McClellan Poetry: Barbara Fritchie

SATURDAY The most famous verse of the Maryland campaign, especially for the older generation of reader, is John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "Barbara Fritchie."

Some history behind the poem is here and makes the point that Whittier was fooled by a tale circulating immediately following events. His poem, though not historically accurate, was immensely popular. (There was also a popular play on the subject by Clyde Fitch.)

There are two kinds of Fritchie houses in Frederick: commercial and "historic." Unfortunately one has no more reality that the other, the historic unit having been "created" in 1927 for heritage tourism purposes.

Whittier was an avid abolitionist with some personal antipathy toward McClellan, but his imagined Fritchie events well captures the tension that would be released in jubilation during McClellan's entry into the city a few days aftter the imagined confrontation with Jackson. It provides a fanciful counterpoint for a real display of patriotism.

For all the extravagant emotion attending McClellan's entry into Frederick, the townsmen remembered the day by naming an alley after him. It's not a bad alley, but it's not much of a remembrance either. Maybe it started off as a boulevard and then shrunk over time.

On the edge of town, some suburban developer seems to have given name to "McClellan Drive," a reminder of vestigial Union sentiments post-Barbara Fritchie.