previous next

Doc. 118 1/2.-the De Kalb regiment. The banner presentation to the regiment at New York city, June 19.

A correspondent of the New York Herald gives the following account of this interesting occurrence:

Thirty-fourth street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, presented a gay and festive scene on the occasion of the presentation of a regimental flag, an American ensign, and a set of guide colors, by R. A. Witthaus, Esq., and family, No. 21 West Thirty-fourth street, to the De Kalb regiment. The regiment, of which Mr. Witthaus is the founder and patron, paraded for the first time in their new and handsome uniform, creating not a little enthusiasm in their route of march.

At two o'clock half of the command stationed at Yorkville left their rendezvous, and soon after joined the other portion of the regiment at Landmann's, Hamilton Park, from whence they marched down Third avenue to Forty-second street, through Forty-second street to Fifth avenue, filing into Thirty-fourth street, where the regiment was drawn up in line in front of the mansion of Mr. Witthaus. At Forty-second street the regiment was joined by the members of the Liederkranz, who paraded for the purpose of giving them an escort on their route of march. The Liederkranz was accompanied by a fine band of music.

The police arrangements were the most perfect that could be desired, Superintendent Kennedy and Inspector Carpenter being both present to supervise the duties of the police force. Shortly after four o'clock the regiment arrived, and the street was immediately cleared of all obstructions. Colonel Von Gilsa, Lieutenant-Colonel Duysing, Major Holmsted, and Adjutant Kleinschmidt were mounted, while the staff and line officers marched on foot. Every evolution gone through with by the regiment was the signal for an outburst of enthusiasm. The front presented by the regiment was two companies abreast and five deep, thus giving an opportunity to the men to witness the presentation ceremonies. The Adjutant having performed his duties, the command [399] passed over to Colonel Von Gilsa, the regiment saluted Mr. Witthaus and the assembly on the stoops and balconies.

At half-past 4 Mr. Edward Jones carried out the American flag, which was followed by Mrs. Witthaus, leaning upon the arm of Hon. George Folsom, who addressed the regiment briefly. In introducing Mrs. W., he said:

Officers, Soldiers, and Citizens :--I have the honor to introduce Mrs. R. A. Witthaus, who will present to you this American flag, that you are to bear in the war in which you are about to take a part.

Mrs. Witthaus, in a clear, silvery voice, addressed Colonel Von Gilsa and the officers, the latter forming a hollow square, as follows:

Officers and Soldiers of the De Kalb Regiment:--It affords me much satisfaction to meet you here upon this occasion, to offer you my thanks for your noble response to our country's call, when rebellion and lawless violence have at last compelled us sorrowfully to lay aside the olive branch and draw the sword in self-defence — when treason hath raised its fratricidal arm to strike a death-blow to that Union which our fathers made for us — therefore, I repeat, it is with satisfaction and heartfelt gratitude that I see such men as you bravely standing forth in its defence. And I desire to present to you our country's flag, emblem of that Union as our fathers gave it into our hands; and as star after star has been added to its azure field, the world's history has recorded the manner in which we have kept the talent committed to our care; and as our fathers bravely fought to make for us that Union, so are we now called upon to prove ourselves worthy of them by defending and preserving that Union and that flag which have proved so great a blessing to ourselves and to the world at large. Go forth, then, in the name of God, to uphold the authority of law, and to wrest from the lawless rebels this our fair land, which has been truly the land of the free and the home of the brave. Not for ourselves alone, but for the loyal hearts South as well as North; for in my heart I firmly believe there are thousands in the rebel States faithful and true, looking on and waiting with painful anxiety for the hour in which your noble efforts shall release them from the reign of terror under which they are now bowed down; and for their sakes I implore you, in the hour of victory, forget not mercy. But while, as instruments in the hands of an avenging God, you go forth to punish and subdue those who, for their own selfish ends, would sacrifice our country, forget not that the same God is also the God of mercy, and as you are his soldiers in battle, so are you also his instruments in the protection of innocence and helplessness; and your efforts may preserve unto us many who, when these sad troubles shall have passed away, will gladly return like the prodigal of old to the protection of that time-honored flag, under whose folds we have become so prosperous a nation. Take, then, this flag, which I intrust to your hands with unbounded confidence; and feeling certain, as I do, that it can only return with you from victory, I shall await with anxious heart that happy day, hoping to meet you again, most if not all of you, in our country's name, for the love which you show for it in thus going forth to its rescue, when, alas! some of its own misguided members seek to destroy it, becoming, as you will then have done, doubly its sons; sons by adoption, and noble sons, as were our forefathers, who perilled their lives, as you are now about to do, in its defence. May God watch over you and crown your efforts with success, so that future generations may honor your names even as we do theirs, and may our flag again wave in triumph and peace over every portion of our beloved country.

Colonel Von Gilsa approached and received the flag, and in a voice choked with emotion said: “Madam, do not expect a speech from me. I thank you.” His remarks were checked by the lady saying that she would receive his speech on his return.

The Liederkranz, accompanied by the band, sang the Star-Spangled Banner, the chorus of which was chimed in by the thousands of people gathered on the spot. Frederick Kapp, Esq., the able historian and President of the “Liederkranz,” stepped forward, holding in his hand a superb steel-scabbard cavalry sword, of French fabric, also a belt and cartridge-box of gilt material. In a loud, manly voice, ho addressed the Colonel, the officers, and the regiment, in a patriotic speech, frequently alluding to the chivalrous deeds of Baron de Kalb, describing how that noble chieftain fought on the field at Camden, S. C., and how he fell, pierced by eleven wounds, in the arms of his adjutant. Mr. Kapp also deprecate ed the hireling system of the Hessians in furnishing warriors for the Revolutionary war of ‘76, and hoped that the De Kalb regiment, and, in fact, all the German citizens now engaged in this glorious cause of sustaining the best government man ever instituted, would wipe out the stain resting upon the escutcheon of the German nation, which the Hessians blurred in their fighting against liberty and right. The speaker was frequently interrupted in his address, and concluded by presenting the sword, belt, and cartridge-box to the Colonel, hoping that the blade will never be sheathed until the peace of our common country is again restored, and the Star-Spangled Banner waves from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The entire speech of Mr. Kapp was a meritorious production.

Colonel Von Gilsa replied in German, as follows:--Mr. Kapp, and members of the Liederkranz, I can only in the name of my regiment offer you my heartfelt thanks, which I feel more deeply than words can express. In their name I will promise you, that wherever we may be ordered to maintain the honor and integrity of the country, that we will not allow [400] our friends to blush for our deeds. We cannot erect a stone monument to the memory of the brave man whose cherished name we bear, but we will erect a mausoleum to De Kalb's memory that will ever after have a place in the history of our adopted country.

This short and pertinent speech of the warrior chieftain elicited the most enthusiastic approbation. The Singing Society then chaunted a splendid chorus, entitled the “Warrior's prayer.”

Hon. George Bancroft, the eminent historian, led Miss Pauline Antoinette Witthaus to the centre of the stoop, the son and little daughter of Mr. W. standing on each side, and the father above them. On the left Mr. Amos F. Eno held in his hand the costly and chaste regimental banner which the young, accomplished, and patriotic lady presented to the De Kalb regiment. Mr. Bancroft, in a pure German accent, addressed the regiment as follows:--Worthy, brave, and gallant soldiers: I am greatly honored by introducing to you this blushing maiden, who is desirous of expressing her patriotism for her country by presenting you, through her father, with this beautiful banner, bearing the likeness of Baron de Kalb, your patron saint. When, in the heat, of battle, you rally around this standard, let that flag remind you of the virgin beauty who stands before you, and inspire you with a valor characteristic of the brave General whose features adorn the banner about being handed to you. (Great applause.)

Mr. R. A. Witthaus addressed Col. Von Gilsa as follows:

Officers and Soldiers of the De Kalb Regiment:--This war has been forced upon us for the necessary defence of our national security, for the maintenance of our laws and the Constitution. The war has actually begun, and the clash of resounding arms is borne to us upon the wings of the zephyrs from the sunny South. We have no choice which course to pursue. A lawless minority of rebels, enemies to our peace and strangers to our laws, hold the conservative and sober-minded under military despotism. Each hour cries protection for them, and, therefore, we do not engage in any sanguinary exploits to subjugate millions; it is not our object to perpetuate hostilities, or even to cherish a military spirit. No, soldiers, our duties are higher and purer — our work is consecrated to our liberty and Union. They are our safeguard at home, our dignity abroad — the patrimony of our patriots and the inheritance of our children. The adopted citizens of German birth are marked by industry, modesty, and honesty of heart in times of peace; but in times of war and strife a Hermann proved himself the victor of the Romans, and I fear not but you whose sturdy limbs were fostered by the bracing climate of Germany will prove yourselves worthy of your breeding. Attack the foe manfully, and let your sinewy arms charge home upon him. You will gallantly perform deeds of valor and oppose the enemies of our adopted country. We shall hear of many a high example of noble daring and heroic endurance, and you will not let the enemy destroy our liberty and Union--those glorious legacies for which you have left the homes of your birth, that dear fatherland, whence many an anxious eye is now watching the issue of events. Officers and soldiers of the De Kalb Regiment: By a special favor from the military authorities of the Empire State you are permitted to bear the name of that gallant hero who, together with a galaxy of your gifted countrymen, flew hither, in the times that tried men's souls, to array themselves on the side of the oppressed in a struggle which resulted in the blessings of a liberty which we now enjoy, and which we are sacredly bound to preserve for our children. I am requested to present to you on the part of my children--American by their mother, German by their father — this regimental flag and guide colors, bearing the portrait of Baron de Kalb, of whom the father of this country, the illustrious George Washington, so truly said, “The generous stranger who came from a distant land to fight our battles and to water with his blood the tree of our liberty; would he had lived to enjoy its fruit.” Among all the heroes of the Revolution we may well challenge comparison for him. Side by side with the heaven inspired patriots and warriors he bore the burthen and heat of the battle; his acts gave you the title deeds to your share of America as adopted citizens; and how well that right is treasured and most jealously guarded by you is best proved by the many regiments of patriotic Germans who, since the first fire on the Stars and Stripes at Fort Sumter, have enrolled themselves for the maintenance of the laws of this our adopted country. This country is dear and sacred to us by the ties of our wives and children, by the blood of our patriots, and by the ashes of our departed. I have asked myself the question, whence this ardent and spontaneous patriotism on the part of our German citizens? and I have found the answer quickly. They know too well, from experience in their dear fatherland, what it is to have a country torn asunder and divided into many small kingdoms and principalities; they know full well the insurmountable difficulties to move the commerce, practical science, manufactures, and agriculture as with one united effort, and while this their adopted country has done for them all in time of prosperity, the German cardinal virtues, “honesty and gratitude,” prompt them to do all in their power now in its time of need. Officers and soldiers: I see many among you who have left honorable positions of trust and emolument in order to oppose the enemies of our adopted country, and I sincerely hope, when peace is once again restored, and you have placed the wreath of victory upon the brow of the country you have wedded, that many years of honor and prosperity may be the blessings kind Providence will have in store for you. Colonel Leopold [401] von Gilsa, I now close in presenting, in the name of my children, this standard and guides to the De Kalb Regiment. May they prove to each patriotic heart a beacon in the battle field; may your regiment honor them, guard them, and protect them, and when victors, remind them of mercy and humanity; and when the curtain of peace rises, and the martial clouds have disappeared, may the banner of the De Kalb fraternize with the glorious flag of the Stars and Stripes in its full and undiminished constellation.

At the conclusion of this address Mr. Witthaus handed the standard to the Colonel, who faced his regiment, waving the same several times. As with one instinct the entire regiment uncovered, and the cheers that greeted that flag could only be uttered by brave and hardy men, as those constituting the De Kalb regiment are. The guide colors, held by Master Rudolph Witthaus, were also handed to the Colonel, who handed them over to the right and left general guides. The American ensign is manufactured of heavy red, white, and blue silk, trimmed with heavy gold fringe; the staff is made of hickory, surmounted by a gilt eagle; the cords and tassels are of massive gold bullion. In the centre of the lance, on a metal plate, appears the following inscription: “Presented to the De Kalb Regiment, New York Volunteers, by Mrs. R. A. Witthaus, June, 1861.” On the blue field is a shield bearing this inscription, “De Kalb regiment, N. Y. V.,” around which are clustered the thirty-four stars, indicative of the thirty-four States of the Union.

The regimental standard, presented by Miss Pauline A. Witthaus, is a gem of art and workmanship. It was apparently manufactured regardless of cost, and the skill that was lavished upon this emblem challenges the admiration of the beholder. The ground is double dark blue satin, trimmed with heavy yellow silk fringe. On the front of the flag, in a centre piece of drab colored silk, worked with silk chenille, is a life-like portrait of the renowned General De Kalb. Above it appears the American shield, worked in lively colors. Underneath the portrait are the American and German flags interwoven. Around the edges, worked with yellow silk, in German text, is the following inscription:

The generous stranger who left his home
To water with his blood the tree of our liberty.

On the reverse, in the centre, is the Star-Spangled Banner, across which are worked the implements of warfare. The following motto is likewise embroidered in the same style as that of the front:

And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The staff is made of mahogany, surmounted by a spear head, from which are suspended a red, white, and blue, and red, gold, and black straps and tassels. In the centre of the lance is a silver shield bearing the inscription, “Presented to the De Kalb regiment, N. Y. V., by Miss Pauline A. Witthaus, June, 1861.”

Among the distinguished guests invited were: Gov. E. D. Morgan, Governor Hamilton Fish, Major-General John A. Dix, Brig.-General Yates, the Union Defence Committee, Colonel Franklin, Hon. George Bancroft, Hon. George Folsom, John Jacob Astor, jr., Abiel A. Low, Hon. Edward Pierrepont, Gen. P. M. Wetmore, Hon. Samuel Sloan, Henry Grinnell, Archibald Russell, Capt. M. Cogswell, Col. M. Lefferts, Dr. Alexander B. Mott, Elie Charlier, G. H. Witthaus, Egbert L. Viele, Col. Maidhoff, Col. Tompkins, Major Eaton, Amos F. Eno, Edward Jones, and others.

After the presentation the officers of the regiment and the invited guests were invited into the dining-room of Mr. Witthaus, where a collation was already prepared and partaken of with a good deal of gusto.

The festive scene of the occasion was such as will be long remembered by both the donor and recipient. The great interest manifested by Mr. Witthaus in the welfare and full equipment of the De Kalb regiment has endeared that gentleman to the hearts of not only his fellow countrymen, but to all who have the honor and welfare of our glorious country at heart. Whatever the regiment stood in need of was furnished by Mr. Witthaus, and what the Union Defence Committee did not furnish was purchased from the private fortune of the gentleman whom the regiment have elected as their honorary chief. It must, indeed, have been a proud moment for Mr. Witthaus to view upwards of one thousand brave and stalwart warriors drawn up in front of his mansion, whom, as it were, his indomitable energy and perseverance has called into existence at a short notice of about six weeks, ready, fully armed and equipped, to go forth and battle for the rights of the Constitution and in defence of our beloved flag.

History must certainly reserve one page for the record of the disinterested and patriotic achievements of Mr. R. A. Witthaus. The regiment, after the presentation, returned to their Headquarters via Fifth avenue, Twenty-third street, and Third avenue.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June, 1861 AD (2)
June 19th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: