Hart's South Carolina battery--its War guidon — addresses by Major Hart and Governor Hampton.
We had the privilege of attending the thirty-fourth anniversary of the Washington artillery of Charleston, South Carolina
, on the 22d of February last, and of hearing General McGowan
's splendid oration and the other speeches of the occasion.
We had intended publishing at the time the following report of the speeches of Major Hart
and Governor Hampton
, but were prevented from doing so by circumstances over which we had no control.
We give the report now, and are quite sure that it will give pleasure to friends of the Confederacy
everywhere and especially to those who “wore the gray.”
At the close of General McGowan
's oration, and as soon as the thunders of applause which followed its completion had subsided, Captain Ellison A. Smyth
announced that the dearly-cherished and historic guidon of Hart
's battery, tattered and torn and stained with the shot and shell and smoke of an hundred battles, would be transferred to the keeping of the Washington artillery, and that it would be received in behalf of the Washington artillery by Governor Hampton
He then introduced Major Hart
, the commander of the old battery which bore his name, who, in coming forward, was received with a welcome that must have stirred his heart to the very core Major Hart
Captain Smyth and Gentlemen of the Washington Artillery: Seventeen years ago occurred in this hall a circumstance connected with your corps which to-day finds a sequel.
Near seventeen years ago, after Fort Sumter had fallen, many of the younger members of your famous old corps, believing that the war cloud which for a time had threatened your coasts was about to break in all its fury upon the frontiers of Virginia, sought the opportunity of being foremost among her defenders.
They formed from your ranks the nucleus of a light battery, to which were added gallant spirits from many parts of the interior, forming altogether a complement of some of the best manhood of the State.
In June, 1861, this battery was accepted into the Hampton legion, then organizing at Columbia, South Carolina.
On the 14th of June of that year, on the eve of its departure, its tents being struck for the march, it assembled in this hall to receive through the hands of one of your members a handsome guidon — an
offering of love and patriotism from many fair ladies of your city.
In July, 1861, this battery had taken its place under the knightly banner of Wade Hampton; and during the four years that followed, it shared the hardships and toils, the triumphs and disappointments of the immortal Army of Northern Virginia.
When the end came in April, 1865, its survivors returned with one great consolation in defeat.
They were conscious they had done their whole duty — to the last man and to the last hour of the great conflict.
The battery left South Carolina with Stepen D. Lee as its first commander, and after his promotion it fell to my lot to command it. During this latter period it became known in army orders, from convenience of designation, as “Hart's battery.”
After the close of the campaign of 1864, the command devolved upon Captain E. L. Halsey, one of its first veterans from your old company, and a battle-trained lieutenant of the battery.
It was not my fortune to remain with it to the end. During its eventful career, the guidon was borne by Louis Sherfesee, until his sterling worth and gallantry placed him in the line of promotion in the ordnance department.
Of its Lieutenants, Horsey, Hamilton, Marshall, Bamberg and Adams, and of its rank and file, I need only say that their record is known to you and to the State.
I have been commissioned by the surviving remnant of those faithful men to place in your hands, Captain Smyth, and that of your gallant old corps, this sacred relic of our past history.
We know that it could not find worthier or more faithful guardians.
We cannot give it away, for we want our children and grand-children to feel that they too have a property in the history of which it forms a part.
It now being almost in a state of orphanage, and as you constitute its nearest kindred, we desire to constitute you its guardians in perpetuity.
It comes to you in a direct line of descent as the parent of its organization.
We beg that you guard it tenderly for the perils and privations it has witnessed, and the eventful histories it aided to accomplish.
Woman's tears and prayers consecrated it to our cause.
Brave men and faithful gave their lives a willing sacrifice in following it; and even its foemen knew and respected it. Tattered and torn by shot and shell, and bearing the stains of over one hundred battles, there is no stain of dishonor upon it.
Governor Hampton! Into your hands, in behalf of the Washington artillery, I now resign this emblem. [Governor Hampton here rose and was received with deafening applause.] It is fitting [continued Major Hart] that you should be the recipient of it for those who will be its future guardians.
It is not unfamiliar to you. Its history is intimately interwoven with your military history.
On every field where you commanded it had a place.
Wherever you led it followed.
I am sure, sir, that you can even say on behalf of those gallant artillerists who bore it, and of whom you were long the beloved chieftain, that in the hour of danger you often relied upon them; and that you never relied upon them in
They always came when you commanded ;. and always stayed until you sent them away.
There are rich and precious memories clustering around it — memories that we will not willingly let die. It has been in battle with the immortal Lee. It has followed the dashing Stuart over the hills and slopes from the Susquehanna to the Roanoke.
It has followed in the charge of the chivalric “Rooney” Lee, and has seen service with Johnston, Beauregard, Hood, Magruder, the Hills.
and Longstreet; and last, but not least, sir, it was flung to the breeze upon nearly every battle field in which you led the Southern horse during those trying years.
May the command on whose behalf you receive this flag never have occasion to bear it save in holiday processions, and may they prove as loyal in preserving South Carolina's honor through the peaceful agencies inaugurated by your administration, as their predecessors were faithful in defending it at the cannon's mouth.
During the delivery of these burning words, which stirred every heart to its inmost core, the tall, proud form of Governor Hampton
had remained immovable, but o'er his features could be seen to play the emotions which the vivid picture of the past conjured up to his mind's eye; and as he stepped forward to receive the sacred relic, so intimately interwoven with his own military history, his heart was too full for utterance, and his sight became dimmed with tears.
Smothering the sad emotions which welled up from his soul, he came to the front with the guidon in his hand, and was received with prolonged and vociferous applause.
As soon as he could make himself heard, Governor Hampton
spoke as follows:
My Comrades of the Washington Artillery: I did not know when I came here how many memories of the past would be stirred in my heart when I stood once again under this little flag, which I have seen wave in one hundred and forty-three fights; and it never waved in dishonor.
That battery never failed to take the place it was ordered to do!
It never moved from the front without orders, and wherever the fight was thickest the men of Hart's battery — the brave sons of Carolina, men who periled all in her defence — were always found standing to their guns to the last.
But their bravery is best told by the number that fell at those guns.
There were one hundred and forty-seven members of this gallant command that went into the fight for liberty.
When the war ended there were but twenty-three survivors of the original veterans of that brave band.
They left their bones on every field upon which the Army
of Northern Virginia had fought.
Their guns were the first to flash for Southern independence, and they were literally the last guns that fired in the defence of Southern liberty.
The memories and associations which bind me to this company are very dear indeed.
As your old captain has told you, it was one of the first batteries to join my legion, and it was the only company of that legion which, through all the mutations and fortunes and trials of the service, served with me to the close of the great struggle.
Would that I had time to tell you what I could of their bravery and heroism!
How I have seen those men charge, and how I have seen a boy — a mere boy — as the Federal cavalry charged through their ranks, pull out the sponge-staff with which he was swabbing his gun and strike an enemy from his horse and kill him. When I came to South Carolina the last year of the war, I felt that it was my duty to bring that company to my new field of service.
Soon after reaching South Carolina I was placed on duty, and the first thing which I did was to telegraph for Hart's battery.
They reported promptly, and came into position at Bentonsville just in time to check the enemy, as they had done on scores of fields before.
Thus it is that I can say that their guns were the last guns fired in defence of Southern liberty under Johnston's command, When they heard that the army was to be surrendered, for the first time since their organization they turned their backs upon the enemy — not from an enemy, but from a surrender.
I followed them for twenty-five miles before I overtook them.
As I have said since, the memory of that scene will forever be indelibly impressed on my heart.
As I rode up and the battery was halted by my men, the sun was just gilding the tops of our forest trees — the last sun that ever rose on the Southern Confederacy.
I told them that they had been good and brave soldiers; that they had done their whole duty; that no reproach could rest upon them, and that I knew that they would follow me. I told them that they had been surrendered by superior authority, and that it was their duty to remain where they were and obey commands.
And when I had spoken thus, the veterans of Hart's battery threw themselves upon their captured guns (for they had no others) and passionately kissing them wept like children.
You cannot imagine, my friends and comrades of the old artillery, how dear you have been to me; and this little flag which has led you through the whole war, I have now the honor to transmit again to your keeping, free from all stain save the honorable scars it has received in battle.
I transmit it now to you in a time of peace, and I feel that I have the right to say to you, my old soldiers and you who represent them — not to order you, but, as a father to his children, to appeal to you for the memories of the past — to appeal to you for the sake of all you have done for South Carolina--to appeal to you in the name of your State, to be now good citizens in peace as you were brave and honorable soldiers in war. I see upon this banner the legend, “Right shall make might!” --Right shall make might, my friends.
We may not see it here on
earth, where truth so often goes down before falsehood and wrong prevails over right, but in the last great reckoning, then you shall find that right shall make might, and you who have stood by the right shall on that day find that right shall prevail.
Comrades of the artillery!
Cherish this flag; remember your record of the past; remember that you are attached to that proud old command, and never forget that you are sons of South Carolina.
You have borne that banner on the battle field — bear it now as honorably in the duties of peace.
I confide it to your keeping, knowing that it will be protected and honored.
The scene during the utterance of these words defies description.
There was hardly a dry eye in the vast assembly.
The modest and unassuming gentleman who received the flag from Governor Hampton
was Sergeant E. J. Quimby
, of the Washington artillery, who was with Hart
's battery in eighty-five of the one hundred and forty-three fights of which Governor Hampton