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Barbara Freitchie, nd, illustration by N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

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“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country’s flag”, she said.

American poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–92) wrote this 1863 poem to commemorate the Maryland Unionist Barbara Fritchie (or Frietchie, as he spells it) (1766–1862), who supposedly waved the American flag at Confederate general Stonewall Jackson’s troops as they passed by her home in Frederick, Maryland, on the way to Antietam. The veracity of the story is doubted, but Whittier, an ardent abolitionist and founding contributor to the Atlantic, turned it into a notable poem. Fritchie’s house still stands, and when Winston Churchill visited it during World War II, he recited the poem from memory.

Harry Houdini in a 1924 interview in the Frederick News stated:
“I was in Frederick about 30 years ago. Houdini said, “ when I was with the Welsh Circus, which is now out of existence.
“I remember while walking in the parade, going past the house where Barbara Fritchie waved her flag. All the boys took off their hats.”
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In case I get censored or reported for waving the flag later, you might want to see my flag pictures for today.
The modern art ones were nice but didn’t move me!

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