Havana, Cuba, before being paroled and sent to New York City until the end of the war.
On February 18, 1801, Key was nominated by President John Adams to a new seat on the United States circuit court for the Fourth Circuit, created by 2 Stat. 89. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 20, 1801, and received his commission the same day. He served as chief judge of that court from 1801-1802. Key's service was terminated on July 1, 1802, due to abolition of the court.
Key died in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., and was interred on his estate, known as "Woodley". Later, he was reinterred at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
The Francis Scott Key Key Bridge was errected roughly in the location of Scott's Georgetown home, which was dismantled in 1947 as part of construction for the Whitehurst Freeway, was located on M Street NW, in the area between the Key Bridge and the intersection of M Street and Whitehurst Freeway.
Key's son, Philip Barton Key was shot and killed by General Daniel Sickles in 1859 after General Sickles discovered that his wife was having an affair with Philip Barton Key.
Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House
He confronted his wife, who confessed to the affair. Sickles then made his wife write out her confession on paper. Sickles saw Key sitting on a bench outside the Sickles home on February 27, 1859, signalling to Teresa, and confronted him.Sickles rushed outside into Lafayette Square, cried "Key, you scoundrel, you have dishonored my home; you must die", and with a pistol repeatedly shot the unarmed Key Key was taken into the nearby Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House, (Still standing at 21 Madison Place NW) where he died some time later.
Sickles served as a political general at the Battle of Gettysburg, although the battle ended his military career as well. On July 2, 1863, Army of the Potomac commander Maj. Gen. George G. Meade ordered Sickles's corps to take up defensive positions on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge, anchored in the north to the II Corps and to the south, the hill known as Little Round Top.
Sickles was unhappy to see a slightly higher terrain feature to his front, the Peach Orchard. Perhaps remembering the beating his corps took from Confederate artillery at Hazel Grove, he violated his orders and marched his corps almost a mile in front of Cemetery Ridge. This had two effects: it greatly diluted the concentrated defensive posture of his corps, by stretching it too thin; and it created a salient that could be bombarded and attacked from multiple sides. Meade rode out and confronted Sickles about his insubordination, but it was too late.
The Confederate assault by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's corps, primarily by the division of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws, smashed the III Corps and rendered it useless for further combat. Gettysburg campaign historian Edwin B. Coddington assigns "much of the blame for the near disaster" in the center of the Union line to Sickles. Stephen W. Sears wrote that "Dan Sickles, in not obeying Meade's explicit orders, risked both his Third Corps and the army's defensive plan on July 2. However, Sickles's maneuver has recently been credited by John Keegan with blunting the whole Confederate offensive that was intended to cause the collapse of the Union line. Similarly, James M. McPherson wrote that "Sickles's unwise move may have unwittingly foiled Lee's hopes."
During the height of the Confederate attack, Sickles fell victim to a cannonball that mangled his right leg. Carried by stretcher to an aid station, he bravely attempted to raise his soldiers' spirits by grinning and puffing on a cigar along the way. His leg was amputated that afternoon and he insisted on being transported back to Washington, D.C., which he reached on July 4, 1863, bringing some of the first news of the great Union victory, and starting a public relations campaign to ensure his version of the battle prevailed.
Sickles's leg, along with a cannonball similar to the one that shattered it, on display at the National Museum of Health and MedicineSickles had recent knowledge of a new directive from the Army Surgeon General to collect and forward "specimens of morbid anatomy ... together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed" to the newly founded Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C. He preserved the bones from his leg and donated them to the museum in a small coffin-shaped box, along with a visiting card marked, "With the compliments of Major General D.E.S." For several years thereafter, he reportedly visited the limb on the anniversary of the amputation. The museum, now known as the National Museum of Health and Medicine, features the artifact on display still today.
Sickles was not court-martialed for insubordination after Gettysburg because he had been wounded, and it was assumed he would stay out of trouble. Furthermore, he was a powerful, politically connected man, who would not be disciplined without protest and retribution. While his movement away from Cemetery Ridge may have violated orders, Sickles forever asserted that it was the correct move because it disrupted the Confederate attack, redirecting its thrust, effectively shielding their real objectives, Cemetery Ridge and Cemetery Hill. Sickles's redeployment did in fact take Confederate commanders by surprise, and historians have argued about the real ramifications of Sickles's actions at Gettysburg ever since.
Sickles eventually received the Medal of Honor for his actions, although it took him 34 years to do so. The official citation that accompanied his medal recorded that Sickles "displayed most conspicuous gallantry on the field, vigorously contesting the advance of the enemy and continuing to encourage his troops after being himself severely wounded."
Sickles had an important effect on preservation efforts at the Gettysburg Battlefield, sponsoring legislation to form the Gettysburg National Military Park, buy up private lands, and erect monuments. One of his key contributions was procuring the original fencing used on East Cemetery Hill to denote park borders. This fencing came directly from Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., the site of the Key shooting.
Of the principal senior generals who fought at Gettysburg, virtually all have been memorialized with statues at Gettysburg. Sickles is a conspicuous exception. But when asked why there was no memorial to him, Sickles supposedly said, "The entire battlefield is a memorial to Dan Sickles." However, there was, in fact, a memorial commissioned to include a bust of Sickles, the monument to the New York Excelsior Brigade. It was rumored that the money appropriated for the bust was stolen by Sickles himself; the monument is displayed in the Peach Orchard with a figure of an eagle replacing Sickles's likeness. Sickles lived out the remainder of his life in New York City, dying in 1914. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery