Barbara Fritchie.

Up from the meadows, rich with corn,
Clear from the cool September morn,
The cluster’d spires of Frederick stand,
Green-wall’d by the hills of Maryland.
Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple and peach tree fruited deep;
Fair as a garden of the Lord
To the eyes of the famish’d rebel horde.
On that pleasant morn of the early fall,
When Lee march’d over the mountain wall,
Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town,
Forty flags with their silver stars,
Forty flags with their silver bars,
Flapp’d in the morning winf: the sun
Of noon look’d down and saw not one.
Up rose old Barbara Fritchie the,
Bow’d with her fourscore years and ten,
Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men haul’d down;
In her attic window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet,
Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead;
Under his slouch’d hat, left and right,
He glanced; the old flag met his sight,
“Halt!” – the dust-brown ranks stood fast;
“Fire!” – out blaz’d the rifle blast.
It shiver’d the window pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.
Quick as it fell from the broken staff,
Dame Barbara snatch’d the silken scarf;
She lean’d out far on the window sill
And shook it forth with a royal will.
“Shoot, if you must, this old grey 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 stirr’d
To life at that woman’s deed and word.
“Who touches a hair of yon grey head
Dies like a dog. March on!” he said.
All day long though Frederick street
Sounded the tread of marching feet;
All day long the free flag toss’d
Over the heads of the rebel host;
Ever its torn folds rose and fell
On the loyal winds, that lov’d it well;
And through the hill-gaps sunset light
Shone over it with a warm good-night,
Barbara Fritchie’s work is o’er,
And the rebel rides on his raid no more.
Honour to her! and let a tear
Fall for her sake, on Stonewall’s bier!
Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!
Peace, and order, and beaity draw
Round thy symbol of light and law;
And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below, in Frederick town!

Title:Barbara Fritchie.

Author:John Whittier

Publication:Manchester Examiner

Published in:Manchester

Date:March 22nd 1864

Keywords:patriotism, war


This poem is by the popular Quaker poet John Greeleaf Whittier (1807-1892) who was a staunch abolitionist campaigner. It celebrates the deeds of an elderly Maryland woman named Barbara Fritchie (sometimes spelled ‘Friethchie’) who was said to have faced down the Confederate General ‘Stonewall Jackson’ in September 1862 shortly after he led his forces across the Potomac river. The story, with its theme of moral justice overcoming military force, is typical of the kinds of myths which became associated with both sides during the American Civil War. An interesting take on the tale is provided here: – SR