Civil War stories linger in Frederick

“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, But spare my country’s flag,” cried 95-year-old Barbara Fritchie as she defiantly waved the Union flag at Confederate soldiers marching by her Frederick, Maryland, home.

Fritchie’s bold act of patriotism was immortalized in a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier before the Civil War’s end. The event remained so inspiring that decades later, Winston Churchill insisted on stopping by Fritchie’s home during a visit to Frederick and recited the poem from memory.

Debate lingers about whether the flag-waving incident occurred, but the tale is one of many fascinating stories involving everyday people during four years of civil war. As the country marks that conflict’s sesquicentennial, towns like Frederick are rife with stories about everyday life during the Civil War. At the crossroads of battles such as Antietam, Monocacy, South Mountain and Gettysburg, Frederick became an important hospital center. Many churches and other 19th-century buildings that served as hospitals still stand in the city’s charming historic district and are highlighted during guided walking tours. Frederick also is home to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, which houses an interesting collection of well-displayed artifacts that chronicle the advances in medicine that occurred during the bloody conflict.

Fritchie’s reconstructed home is open on special occasions. A tattered Union flag that flew outside her home and was shot up by Confederates is on display. The Fritchie house and Frederick are worth a stop if you’re exploring nearby battlefields as part of a Civil War trip.

Go to Destination Frederick Maryland for information.

Greg Tasker
Greg Tasker is Detroit News Arts and Entertainment Editor and has been writing about travel for more than a decade. His travel stories have appeared in AAA Living, Frommer's Budget Travel, Scouting, AMC Outdoors, Vermont Life and Island Life.