Gee, the next thing they'll tell us is that Parson Weems was wrong, and that little George Washington didn't really chop down the cherry tree and admit to his father that he did it -- he couldn't tell a lie. Or they'll deny that Betsy Ross sewed those 13 stars into the first American flag in Philadelphia.
Well, here comes word from Frederick of the doubt by local historians that 95-year-old Barbara Fritchie, despite the heroic Civil War role attributed to her by poet John Greenleaf Whittier, leaned out the window of her home and proudly and defiantly waved the Stars and Stripes as Lt. Gen. Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson led Rebel troops down her street.
This all becomes topical because today they're doing a scaled-down reenactment of the movement in 1862 of 80,000 Confederate troops through Frederick.
For those who'd like to go, the program begins at 2 p.m., and the Fritchie House -- a replica of the original, which was damaged by a flood in 1868 -- is on West Patrick Street.
Connie Eubank, director of the Fritchie Museum, said research indicated that Barbara Fritchie was probably standing at streetside, not leaning out the window, as Jackson's troops came through. Besides -- and this is the unkindest cut of all -- Jackson may not have ridden past her home at all.
Eubank said Whittier apparently got the Fritchie story from one of her relatives, and may have combined several events in writing his poem (in which he used a variant of her name, Frietchie), describing purported events where "the clustered spires of Frederick stand, green-walled by the hills of Maryland."
She raised the flag, the poem related, only to have it cut down by Jackson's order. She retrieved and waved it. To Jackson she is said to have called:
"Shoot if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said . . .
A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came . . .
"Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!" he said . . .
And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below in Frederick town!