The Keeper of Old Glory
NASHVILLE- 593 miles – In the City Cemetery of Nashville, Tennessee, is an unusual gravestone. Here, 650 miles from the nearest ocean, is the grave of Captain William Driver, the American skipper who named his ship’s flag “Old Glory” and carried it to Nashville with him when he retired from sailing. After hiding the flag during secession, Driver brought it out to fly from the state capitol’s flagstaff when Federal troops captured Nashville in 1862. The flag was preserved by his daughter and is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute; it’s considered second only to the Fort McHenry flag (the inspiration for “The Star Spangled Banner”) among significant historic American flags.
I especially liked a small inscription on one side of the monument — which was designed by Captain Driver himself — that reads: “‘Trust in the Lord and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed’ — Ps 37:3. I have never wanted since.” What a pity that modern grave markers leave so little room for personal testimony!
We stopped for a short time in Nashville to visit not Captain Driver but Captain Godshall, Melanie’s great-great-great-grandfather. Samuel C. Godshall was born in Philadelphia and at the age of 18, moved to Nashville to seek his fortune in business. He had an interesting life, establishing a great reputation as a young businessman, joining the Army as one of the original “Tennessee Volunteers” who served in the Mexican American War, and commanding a company of soldiers from the Nashville area during the War Between the States (his brother back in Philadelphia served in the Pennsylvania militia during the conflict; this was one of the divided families you read about). Capt. Godshall returned to Nashville after the war and died in a local epidemic a few years later, well respected by the community. Interesting enough, though, Capt. Godshall only received a gravestone a few years ago, through a descendant’s intervention—for over a century, his unmarked grave was only known by its location between his wife and children!