Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Barbara Freitchie's Civil War


Star pattern called Star Puzzle or Pieced Star in the early 20th century

In May, 1931 Needlecraft Magazine published an article by Helen Rockwell Adams who'd visited the recreation of Barbara Frietchie's house in Maryland. On the bed she saw a sawtooth star, which "tradition assures us that Barbara made...with her own hands." Adams pictured a block, naming it Barbara Frietchie's Design.

This recreation of the Frietchie house was once a museum in
Frederick but doubts as to the accuracy of the story presented there
created concerns about local "history."
 It's now a bed and breakfast.

Found by the Iowa project. Blocks are on point.

The simple star Adams pictured had several earlier names, although none as romantic as a design linked to America's female Civil War hero.

My generation was brought up on the stirring tale of a 95-year-old woman
defying Confederate hero Stonewall Jackson by flying a Union flag as his
troops passed her house in Frederick in September, 1862.

Poetry was powerful propaganda. During the Civil War Massachustts poet John Greenleaf Whittier often described current events in rhyme. From novelist Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth he heard the story, converted it to verse, which was published in the Atlantic Monthly in October, 1863.

Emma D.E.N. Southworth (1819-1899)

The stirring lines inspired patriotic fervor during the war and into the late 20th century despite the fact that historians have pointed out that Stonewall Jackson, who died in battle soon after the poem's events, marched nowhere near Frietchie's house. True or not, her tale was a Union answer to the Confederate myth of the martyr Stonewall. Here was a woman who'd won a small victory over the legendary General.

Barbara Hauer Fritchie (1766-1862)

When the Civil War began Pennsylvania-born Barbara was in her mid-90s. Scraps of her life have been determined. In 1806, at 40 years old, she married John Casper Frietsche who was 14 years younger than she. His father had been hung for a loyalist traitor during the Revolution. Her husband died in 1849; they had no children. She did indeed live in a house on the site when the Confederate troops occupied the city in September, 1862. Her health and mobility have been controversial subjects. Was she able to hang out a window and wave a Union flag? She died 3 months later, months before Whittier's poem appeared. The original house washed away in a flood in the early 19th century.

Frederick, Maryland, 1862

Frederick mayor (and busybody) Jacob Engelbrecht kept a dairy in which he noted much in Frederick society. 
Jacob Engelbrecht (1797-1898)

In 1942 Dorothy Mackay Quynn and William Rogers Quynn summarized their in-depth investigation into the accuracy of the story told in Whittier's poem, concluding there was no evidence it ever occurred.

The whole tale has inspired some historical absurdities: One being a 1924 movie with the flag event 
a point of drama between two young lovers in Civil War Maryland, each loyal to a different side.

Florence Vidor as a much younger Barbara Frietchie.

Another tale was told in which George Washington visited some Frederick women at a quilting party in 1791, giving Barbara a china bowl he'd been carrying in his bag.

Read Dorothy Mackay Quynn and William Rogers Quynn's  article "Barbara Frietschie" in the Maryland Historical Magazine (1942, Volume 37 Issue #4) at this link:

1900 Play

Quilt recorded by the Wyoming Quilt Project, mid-20th-century


sue s said...

It's a fun story even if it's not true. Thanks for "assembling" all the pieces.

lmno said...

Your posts are most illuminating. If Ken Burns blogged, he would be you.

Barbara Brackman said...

If I made films I'd be Ken Burns---or a Ken burns wanna be.

Anonymous said...

Always interesting to read your posts and learn a bit about history and quilts.

Amy in NJ