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Flag Presentation to the Washington Artillery.

[On Monday, May the 28th, 1883, the famous old Washington Artillery had their annual re-union and banquet at their armory, in New Orleans.

We regret that the crowded condition of our pages has prevented us from giving an earlier notice of the interesting occasion, or giving now any of the details save a condensed report of the Address of Judge Roman in presenting to the battalion, on behalf of General Beauregard, a historic Confederate flag. To say that Colonel J. B. Richardson presided on the occasion—that Colonel Walton received the flag—and that the whole affair was arranged by a well-selected committee of the battalion—is to give assurance that it was a splendid success.]

Judge Alfred Roman's address

Judge Roman, after expressing the pleasure with which he, on the part of General Beauregard, now absent from the city, had been chosen to speak to the battalion on so interesting a mission, proceeded to speak of the early events of the war, when the armies of the North and the South were confronting each other on the opposite banks of the Potomac. He spoke also of the exciting and dramatic events of the battle of Bull Run; how the first Confederate flag, of the stars and bars, was so much like the United States standard that it was impossible, in the confusion of battle, to distinguish one from the other. So serious was this difficulty on the first field of Manassas [29] that the timely appearance of the forces of General Early, with his brigade of Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi troops, on the extreme right flank of the enemy, thereby insuring their defeat on that historic day, had well-nigh caused ruin to the Confederates, because Early's troops were supposed to be a part of the enemy's forces, and it was with difficulty that they could be distinguished by their flag.

After this graphic and brilliant introduction, which want of space has here required to be curtailed, the eloquent speaker continued as follows:

General Beauregard had determined that no troops of his command would again be exposed to such a mistake, and he did all in his power to accomplish that end, General Johnston, as the Commander in-Chief of our united forces, greatly assisting him in his efforts. General Beauregard first endeavored, through Colonel Miles, of South Carolina, chairman of the House Military Committee in the Confederate Congress, to have our national flag entirely changed. Failing in this he proposed a battle flag different in every respect to any State or Federal flag hitherto used. Finally the three senior Generals, at Fairfax Courthouse—Generals Johnston, Beauregard and G. W. Smith—met in conference in the latter part of September, and after examining many designs—for many had been sent—‘one of several presented by General Beauregard,’ says General Johnston, ‘was selected. I modified it,’ he continues, ‘only by making the shape square instead of oblong, and prescribed the different sizes for infantry, artillery and cavalry.’

Such was the origin of the battle-flag of the Army of the Potomac, as it was first called, which soon became the rallying emblem of every Confederate soldier, whatever the army he served in, and following which he showed on many a bloody field, from and after Manassas to the battle of Bentonville, the last of the war, that numbers did not always stand in the way of victory.

Its field was red or crimson, its bars blue with a narrow white fillet separating the red from the blue. On the bars, which formed a Greek cross, were stars, white or gold, equal in number to the States in the Confederacy. Its size was four feet by four for infantry, three feet by three for artillery, two feet and a half by two and a half for cavalry. This design, by a very singular coincidence, had been devised by Colonel Miles, of South Carolina, and offered to Congress as the Confederate flag as early as March, 1861. It had likewise been [30] executed by Mr. Edward C. Hancock, of New Orleans, at the request of Colonel J. B. Walton, in April of the same year, and it was, in reality, the Hancock-Walton design, if I may call it so, which was proposed by General Beauregard at the conference just referred to, and which, with the modification decided upon by General Johnston, became the renowned and glorious battle-flag of our Southern armies. It was finally merged in and adopted as the union of the regular Confederate colors, whose field, as we know, was of pure white. Major Cabell, Chief Quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac, was ordered to make the battle-flags necessary for the different branches of the service, and they were distributed to the troops with appropriate ceremonies, on the 28th of November, 1861

Some weeks before that time, and while the troops were about to be drawn back to Centreville for winter quarters, three Confederate battle-flags, the first that were made, according to the design and size agreed upon, were brought to General Beauregard's headquarters, under the special charge of a young officer of his command, who bore with them a touching note explaining their desired destination, and expressive of the noble feelings actuating those from whose hands—no, those from whose hearts—they came. One of them was for General Johnston, another for General Beauregard, the third for General Van Dorn, then in command of the First Division of the Army of the Potomac; and each was labeled accordingly, to prevent all possible error.

The donors of these three battle-flags were among the fairest and loveliest women of the South. The women of the South! How beautifully those words sound to the ear! What rythmical grace is contained in them! And to us, especially to those who wore the gray, how emblematic they are of all that is good, and pure, and generous and lofty and patriotic! Ah! surely we loved the cause for the success of which we pledged our fortunes and our lives; but would we have been so devoted to it, would we have borne all our sufferings so uncomplainingly, from beginning to end, had not the women of the South evinced such deep, undying faith in the principles it embodied? I dare not say. They encouraged those dearest to them to rush to the front, buckled on their armor and blessed them with their whole souls upon their leaving for the field, knowing, alas! that many would never return. They did more; and the noble services they rendered in the hospitals, whether in camp, city or village, and the material assistance they gave to the troops at such cost to themselves, will ever deserve and obtain from the Confederate soldier, [31] wherever he may be, and whatever may have been his fate, and from his children when he will have passed away, a most endeared remembrance and an unbounded gratitude.

Two young ladies of Baltimore, of uncommon beauty and great intellectual attainments—Miss Hettie Carey and her sister, Miss Jennie Carey, had been compelled to leave their native State, Maryland, by reason of what was termed ‘seditious sentiments and conduct;’ the plain meaning of which was their outspoken sympathy for the South. After being transferred across the lines, they made their temporary home in Richmond, with a near relative, Miss Constance Carey, formerly of Alexandria, Va., their equal, it appears, in every respect. Being true women of the South, and living as they did in the Confederate capital, they soon became informed of the action taken by Generals Johnston and Beauregard, to procure a battle-flag for our troops. Their programme was adopted at once, and, with busy and skillful hands, cutting up and using their own silk dresses for the purpose, they fashioned the three beautiful banners I have described, which were sent to the three Generals who had most attracted their admiration. The note accompanying this gracious gift—note which unfortunately cannot be found—was written by Miss Hettie Carey, whose fair and nimble fingers had made the flag specially intended for General Beauregard.

What Generals Johnston and Van Dorn did with their flag, I cannot say, though I am sure they valued them much; but I know that General Beauregard, almost religiously preserved his, and looked upon it somewhat in the light of a relic. We have the proof of it before us now, for here is the identical flag given him by Miss Hettie Carey, afterwards the wife of General Pegram, the heroic Pegram, killed in battle around Petersburg, at the end of the war, leaving to mourn his untimely death, besides near relatives and comrades in arms, a widowed bride of scarce two weeks marriage.

After keeping this precious memento a short time at his headquarters, at Centreville, where it was greatly admired, and shown as a model for those ordered for the army, General Beauregard finally sent it to New Orleans for security and preservation. When our city fell, in April, 1862, that banner and General Beauregard's swords of honor were conveyed to a French war steamer, then lying in the port, and taken to Havana. There they remained, under the care of a Spanish gentleman known to be in sympathy with the South, until safely returned, some three years after the close of the struggle. [32]

And now, officers and soldiers of the Washington Artillery, in the name of General Beauregard, under whose eyes you first went under fire, at Bull Run and Manassas, and—besides your brilliant achievements in fifty-six other battles and engagements—under whom you again distinguished yourselves, on the bloody field of Shiloh, with Hodgson, Slocomb, McVaught, Hewes, and Chalaron, and, later on, at Drewry's Bluff, with Eschleman, W. M. Owen, Richardson, Hero and Norcum, I have the honor to present to you this sacred emblem of Southern valor and patriotism. Its colors are yet as fresh as when it received the parting look of its fair maker. Its value is enhanced by the fact that the upper portion of its staff is made of a piece of the flag-staff of Fort Sumter, shot down by the Confederate gunners, in April, 1861. Unsullied though it be by the smoke of battle, it was, none the less, born in war, and the breeze first kissed it in the tented field. It is the genuine model of the glorious flag around which all of us fought, and so many of us bled, and so many of us fell. Colonel Richardson, I now intrust it to your hands. The Washington Artillery is worthy of it; it is, in every respect, worthy of the Washington Artillery. General Beauregard, who will ever regret his enforced absence from among you on this occasion, knows that it will be treasured and revered by you, and that it will find a fitting place among the many trophies and decorations which already adorn the walls of your vast armory. He trusts that, in the peaceful years succeeding the troublous era, over which we have just cast a backward glance, it will serve you and those under you as a touching reminder, not only of himself, your fast friend and former commander, but also of her from whose love and devotion to a cause dear to us—then, now, and I say forever—it originally came.

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