Barbara Fritchie (née Hauer) (December 3, 1766 – December 18, 1862), also known as Barbara Frietchie, and sometimes spelled Frietschie, was a Unionist during the Civil War. She became part of American folklore in part due to a popular poem by John Greenleaf Whittier.
She was born Barbara Hauer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and married John Casper Fritchie, a glove maker, on May 6, 1806. She became famous as the heroine of the 1863 poem "Barbara Frietchie" by John Greenleaf Whittier, in which she pleads with an occupying Confederate general to "Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country's flag."
Three months after this alleged incident, Frietchie died. She was buried alongside her husband, who had died in 1849, in the German Reformed Cemetery in Frederick. Later, in 1914, her remains were moved to Mount Olivet Cemetery along with a new memorial.
Historicity of poem
Whittier's poem was published in the October 1863 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. No firsthand account of the actual incident survives, and disputes over the poem's authenticity came up almost immediately after it was published. However, her descendants successfully promoted her reputation, and the city of Frederick, Maryland has used her name and image to attract tourists ever since the early 1900s.
The flag incident as described in the poem likely never occurred at the Barbara Fritchie house, although Barbara Fritchie was a Unionist and did have a Union flag. Friends of Barbara Fritchie stated that she shook a Union flag at and insulted Confederate troops, but other neighbors said Barbara Fritchie, over 90 years old, was ill at the time.
Another woman who might have inspired the poem was Mary Quantrell who lived on Patrick Street. In addition to confusing Fritchie with Quantrell, the poem was likely embellished by a distant poet working from second- or third-hand accounts of the incident and other flag incidents. The Confederate general in the poem most likely was not (Stonewall) Jackson, but another Confederate officer (probably A. P. Hill) since none of the men with General Jackson that day remembered the incident. Gen. Jackson and Barbara Fritchie both died before publication of the poem. Historians and reporters noted other discrepancies between the patriotic poem and witness accounts.
Barbara Fritchie House
The Barbara Fritchie House is located at 154 West Patrick Street, Frederick, Maryland, and is now open to the public. It is a 1927 reconstruction, based on the original house, which was washed away during a storm. The site had since become a shrine to the legend. In 1942, Winston Churchill, who knew the poem from memory, insisted he pass by the house during a trip through Frederick alongside President Franklin D. Roosevelt. When it was open to the public, some volunteers claim that Fritchie still haunts the house and have reported seeing her rocking chair move on its own.
The house began to fall into disrepair and, in 2015, it was purchased by the Ausherman Family Foundation. In January 2018, it was purchased by Bryan and Charlotte Chaney with the intent of repairing the home and reopening it for overnight stays through Airbnb.
One of the Mid-Atlantic states' top ten horse races was named in her honor; it is one of only seven Grade I or Grade II races run in the state of Maryland. The Barbara Fritchie Handicap is an American race for thoroughbred horses, run at Laurel Park Racecourse in Laurel, Maryland each year. A Grade II race, it is open to fillies and mares age three and up, whose owners are willing to race them seven furlongs on the dirt. It offers a purse of $300,000, and has been run since 1952.
The Barbara Fritchie Classic motorcycle races run annually on July 4; top riders from all over compete on the dirt oval at the Frederick County Fairgrounds. The race has been running for almost 100 years.
- Quynn, Dorothy Mackay, and William Rogers Quynn: Barbara Frietschie. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1942, 45 pp.
- Quynn, William R. "Frietschie, Barbara Hauer" in Notable American Women, 1607–1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Edward T. James, editor. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,1971: vol. 1, p. 674. ISBN 0-674-62734-2
- McCartney, Robert (September 15, 2012). "Barbara Fritchie didn't wave that flag". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
- Jamie Bussey News-Post Staff (July 1, 2007). "The many stories of Barbara Fritchie". The Frederick News-Post.
- Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009: 253. ISBN 978-1-57860-351-0
- Lavin, Nancy (October 2, 2012). "Barbara Fritchie House slated for sale at public auction". Frederick News-Post. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
- Panuska, Mallory (January 12, 2018). "New owner buys Barbara Fritchie House to turn it into period-style Airbnb". Frederick News-Post. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
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- Fritchie gravesite in Frederick, Maryland
- Historical Marker Database: Barbara Fritchie House
- Barbara Fritchie House official site