Capt. Driver

Capt. William Driver

The Story of Old Glory

By Robert W. Henderson, Jr.

The famous name Old Glory was coined by Captain William Driver, a shipmaster in Salem, Massachusetts. His mother and her circle of sewers presented him with a beautiful 24-star flag in 1824.

As the banner opened to the ocean breeze for the first time, he exclaimed "Old Glory!"

Twice the flag went around the world. On one of his voyages, aboard the brig Charles Doggett, Capt. Driver rescued the survivors of the mutiny on the Bounty.

He retired to Nashville in 1837, taking his treasured flag from his sea days with him.

In 1860, the Captain's wife and daughter took the flag apart, cut off the raveled and frayed seams, replaced the old stars and added new ones to make 34 total (the correct number for the date) and an anchor embroidered in the lower right corner of the canton. The last was to commemorate Capt. Driver's sea service.

By the time the Civil War erupted, most everyone in and around Nashville recognized Captain Driver's "Old Glory." When Tennessee 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. The Captain was on hand to greet an Ohio Regiment when they became the first to enter the city. They followed the Captain home, where he began ripping at the seams of his bed cover. As the stitches holding the quilt-top to the batting unraveled, the onlookers peered inside and saw "Old Glory"!

Captain Driver gently gathered up the flag and returned with the soldiers to the capitol. Though he was 60 years old, the Captain climbed up to the tower to hoist 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.

In 1873, the Captain gave the flag to his daughter, Mrs. Mary Jane Roland, who in turn gave it to President Warren G. Harding in 1922. The President deposited it with the Smithsonian Institution, where it remains to this day.

Captain Driver's grave (he died in 1886) is located at the old Nashville City Cemetery, and is one of the places authorized by act of Congress where the Flag of the United States may be flown 24 hours a day.

A caption above a faded black and white picture in the book, The Stars and the Stripes, says 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.

BACK to Features

BACK to BONPS Home Page