Discussion questions for teachers

Older students ages 12 and up

  1. From a tactical perspective why was Baltimore a juicy target? [large population, reports of chaos, shipbuilding facilities, ship Java in port, ease of attacking Washington]
  2. Why did the British hate Baltimore? [privateering center]
  3. What made Frank Key change his opinion of the war? [when it personally impacted his area]
  4. Who do you think was most influential in securing Beanes’ release? Skinner, Key, or neither? Why? [open-ended]
  5. What were the risks for an enslaved person who considered running to the British? [recapture and punishment, unknown how British would treat them, where would they end up?]
  6. Based on the evidence in the book, should the British have attacked Baltimore? [open-ended]
  7. Why were African Americans fighting on both sides? [usually motivated by hope for a better future]
  8. Why do you think the British attack failed? [underestimated strength of Fort McHenry, poor weather, poor communication, loss of General Ross]
  9. Why do you think many people don’t know about the War of 1812? [many reasons, but some are: it didn’t result in new boundaries, it didn’t form a new country, it didn’t bring major change]
  10. How did the slow pace of communication impact decisions related to war? [classic example is that the Battle of New Orleans was fought before word reached the US that the negotiators had already struck a peace deal]
  11. Read the entire poem. Do you think this is an appropriate national anthem for the United States? Why or why not? In your opinion, did Congress select the right verse?

Younger students

  1. Why did the British target Baltimore? [wealthy, large population, privateering]
  2. Do you think the life of a British midshipman was easy or hard? Why?
  3. Why was Frank Key stuck behind enemy lines? [he overheard plan for the attack]
  4. Why do you think the British attack failed? [see above]
  5. Who is your favorite character and why?
  6. Read Key’s words to the national anthem. Do you think this is a good song to be a national anthem? Why or why not?