Barbara Fritchie

Barbara Fritchie

Barbara Fritchie (nee Hauer), also known as Barbara Frietchie, and sometimes spelled Frietschie, (December 3, 1766 – December 18, 1862) was an American patriot during the Civil War. She was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and married John Casper Fritchie, a glove maker, on May 6, 1806.


She was a friend of Francis Scott Key and they participated together in a memorial service at Frederick, Maryland, when George Washington died. A central figure in the history of Frederick, she lived in a house that has, in modern times, become a stop on the town's walking tour. In stories, it is said that the age of 95, she waved the Union flag out of her window, demonstrating her opposition to Stonewall Jackson's troops, who were passing through Frederick in the Maryland Campaign. This event is the subject of John Greenleaf Whittier's poem of 1864, "Barbara Frietchie". When Winston Churchill passed through Frederick in 1943, he stopped at the house and recited the poem from memory, an excerpt of which follows.

"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.
A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;
The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman's deed and word;
"Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!" he said.

Barbara Fritchie died at the age of 96 and was interred in Mount Olivet Cemetery, in Frederick City.

Barbara Fritchie House and Museum

The Barbara Fritchie House and Museum is located at 154 West Patrick Street, Frederick, Maryland.

In popular culture

In a play of 1899, "Barbara Frietchie, The Frederick Girl" Clyde Fitch takes artistic liberty and intertwines her story with that of his own grandparents' love story, which also takes place during the Civil War.

The comedian Mark Russell once parodied her quotation as "You can do anything you want with this flag, but don't mess up my hair!"

Authenticity of poem

The flag incident in the poem likely never occurred, however, as Barbara Fritchie was sick in bed that day. She told the housekeeper to hide the valuables in order to prevent looting, and to take the U.S. flag that was hanging outside.Fact|date=February 2007 But it was never moved, and as a result was shot up by the Confederate troops. Accounts differ as to how the legend that inspired the poem arose. The flag, a symbol of the need for myth in times of war, may be seen in the Barbara Fritchie House and Museum.

History disproves the poem with the fact that the troops had never passed by her house. Though they were with in range of sight, they were only heard if they had yelled at their loudest one to the other. At which point her yells would have been drowned out by the volume of the troops yelling except to those who were standing nearest her.

The troops marched south on Bentz St. and turned west on Patrick St. In order to have passed Barbara Fritchie's house they would have needed to turn East and marched a minimum of 1000 feet to have even been at her door. Any that did would have been shot for desertion, as that would have been the charge for marching away from the purposed marching orders.


External links

* [ Fritchie gravesite] in Frederick, Maryland
* [ Historical Marker Database: Barbara Fritchie House]
* [ Frederick Tourism - information on Barbara Fritchie House]

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