The Mystery of Barbara Fritchie
Tamara Louise Thayer
Minnesota Historical Writers (2020)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (10/2020)
Tamara Louise Thayer tells the story of a true patriot in “The Mystery of Barbara Fritchie.” Born in 1766, Barbara Fritchie led a full and meaningful life for 96 years. She appeared to be an intelligent woman who was friends with some notable historical figures from the Civil War era, including George Washington and Frances Scott Key. The mystery that surrounds her, actually had been caused by a bit of a scandal during her time.
Barbara achieved great notoriety when she stood up to General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and his troops as they road through town. Knowing that they were tearing down Union flags, Barbara is rumored to have proudly waved a Union flag outside her window. One of the soldiers shot a bullet through this flag at Jackson’s command. Admiring her bravery, Jackson decided to order his men to stand down and march on. From this moment on, a bit of scandal was created because Jackson’s men saw his action as being weak and set out to deny that it ever happened. Another local woman tried to take credit for this event as well. A poem was written, about this, in Barbara’s honor. Barbara led a well lived life. In addition to this great event, she also volunteered at a hospital and was believed to be heavily involved as an abolitionist.
“The Mystery of Barbara Fritchie,” was written about the author’s fourth great grandmother. In addition to sharing stories that were handed down to the author, it is clear that this work was greatly researched and the information presented is backed up by references and photographs. There is also a glossary at the end which helped me quickly look up historical terms of which I had been unclear of their meaning. The photographs and drawings really help bring the pages to life. This book is highly recommended to be used as a supplemental text for a history class. Students will appreciate gaining historical knowledge while seeing history through the life of this historical figure.
Thayer has a gift for writing words that flow, so readers will appreciate a good historical work that moves at a fast pace. I learned a great deal about the Civil War era during this time. I had not been fully aware of all that the abolitionists did to help free slaves. I also enjoyed reading the section about patriotism and the American flag. Given what is currently happening in our country, especially with historical statues being torn down, I think this is the perfect time to refresh our knowledge of American history and read “The Mystery of Barbara Fritchie.”