Thursday, February 6, 2014

The origin of "Old Glory"

William Driver, captain of the whale Charles Doggett out of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1831,  was presented with a beautiful American flag with twenty for stars.  On his way out to sea the banner opened in the breeze for the first time and he exclaimed "Old Glory!"

This very same voyage, the Charles Doggett founds 65 Pitcairners on the island of Tahiti and took them back to Pitcairn.  The Captain was paid with cash partially raised from selling copper from the HMS Bounty.  The Pitcairners were the mutineers and their native families that set Captain Bligh a drift back in 1789.

Six years after this famed voyage, the Captain retired taking his treasured flag with him.  When Tennesee seceded from the Union, rebels were determined to destroy the Captain's now famous flag, but repeated searches never revealed the location of that damnable flag.  On February 25th, 1862, Union forces captured Nashville and raised the American flag over the capital. It was a rather small flag and immediately folks began asking Captain Driver if "Old Glory" still existed. Happy to have soldiers with him this time, Captain Driver went home and began ripping at the seams of his bedcover. As the stitches holding the quilt-top to the batting unraveled, the onlookers peered inside and saw the 24-starred original "Old Glory"!

Captain Driver gently gathered up the flag and returned with the soldiers to the capitol. Though he was sixty years old, the Captain climbed up to the tower to replace the smaller banner with his beloved flag. The Sixth Ohio Regiment cheered and saluted - and later adopted the nickname "Old Glory" as their own, telling and re-telling the story of Captain Driver's devotion to the flag we honor yet today.

Captain Driver's grave is located in the old Nashville City Cemetery, and is one of three (3) places authorized by act of Congress where the Flag of the United States may be flown 24 hours a day. The flag was given to his granddaughter or niece whom presented it to the Essex Institute for display.  Old Glory eventually made its way the Smithsonian.

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