Tomorrow is the United States’ official Flag Day, in which we honor two centuries of freedom symbolized by our national flag. One of the American flag’s nicknames is “Old Glory.” Where did it come from? Here’s the story:
This famous name was coined by Captain William Driver, a shipmaster of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1831. As he was leaving on one of his many voyages aboard the brig CHARLES DOGGETT – and this one would climax with the rescue of the mutineers of theBOUNTY – some friends presented him with a beautiful flag of twenty four stars. As the banner opened to the ocean breeze for the first time, he exclaimed “Old Glory!”
He retired to Nashville in 1837, taking his treasured flag from his sea days with him. By the time the Civil War erupted, most everyone in and around Nashville recognized Captain Driver’s “Old Glory.” When Tennesee seceded from the Union, Rebels were determined to destroy his flag, but repeated searches revealed no trace of the hated banner.
Then on February 25th, 1862, Union forces captured Nashville and raised the American flag over the capital. It was a rather small ensign 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 picture below is not the flag mentioned in the story. A caption above a faded black and white picture in the book, The Stars and the Stripes, states that ” ‘Old Glory’ may no longer be opened to be photographed, and no color photograph is available.” Visible in the photo in the lower right corner of the canton is an appliqued anchor, Captain Driver’s very personal note. “Old Glory” is the most illustrious of a number of flags – both Northern and Confederate – reputed to have been similarly hidden, then later revealed as times changed. The flag was given to his granddaughter or neice and she later donated it to the Smithsonian.