previous next

Speech of Judge C. P. Daly, on the presentation of flags to the sixty-ninth regiment N. Y. S. V., Nov. 18, 1861.

Col. Nugent: I am requested by this lady beside me, Mrs. Chaflin, the daughter of an Irishman, and the wife of an officer in the regular army of the United States, and by the ladies associated with her, to offer to your regiment the accompanying stand of colors. In committing to your charge these two flags, I need scarcely remind you that the history of the one is pregnant with meaning in the light which it sheds upon the history of the other. This green flag, with its ancient harp, its burst of sunlight, and its motto from Ossian in the Irish tongue, recalls through the long lapse of many centuries, the period when Ireland was a nation, and conveys more eloquently than by words how her nationality was lost through the practical working of that doctrine of secession for which the rebellious States of the South have taken up arms. The period of Ireland's greatness was attained when the petty princes, who ruled separate parts of the country, and kept it in unceasing turmoil, were finally subdued, and the spectacle of a united people under one Government was presented in the wise and beneficent administration of that truly great monarch, the illustrious Brian Boroihme, (tremendous cheering.) It is that happy period in Ireland's history upon which her bards love to dwell, her historians dilate, and around which cluster the proudest of her historical recollections. By what means was that nationality extinguished, and when did Ireland's miseries begin? When her ambitious leaders, the Jefferson Davises of that period, overthrew the fabric of the National Government, and instituted in its stead distinct and separate sovereignties, through whose internal weakness and clashing interests Ireland was finally brought under the power of that stalwart English monarchy that has since held her in its iron grasp. Does an Irishman, therefore, ask what his duty is in this contest? Let him learn it in the history of his own country, in the story of that green flag; let him, contemplating the sorrows of his mother Erin,

remember the days of old,
Ere her faithless sons betrayed her.

What is asked of an Irishman in this crisis? He is asked to preserve that Government which Montgomery died to create, and which those Irishmen who signed the Declaration of Independence, George Taylor, James Smith, and Matthew Thornton, meant to transmit, with its manifold blessings, to every Irishman who should make this country the land of his adoption. To the Irish race it has been, in every sense, a country — a country where their native energy and stimulated industry have met with their appropriate reward; and where they have enjoyed an amount of political consequence, and exercised a degree of political influence, not found in the land of their nativity. Whatever may be the result of our experiment of self-government, the Irish race in America is as responsible for the result as any other. That it has its defects, none of us are vain enough to deny; but if, in view of what it has accomplished, any Irish adopted citizen is willing to give it up, let him go and live under the monarchy of Great Britain. (Renewed applause.) But if he still have faith in the teachings of Tone and the example of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, let him stand by that form of government here which they sacrificed their lives to obtain for Irishmen. To preserve that form of government on this continent, it must be sustained, as it has hitherto been, in the grandeur, integrity, and power of a nation, and not by a Mexican division into weak and rickety republics. (Enthusiastic cheering.) To secure that great end you are now in arms, and as a part of the military force that has come to the rescue of the Republic, you, and the organization of which you form a part, have a weighty and [402] ennobling responsibility. You have chosen to be known by the number of a regiment already distinguished in the beginning of this contest, the reputation of which you have assumed to maintain. But more than this, you, and the organization to which you belong, have designated yourselves by the proudest name in Irish military annals — that of the “Irish Brigade.” That celebrated corps achieved its historical renown, not through the admitted bravery of its members merely, but chiefly by the perfection of its discipline, and it will be precisely in the proportion that you imitate it in this respect, that you will or will not be known hereafter. The selection of such a name only renders the contrast more glaring in the event of inefficiency and incompetency, and it were well, there-fore, that both officers and men should remember that, if any part of the glory which the Irish Brigade achieved upon the plains of Ramillies, the heights of Fontenoy, and at the gate of Cremona, is to descend upon them, it will be not by adopting its name, but by proving hereafter, by their discipline and by their deeds, that they are worthy to bear it. (Enthusiastic plaudits.) You, too, Col. Nugent, have your own responsibility. You bear the name of that gallant Col. Nugent, who, at the head of the Irish horse at the battle of Spires, broke the compact infantry of the Prince of Hesse, and decided the fortune of the day. The Irish soldier has been distinguished by military critics for his recognition of the necessity of implicit military obedience, for the cheerfulness with which he endures the privations and hardships incident to a military life, and for his daring impetuosity in battle. Look to it that you maintain that character. Sir Charles Napier has borne the highest compliment to the merits of a disciplined Irish regiment in the account which he gives of the one led by him at the battle of Meeanee, in the war of Scinde, and which he calls “magnificent Tipperary!” With this single corps of but four hundred men and two thousand native troops, he encountered and defeated twenty-eight thousand of the warlike Beloochees. (Great cheering.) Of the decisive charge with the bayonet he glowingly tells us how this thoroughly disciplined Irish regiment moved as on a review across a plain swept by the fire of the enemy, the men keeping touch and step, and looking steadfastly in the faces of their foe. (Cheers.) These are examples of Irish valor, when regulated by discipline, which, if you may not rival, you can at least strive to imitate. Again, I commit these colors to your charge, and in view of the obligation imposed upon every officer and soldier by their acceptance, it may not be out of place to mention in this connection, that at the commencement of the war, I had occasion to offer, as the gift of my wife, I think, the first flag presented to a regiment departing from this city for the defence of the National Capital. Of that regiment, the old Sixty-ninth, you, sir, were the second in command, and at the head of it was the noble-minded, high-spirited, and gallant officer to whom so much of its after character was due. A descendant by the female line of that illustrious Irish soldier, Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan, whose name is identified with the siege of Limerick, and who fell fighting at the head of his brigade upon the bloody field of Landen, Col. Corcoran, in the spirit of his noble ancestor, received that flag with a soldier's promise, and kept that promise with a soldier's faith. It was not brought back from the field of Manassas on that day of disastrous rout and panic; but he, at least, and the little band who stood around him in its defence, went with it into captivity. (Wild huzzas from the regiment.) I need say no more when presenting this splendid gift, with which these ladies have honored your regiment, than to point to this Irish example of the faith and fidelity that is due by a soldier to his flag. Col. Corcoran is now within the walls of a rebel prison, one of the selected victims for revengeful Southern retaliation; but he has the satisfaction of feeling that he owes his sad, though proud preeminence to having acted as became a descendant of Sarsfield. Of this beautiful American standard, illustrative alike of the munificence of its donors, and of the skill of the hands that wrought it, I say to you, as a parting injunction, in the language of John Savage's “Song of the sixty-ninth” :

Plant that flag
On fort and crag,
With the people's voice of thunder.

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 Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Nugent (3)
David Ireland (2)
Michael Corcoran (2)
Matthew Thornton (1)
George Taylor (1)
James Smith (1)
John Savage (1)
Charles Napier (1)
R. H. Montgomery (1)
Lucan (1)
Landen (1)
Edward Fitzgerald (1)
C. P. Daly (1)
Chaflin (1)
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.
November 18th, 1861 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: