On Tuesday, April third, 1864, the widow of Major Booth
, the late commander
at Fort Pillow
, arrived at Fort Pickering
, below Memphis, Tenn. Colonel Jackson
, of the Sixth United States heavy artillery, had his regiment formed into line for her reception.
In front of its centre stood fourteen men, as fine, brave fellows as tread the earth.
They were the remnant of the first battalion of the regiment now drawn up — all who had escaped the fiendish scenes of Fort Pillow
--scenes that have stamped yet deeper blackness on the infamous brow of treason.
In her hand she bore a flag, red and clotted with human blood.
She took a position in front of the fourteen heroes, so lately under her deceased husband's command.
The ranks before her observed a silence that was full of solemnity.
Many a hardy face showed by twitching lids and humid eyes how the sight of the bereaved lady touched bosoms that could meet steel, and drew on the fountain of tears that had remained dry even amid the piteous sights witnessed on the battle-field after a fierce action.
Turning to the men before her, she said:
Boys, I have just come from a visit to the hospital of Mound City.
There I saw your comrades; wounded at the bloody struggle in Fort Pillow.
There I found this flag-you recognize, it. One of your comrades saved it from the insulting touch of traitors at Fort Pillow!
I have given to my country all I had to give — my husband — such a gift!
Yet I have freely given him for freedom and my country.
Next my husband's cold remains, the next dearest object left me in the world, is this flag — the flag that waved in proud defiance over the works of Fort Pillow!
Soldiers! this flag I give to you, knowing that you will ever remember the last words of my noble husband: “ Never surrender the flag to traitors.”
then received from her hand, on behalf of his command, the blood-stained flag.
He called upon the regiment to receive it as such a gift ought to be received.
At that call he and every man of the regiment fell upon their knees, and, solemnly appealing to the God of battles, each one swore to avenge their brave and fallen comrades, and never — never to surrender the flag to traitors!
The scene was one never surpassed in emotional incident.
Beside the swift-rolling waters of the Mississippi
— within the inclosure that bristled with the death-dealing cannon — knelt these rough soldiers, whose bosoms were heaving with emotion, and on many of whose cheeks quivered a tear they tried to hide, though it did honor to their manly natures.
Beside them stood in her grief the widow of the loved officer they had lost; and above them was held the bloody flag — that eloquent record of crime which has capped the climax, of rebellion, and which will bring a reckoning so fearful.
In few but pointed and incisive words, Colonel Alexander
pledged himself and his command to discharge to the uttermost the solemn obligation of justice they had that day taken.
followed him, expressing himself in favor of such retaliatory acts of justice as the laws of warfare require in a case of such fiendish and wicked cruelty.
Woe to the unlucky Reb
who falls into the hands of any of the commands represented at this solemn declaration!
The determination of the officers of the Sixth United States heavy artillery is incontestable, their bravery has been tried, and they have never been found wanting.