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Monday, August 4, 2014

The "A Feisty Old Woman, So She Be!" Story

Barbara Fritchie house at 154 W. Patrick St., Frederick, MD
It was an ordinary day.  Just parked the car along West Patrick Street in Frederick, MD.  My grand- daughter, Courtney, plugged the meter and we dodged the traffic to get across the street to head to our final destination at 154 W. Patrick. Happens to be the home of one Barbara Fritchie, a Lancaster, PA born woman and a Union Civil War folk hero who was famous for antagonizing General "Stonewall" Jackson and his troops as they passed through the historical city of Frederick on September 10, 1862 during the Maryland Campaign.  
An etching depicting Barbara waving her flag from her home.
She leaned out her upstairs window and waved Old Glory as the troops passed.  And, she did all this at the age of 96!  General Jackson luckily told his troops to ignore the old woman.  Two years later this historic event was the subject of John Greenleaf Whittier's poem titled Barbara Frietchie. (There is more than one accepted spelling of her name)  Then in 1943 Winston Churchill, while passing through Frederick on his way to Washington, DC, stopped by Barbara's house on Patrick Street and recited the poem from memory.  An excerpt, which you may recognize, 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.....

Many take photos of the front, as I did, but
I find the rear of her home also interesting with
the roof line and upper balcony.
But, wait!  Did this really happen.  A Frederick Diarist by the name of Jacob Engelbrecht who lived across the street from Barbara when this was supposed to have happened, and documented just about everything that went on around him, said that if anything such as this had ever happened in his town, he, or a member of his family, certainly would have mentioned it to him.  He never recorded the event in his diary.  It was also said that the troops headed away from her house instead of past her house.  But, the he*# with all of them.  Who wouldn't love a 96 year old female folk hero?  I certainly would believe that she did the deed.  How about you?  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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