Willie Moseley spoke to members of the Tallassee Rotary Club on Thursday, July 15. Moseley is the senior writer for Vintage Guitar Magazine. He is a former editor, writer, and photographer for The Tallassee Tribune. He has also published numerous books.
Moseley moved to Tallassee 27-years ago. He is originally from Montgomery and his wife Gail is a Tallassee native.
"One thing I have always appreciated whether I was covering this or whether I was interested in this, is the traditional values often reflected here in Tallassee," Moseley said. "Traditional work values, traditional religious values, and traditional patriotism."
Each year, a group of volunteers put on a Patriotic Celebration that spotlights American patriotism. The celebration is free of charge and features the Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.
"Patriotism is a little bit of a hot topic these days and times because a lot of people have a lot of different interpretations of what they think patriotism is, or what it should be," he said. "One thing about patriotism in Tallassee that I have always appreciated is some of the presentations that we put on."
It was at a local patriotic concert that Moseley noticed that a lot of people only know the first verse of the National Anthem.
"Another thing Tallassee has done well is local patriotic celebrations that involved a choral group, and it's usually a local group of different church choirs that get together and sing patriotic songs. I remember one time, the one that I remember more than anything else, it was at a patriotic concert. One of the songs was the Star-Spangled Banner. Everybody in the audience stands up and sings loudly and proudly for the first verse. Then when the choir starts singing the second verse, the audience shut down like a speaker going out on one side of the stereo system," Moseley said. "The Star-Spangled Banner has four verses to it. The second through the fourth are a little obscure in general knowledge.".
This sparked the journalist within Moseley and he began gathering information on the Star-Spangled Banner.
"That brought me to do a little research on the National Anthem, what we call the National Anthem, which is actually the Star-Spangled Banner, which is intriguing on its own."
Some may be suppressed to know that the song began a poem and it was written long before America gained its independence.
"It was written during the War of 1812, not the American Revolution," Moseley explained.
The man who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner was not a soldier, but he was on board a British naval ship to free American soldiers when he was detained. That is when Key began to author the poem that would become one of the most famous songs in American history.
"It's author, Francis Scott Key, was an attorney by trade, and an aspiring poet," Moseley said. "he wrote the first verse overnight. Aboard a ship. He was negotiating a prisoner exchange."
That night, the battle at Ft. McHenry ensued. The next morning, after seeing the Ft. McHenry flag still flying, Key wrote the first and most well-known verse of the Star-Spangled Banner. It wasn't until later that he would go on to finish the poem that would go on to become the National Anthem.
"He didn't write the second, third, or four verses to this poem until he got back to land," Moseley said.
Moseley pointed out that the McHenry Flag was missing a few stars and had a couple of unexplained stripes.
"The flag that was displayed has 15 stars on it. There were 18 states at the time. Louisiana had become the 18th state in 1812. This was 1814, so that flag hadn't caught chronically with the stars on its blue field, and it had two extra stripes. No one has ever been able to explain how that worked out like that," Moseley said.
Moseley points that some of the lyric lines seem to be questions and other lines could be better suited with an exclamation point.
"It's also interesting and meaningful to Americans to think about some of the things that the lyrics say," Moseley said. "What's interesting to me about the first verse, that we all know, is some of the punctuation at the ends of the lines. Some of them, you would think Key would have used a different type of punctuation to make it more inspirational."
While the song's punctuation is a little obscure, the message it holds is loud and clear.
"I think the overall theme of all four verses is something that is supposed to be motivational and affirming patriotism to those folks back then and to folks now. So, I recommend that you get online, look at those lyrics. See what they mean to you," Moseley said.
Moseley also suggested looking up the lyrics to Ragged Old Flag by Johnny Cash.