72. Twenty-Second mass. Regiment. Flag presentation at Boston, Oct. 8, 1861.
A number of the friends of Colonel Henry Wilson
had caused a handsome flag to be purchased, combining the well-known Stars and Stripes with the State
arms and the title of the regiment.
Robert C. Winthrop
had accepted an invitation to make the presentation address.
At half-past 12 the regiment was drawn up on the Beacon
street mall, when Mr. Winthrop
advanced to the front, and addressed Colonel Wilson
address of Robert C. Winthrop
: I am here at the call of a committee of your friends, by whom this beautiful banner has been procured, to present it, in their behalf, to the regiment under your command.
I am conscious how small a claim I have to such a distinction; but I am still more conscious how little qualified I am, at this moment, to do justice to such an occasion.
Had it been a mere ordinary holiday ceremony, or had I been called to it only by those with whom I have been accustomed to act in political affairs, I should have declined it altogether.
But it was suggested to me by the committee, that the position which I had occupied in former years in regard to some of the great questions which have agitated and divided the public mind, and the relations which I had borne to yourself, politically if not personally, might give something of peculiar and welcome significance to my presence here to-day;--as affording another manifestation, more impressive than any mere words could supply, that in this hour of our country's agony, and in view of the momentous issues of national life and death which are trembling in the scale, all political differences and all personal differences are buried in a common oblivion, and that but one feeling, but one purpose, but one stern and solemn determination, pervades and animates the whole people of Massachusetts
To such a suggestion, sir, I could not for an instant hesitate to yield; and most heartily shall I rejoice if any word or any act of mine may help to enforce, or even only to illustrate, that unanimity of sentiment which ought to make, and which I trust does make, a million of hearts this day beat and throb as the heart of one man.
Sir, you will not desire — this crowded assembly will not desire — that in discharging the simple service so unexpectedly assigned to me, I should occupy much of your time in formal words of argument or of appeal.
Still less could such a detention be agreeable to these gallant volunteers, who have been called to commence their campaign under skies which have dampened every thing except their courage and their patriotism; who are impatient to find themselves fairly on the way to their distant scene of duty, and who are, certainly, entitled to spend the few remaining hours before their departure, in exchanging farewells with the friends and relatives who are gathered around them.
Yet I should hardly be excused by others, or by yourself, if I did not attempt, in a few plain words, to give some expression to that pervading sentiment, to that solemn purpose, to that stern resolve, which animates and actuates each one of us alike.
Sir, there is no mystery about the matter.
There ought to be no concealment about it. There can be no mistake about it. Your venerable Chaplain
has embodied it all in that sparkling lyric--“E Pluribus Unum
” --which might well be adopted as the secular song of your noble regiment.
It is nothing more, and nothing less, than a sentiment of duty to our whole country; of devotion to its Union; of allegiance to its Rulers; of loyalty to its Constitution ; and of undying love to that old Flag of our Fathers, which was associated with the earliest achievement of our Liberty, and which we are resolved shall be associated with its latest defence.
It is nothing more, and nothing less, than a determination that neither fraud nor force, neither secret conspiracy nor open rebellion, shall supplant that flag on the dome of our Capitol
, or permanently humble it anywhere beneath the sun; that the American Union shall not be rent asunder without those who may attempt it being caught in the cleft;--nor these cherished institutions of ours be cast down and trampled in the dust — until, at least, we have made the best, the bravest, the most strenuous struggle to save them, which the blessing of Heaven upon our own strong arms, and in answer to the prayers of a Nation on its knees.
shall have enabled us to make.
, I need not say, has arrayed her numerous regiments, at the call of the National Government
, and under the direction of her own untiring Executive — for no purpose of subjugation or aggression; in no spirit of revenge or hatred; with no disposition and with no willingness to destroy or impair any constitutional right of any section or of any citizen of the Republic
She would as soon wear a yoke upon her own neck, as she would aid in imposing one on the neck of a sister State.
She sends forth her armed battalions — the flower of Essex
, of Norfolk
, of both her capes and of all her hills and valleys — in no spirit but that of her own honored motto: “Ense quietem
” ;--only to enforce the Laws; only to sustain the Government
; only to uphold the Stars and Stripes; only to aid in restoring to the whole people of the land that quiet enjoyment of liberty, which nothing but the faithful observance of the Constitution
of our Fathers can secure to us and our posterity.
“Union for the sake of the Union
” ; “our country, our whole country, and nothing but our country” --these are the mottoes, old, stale, hackneyed, and threadbare as they may have seemed when employed as the watchwords of an electioneering campaign, but clothed with a new power, a new significance, a new gloss, and a new glory, when uttered as the battle-cries of a nation struggling for existence; these are the only mottoes which can give a just and adequate expression to the cause in which you have enlisted.
Sir, I thank Heaven that the trumpet has given no uncertain sound, while you have been preparing yourselves for the battle.
This is the Cause which has been solemnly proclaimed by both branches of Congress, in resolutions passed at the instance of those true-hearted sons of Tennessee
— and which, I rejoice to remember at this hour, received your own official sanction as a Senator of the United States
This is the Cause which has been recognized and avowed by the President
of the United States
, with a frankness and a fearlessness which have won the respect and admiration of us all.
This is the Cause which has been so fervently commended to us from the dying lips of a Douglas, and by the matchless living voices of a Holt and an Everett.
This is the Cause in which the heroic Anderson
, lifting his banner upon the wings of prayer, and looking to the guidance and guardianship of the God in whom he trusted, went through that fiery furnace unharmed, and came forth, not indeed without the smell of fire and smoke upon his garments, but with an undimmed and undying lustre of piety and patriotism on his brow.
This is the Cause in which the lamented Lyon
bequeathed all that he had of earthly treasure to his country, and then laid down a life in her defence, whose value no millions could measure.
This is the Cause in which the veteran chief of our armies, crowned with the laurels which Washington
alone had worn before him, and renouncing all inferior allegiance at the loss of fortune and of friends, has tasked, and is still tasking to the utmost, the energies of a soul whose patriotism no age could chill.
This is the Cause to which the young and noble McClellan
, under whose lead it is your privilege to serve, has brought that matchless combination of sagacity and science, of endurance, modesty, caution, and courage, which have made him the Hope
of the hour, the
bright particular Star of our immediate destiny.
And this, finally, is the Cause which has obliterated, as no other cause could have done, all divisions and distinctions of party, nationality, and creed; which has appealed alike to Republican, Democrat, and Union Whig, to native citizen and to adopted citizen; and in which not the sons of Massachusetts
or of New England
or of the North
alone, not the dwellers on the Hudson
, the Delaware
, and the Susquehanna
only, but so many of those, also, on the Potomac
and the Ohio
, the Mississippi
and the Missouri
, on all the lakes, and in all the vast Mesopotamia
of the mighty West--yes, and strangers from beyond the seas, Irish and Scotch, German, Italian
, and French
--the common emigrant and those who have stood nearest to a throne — brave and devoted men from almost every nation under heaven — men who have measured the value of our country to the world by a nobler standard than the cotton crop; and who realize that other and more momentous destinies are at stake upon our struggle than such as can be wrought upon any mere material looms and shuttles — all, all are seen rallying beneath a common flag, and exclaiming with one heart and voice: “The American Union--it must be, and shall be, preserved.”
And we owe it, sir, to the memory of our fathers, we owe it to the hopes of our children, we owe it to the cause of free institutions, and of good government of every sort throughout the world, to make the effort, cost what it may of treasure or of blood, and, with God's help, to accomplish the result.
Nay, we owe it to our misguided and deluded brethren of the South
--for I will not forget that they are our brothers still, and I will call them by no harsher name — we owe it even to them, to arrest them, if it be possible, in their suicidal career; to save them from their worst enemy-themselves;
and to hold them back from that vortex of anarchy and chaos which is yawning at their feet, and into which, in their desperate efforts to drag us down, they are only certain of plunging themselves and engulfing all that is dear to them.
Would to Heaven, this day, that there were any other mode of accomplishing, or even attempting this end, but the stern appeal to battle!
But from the hour of that ungodly and unmanly assault upon the little garrison at Sumter
they have left us no alternative.
They have laid upon us a necessity to defend our country — and woe, woe unto us if we fail to meet that necessity as men and as patriots.
I congratulate you, Col. Wilson
, with all my heart, on the success of your own efforts in this great work of National defence.
Returning from the discharge of your laborious and responsible duties as Chairman
of the Committee
of Military affairs in the Senate of the United States, you have thrown out a recruiting signal for a regiment; and, lo!
two regiments have responded to your call; yes, and with sharp-shooters and light artillery enough in addition to make up the measure of no ordinary brigade.
And though one of your regiments is not yet quite ready for the field, it will follow you in a few days, and you will march to the capital as the virtual leader of them all.
Sir, I must detain you no longer.
I have said enough, and more than enough, to manifest the spirit in which this flag is now committed to your charge.
It is the National
ensign, pure and simple; dearer to all our hearts at this moment, as we lift it to the gale, and see no other sign of hope upon the storm-cloud, which rolls and rattles above it, save that which is reflected from its own radiant hues; dearer, a thousand fold dearer to us all, than ever it was before, while gilded by the sunshine of prosperity and playing with the zephyrs of peace.
It will speak for itself far more eloquently than I can speak for it.
Listen to it!
Every star has a tongue; every stripe is articulate.
There is no language or speech where their voices are not heard.
There's magic in the web of it. It has an answer for every question of duty.
It has a solution for every doubt and every perplexity.
It has a word of good cheer for every hour of gloom or of despondency.
Listen to it!
It speaks of earlier and of later struggles.
It speaks of victories, and sometimes of reverses, on the sea and on the land.
It speaks of patriots and heroes among the living and among the dead: and of him, the first and greatest of them all, around whose consecrated ashes this unnatural and abhorrent strife has so long been raging--“the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not.”
But before all and above all other associations and memories — whether of glorious men, or glorious deeds, or glorious places — its voice is ever of Union and Liberty, of the Constitution
and the Laws.
Listen to it!
Let it tell the story of its birth to these gallant volunteers, as they march beneath its folds by day, or repose beneath its sentinel stars by night.
Let it recall to them the strange, eventful history of its rise and progress; let it rehearse to them the wondrous tale of its trials and its triumphs, in peace as well as in war; and, whatever else may happen to it or to them, it will never be surrendered to rebels; never be ignominiously struck to treason; nor ever be prostituted to any unworthy and unchristian purpose of revenge, depredation, or rapine.
And may a merciful God cover the head of each one of its brave defenders in the hour of battle!
The eloquent address of Mr. Winthrop
was heartily cheered, and at its close he presented the flag to Col. Wilson
, who replied to his address as follows:
response of Col. Wilson
: In behalf of my command, I accept at your hands this beautiful ensign of the Republic
, and in their name I tender to its generous donors their sincere thanks, and also for your words of encouragement.
This banner will go wherever we go. (Cheers.) And whether it may be unrolled, as to-day, in the face of friends who love it, or in our camp, or in the face of those that would erase its glittering stars, this act of your kindness and these words of yours will live in our hearts and linger in our memories.
You present it to us to-day, radiant with beauty.
Shot and shell may mar it — the storm of battle may beat upon it — but whenever our eyes look upon it we shall feel that the men of Massachusetts
expect that by no act of ours shall one of its stripes be soiled or one of its stars dimmed.
Our country summons her sons to the defence of the unity of the Republic
and the support of Republican institutions.
The men of my command have generously responded to the appeal of their country.
They leave their beautiful Massachusetts
homes — the dear and loved ones — behind, and go forth, not in the spirit of wrath or hatred, but to uphold the authority of our Government.
Sir, we are not soldiers yet, but we hope to be soldiers.
We go forth in the resolve to do our duty, and we shall go feeling that we are citizens of the proud old commonwealth of Massachusetts
And I trust that at all times, and in all places, we shall do our duty to our common country, and bring no disgrace to our State.
You have alluded to the relations of the past.
Here and now let me say that when the guns of the enemies of our country were pointed at Fort Sumter
, I felt that the time had come to forget the differences of the past, political and personal, and rally around the flag of our country.
Sir, in the presence of events that are transpiring about us, all personal ends and aims, all loves and all hates, stand rebuked, and we are summoned to do our whole duty for our country.
Sir, we are told in Holy Writ that he who is putting his armor on should not boast like him who is taking it off. We have nothing yet to boast of. We go forth in the hope to do our duty, and we hope that, when we return this banner to Massachusetts
, we shall have done something for our country — something that will exact the commendation of the friends who are around us here to-day.
We hope that, when this banner is brought back by the men who have borne it in the face of the enemy, the cause of our country will have succeeded, and that no star will have been erased from our national banner, and that in liberty's unclouded blaze we may raise our heads a race of other days.
We hope, when this contest shall close, that the unity of the Republic
will be assured, and the cause of Republican institutions in America
We go forth in that spirit to do our whole duty.
We go forth cheered by this confidence; and God in his providence grant that by no act of ours we may lose that confidence and that approbation.