A personally reticent but politically active early Atlantic contributor, John Greenleaf Whittier was an ardent abolitionist, involved in numerous anti-slavery groups and publications.
In the poem excerpted here, which would become a favorite among Northerners, he mythologized an incident said to have occurred during the Maryland Campaign of 1862, in which an elderly woman named Barbara Fritchie (Whittier used an alternate spelling) refused to take down her Union flag as Stonewall Jackson’s troops marched past her house. The poem later inspired a four-act play of the same name, and when Winston Churchill visited Maryland in 1943, he stopped at the Fritchie house and recited the poem from memory.—Sage Stossel
Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,
The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled 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 famished rebel horde,
On that pleasant morn of the early fall
When Lee marched 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 crimson bars,