Barbara Hauer was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and was the daughter of German immigrants. She later married John Casper Fritchie, who was a glove maker, on May 6, 1806. Soon after they faded into relative normal obscurity in Frederick, MD as most people did then, simply going about their everyday lives.
However, Barbara would soon become famous – allegedly undeserving so – for waving the Union flag in the face of an advancing Confederate army. Whether or not this actually happened remains debated and unresolved to this day.
The story goes that while marching out of town into the hills on September 10 the troops passed Frietschie’s house, and she may have waved a small Union flag from the porch or a second-floor window. 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, who was over 90 years old, was ill at the time. Whatever the actual case, the story soon took root in town that Frietschie, who was known to be intensely patriotic, had somehow defied the Confederate army.
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.” The General is shamed and orders his troops not to shoot!
No firsthand account of the incident survives, and disputes over the poem’s authenticity came up almost immediately after it was published. The poet, Mr. Whittier was a Quaker and some say his beliefs certainly colored his war time writings in as much as figures were often forced to face and wrestle with the humanity or lack thereof of war. Thus was the dispute of the occurrence of the incident given even deeper roots.
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. Today one can find her name and historical significance attached to many events in Frederick, MD. 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 or flood.
So, this is what I have found out, in my own words and excerpts from Wickipedia, Google and other web locations. It’s interesting to know this background. I had been imagining some old grey haired lady that used to race motorcycles might be the namesake, but no. A simple, patriotic wife of a glove maker who may – or may not have – defied and insulted opposing wartime troops in her own little town.
Whichever side you take on this historical story, we can all agree on our love of motorcycles and especially Flat Track Racing! I love all motorcycle racing and riding yet I must admit there is just something extraordinary seeing a pack of motorcycles speeding around the track almost always sideways and in such tight formation. It’s really sort of magical. I’m getting excited and can’t wait to celebrate the 4th at this race! How about you?BFC_18_85x11_MC times
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