shoot, if you must, this old gray head

Cultural Dictionary

Shoot, if you must, this old gray head definition


A line from “Barbara Frietchie,” a poem from the Civil War years by the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier, which describes a fictional incident in the war. Barbara Frietchie, aged over ninety, displays a Union flag when Confederate troops march through her town. The soldiers shoot the flag off its staff, but Barbara Frietchie catches it, leans out the window, and addresses the soldiers: “Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, / But spare your country's flag!” she said.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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