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Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Star Spangled Indian connection

This is a redux of my old post in another blog.

As we approach one of the truly great historical events of the past 500 years: the day America won independence and established the first modern democracy derived from the writings of Locke and the great Greek philosophers, it is time to ponder over past events. Americans have, for generations been moved by their national anthem, 'The Star Spangled Banner'. Here it is in full glory:

Oh say, can you see,
By the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed
At the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
Over the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the Rockets Red Glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night, That our Flag was still there.
Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave,
Over the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

There is a deep rooted Indian connection to this song. In the late 1700's, Sir. William Congreve, a British soldier/inventor was intrigued by reports from the British soldiers coming from Southern India. They had encountered fierce resistence from Tipu Sultan and his men in Karnataka. During the battle, the Indian army had used rockets with devastating effect. This had made the British soldiers panic and their tales inspired Congreve to device his own rocket by reverse engineering the Indian ones. This was called the 'Congreve rocket'.

These Congreve rockets were built on 6 foot long poles and were fired from a light weight tripod, allowing them to be carried quickly to the front area of a battle field and fired at the enemy, or to be carried on a ship. Given that the common soldier of the 1600's was equipped with a black powder musket with a range of 75 to 100 yards a rocket that could fly 600 yards and explode over the enemy's heads was a deadly threat. Congreve rockets used Black gunpowder as both the fuel to fly and the explosive to send Shrapnel downwards.

During the British-American battle of 1814, the British, having captured Washington moved on to Baltimore. There they encountered tough American opposition in Fort McHenry. A young American lawyer, Francis Scott Key was called to negotiate a prisoner-exchange deal with the British. While he was with the British, he witnessed the devastating firepower which was unleashed at the fort. There was smoke all over, much of it caused by the Congreve rockets. And yet, when dawn broke out, Key saw the Star Spangled Banner fluttering proudly in the breeze. He was deeply moved, and when he reached the shore, he wrote a song titled, "In defense of Fort. McHenry", which he tuned to an old - believe it or not - pub song "To Anacreon in Heaven".

This song was later called, "The Star Spangled Banner". Who would've dreamt that an engineer's invention in Tipu Sultan's army in Karnataka would inspire so many people in another corner of the world in the 21st century?.

Read these fascinating article on the Star Spangled banner in the Smithsonian Magazine and this superb article on the history of rocket technology.


Blogger Aaman said...

Is this the same as the "Bangalore Torpedo" - I remember the term from quizzing days, but not anywhere else

8:51 PM  
Blogger Quizman said...

Nope. Bangalore Torpedo was a Brit invention. Actually, invented in the Ulsoor lake.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous deepak said...

there is another connection. the ship from which the rockets were fired was the first british navy ship built outside britain. it was built in bomby by the wadia dudes.

10:23 PM  

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