Civil War Unionist Hetty Montgomery Kennedy McEwen was born in Nashville. Her husband, Robert McEwen, a veteran of the battle of Kings Mountain, served as superintendent of Nashville’s schools. As the Civil War approached, the McEwens remained strong Unionists and opposed Tennessee’s secession. Hetty McEwen defied local Confederate sentiment and continued to fly a homemade American flag from the top of her house on Spruce Street. Once a Confederate government was in place in Nashville, she was advised to remove the flag. McEwen refused, asking her husband to load a shotgun so she could defend the flag and reminding him that her four uncles had fallen at Kings Mountain. Later, when Confederate Governor Isham G. Harris ordered all firearms brought to the state capitol and sent soldiers to the McEwen residence to confiscate their weapons, McEwen refused to surrender her guns to anyone but the governor himself.
The Union occupation of Nashville in March 1862 meant that the McEwens could fly the United States flag without fear of punishment for the remainder of the war. After the war McEwen became active in the Nashville Protestant School of Industry, a home for girls with no family. McEwen died in 1881 and is buried with her husband in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.