American Symbols: I don’t have the missing star—but I could!

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series American Symbols
Benjamin McKeehan who served in the Kentucky Volunteers in the War of 1812

Benjamin McKeehan who served in the Kentucky Volunteers in the War of 1812

The 15th star from Old Glory—the original flag that flew over Fort McHenry—is missing. I swear I don’t have it. But I could!

Tomorrow is Flag Day, a time when Americans celebrate the beloved American symbol, the stars and stripes. This Flag Day is special because this year is the 200th anniversary of the date when Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became our national anthem.

So far, we’ve featured a rendition of the anthem as it was sung in Key’s day, courtesy of our friends at Star Spangled Music. We invited you to RAISE IT UP!—the “group sing” of the anthem that takes place tomorrow. We viewed the worst national anthem nightmare, and discussed the mystery of the missing star taken as a souvenir from the flag that survived the bombardment of Fort McHenry.

Today, I’ll tell you why I could have the missing star.

I am a descendant of Benjamin McKeehan, a Scotsman who immigrated to the United States in 1810—just in time to sign up for the War of 1812 and fight the British. The Scots and the British were not exactly friends, and Benjamin eagerly joined the fight. He enlisted in March 1812, according to the Roll of Captain Ambrose Arthur’s Company, Boswell’s Regiment, of the Kentucky Volunteers. (My aunt, who lives today in this part of Kentucky, says she knows the descendents of Ambrose Arthur.)

It was theoretically possible that Benjamin got the 15th star as a souvenir—after all, he was there. In fact, there’s an historical marker that commemorates his service. The star could be a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation.

But here’s the best evidence that I don’t have it. As I mentioned in Wednesday’s column, the missing 15th star was “cut out for some official person.” Benjamin, however, was just a private in the army, so it couldn’t be him.

Which American symbols mean the most to you?

Does seeing the flag or hearing the national anthem make you feel good?

Do you have any treasured American symbols?

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