Barbara Fritchie

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Barbara Fritchie waves the flag in an 1867 engraving

Barbara Fritchie (née Hauer) (December 3, 1766 – December 18, 1862), also known as Barbara Frietchie, and sometimes spelled Frietschie,[1] was a Unionist during the Civil War.


Barbara Fritchie in 1862

She was born 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."

No firsthand account of the incident survives, and disputes over the poem's authenticity came up almost immediately after it was published.[2] However, her descendants successfully promoted her reputation, and the city of Frederick has used her name and image to attract tourists ever since the early 1900s.[2]

Historicity of poem[edit]

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.

The woman who inspired the poem was likely Mary Quantrall who lived on Patrick Street. In addition to confusing Barbara Fritchie with Mary Quantrall, 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)[2] 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. [2][3]

Barbara Fritchie House[edit]

Barbara Fritchie House

The Barbara Fritchie House is located at 154 West Patrick Street, Frederick, Maryland. It is a 1927 reconstruction, based on the original house, which was washed away during a storm.[4]


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.


  1. ^ Quynn, Dorothy Mackay, and William Rogers Quynn: Barbara Frietschie. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1942, 45 pp.
  2. ^ a b c d McCartney, Robert (15 September 2012). "Barbara Fritchie didn't wave that flag". The Washington Post. Retrieved 29 November 2017. 
  3. ^ Jamie Bussey News-Post Staff (1 July 2007). "The many stories of Barbara Fritchie". The Frederick News-Post. 
  4. ^ Nancy Lavin Frederick News Post, October 2, 2012

External links[edit]