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FLAG CEREMONY AT ALLENTON
From The Missouri Democrat, August 9, 1861.
This article was republished in the July-August 2004 issue of The Shrapnel .
The village of Allenton, situated on the Pacific railroad, was the scene, on Saturday last, of a merry and most patriotic gathering. The ladies of the place had prepared a beautiful silk flag for presentation to the Home Guards stationed there, under command of Capt. Robert Allen. The day was bright and clear and deliciously hot. Nearly the entire population, old and young, convened in a shady grove near the encampment of the soldiers. The latter, being drawn up in file, Miss Emma Myers, on behalf of the ladies of Allenton, presented the flag with an appropriate address, to which the captain responded briefly, but with good effect.
Mrs. J. J. B.---------, of New York, was next prevailed upon by urgent and unanimous solicitation, to address the soldiers, which she did as follows:
Friends-Countrymen-Soldiers: You have unanimously expressed the desire that I should address you on the present occasion and while I shrink from the task with the inherent timidity of my sex, at the same time I feel too much honored by the appeal to decline it.
This is a period when the true-hearted American, whether male or female, should seize every opportunity to give utterance to sentiments of loyalty, and openly to avow an uncompromising hatred of rebellion.
It is a period when every man is called upon to stand boldly forth, forgetful of family ties, of personal interest, of ease and home enjoyments, forgetful of all save the requirements of his country-to protect her-to bleed-to die for her. Home affections must be buried in the depths of the loving heart, home ties must be loosened, home comforts must be renounced-the nation's claims are paramount even to these-for it is only by securing your country's safety that you can ensure a continuance of the blessings you have hitherto enjoyed in that dear home, and in those holy affections.
Yes, my friends, this is indeed a period to try men's souls! The time of inaction is past, the young, the vigorous, the brave must give their right arm, and if needs be their heart's blood to defend the sacred rights of the Union, while the infirm and old must counsel by their experience and encourage by their patriotism.
And has woman no part to perform in these stirring times? Methinks her duties though less active are not wholly unimportant. Is it not an act of heroism on the part of the fond wife, the doating mother, when uncomplaining and resigned she loosens her clinging hold upon these dear objects of her best affections, and girding their swords around them, bids them go forth-to conquer or to die! She who sits in her desolate house and meditates upon the horrors of the battle field needs as much courage as the valiant soldier who breasts the fire of the foe. Is it not also her province to cheer and encourage the young warrior by her smiles and enthusiastic greetings? And however dear to the heart of the American must ever be the stars and stripes that have hitherto heralded him to victory, is not the flag which loved fingers have wrought, and woman's fair hand has presented, a tenfold more valued talisman, and one which must awaken a tenfold amount of chivalric ardor? What cowardly recreant would permit the colors thus fashioned to fall in the hand s of the triumphant foe, to be trailed in the dust, trampled upon and derided by the conqueror? Would not each and all of you be inclined to deeds of god-like valor, rather than behold this beloved banner thus degraded? Say, my young friends, when this beautiful banner is proudly unfurled above your heads, will not the gentle rustlings of silken folds seem to your ears like whisperings from home, reminding you that you have not only the wrongs of your country to redress, but the peace and prosperity of your own domestic hearth to restore.
This flag of our Union, with its gleaming stars and stripes, was chosen as the nation's flag by the Congress in 1777. It was with Washington at Brandywine and Germantown, it waved defiant to Burgoyne at Bennington and Stillwater, and flamed proudly at Saratoga, when the British there laid down their arms. It was borne through all the subsequent campaigns of that desperate struggle against despotism-sometimes waving in triumph, sometimes retreating with our unsuccessful but unconquerable armies. Since first its stripes floated upon the breeze of heaven, it has never known disgrace. It has firmly stood a monument of our independence-the standard to rally by, the insignia and unfailing assurance of ultimate success. It has ever been regarded as the symbol of eternal union, and all have felt that in that union alone there was strength. How proudly it waved when Cornwallis gave up his sword at Yorktown!-aye, that victory was achieved upon the soil that so lately has beheld our beloved ensign rudely torn and bedabbled in American blood-shed by American hands; but never have its sacred folds veiled the cowardly arm of the ruthless fiend, who, like a midnight assassin, plunged his weapon in the breast of the wounded and defenseless foe. Such deeds could only spring from traitor hearts. Let us thank God, my friends, that our flag has never been defiled by stains like these-has never waved above a rebel's head. These who have forced this fratricidal war upon our country have felt themselves unworthy to fight beneath the glorious folds of the nation's banner; their adoption of a parody is an acknowledgement of their recreancy.
Our nation's flag is not yet eighty-four years old; but where is there a sea whose waves have not reflected on it? Where is a nation that has not known and honored it? Is there a banner that has ever floated triumphantly above it? No, not one. Well may you be proud to fight beneath its shadow; and may the God of battles nerve your arms and fire your hearts, that your heroic deeds may add new luster to its glory.
Take this flag. There is a blot upon it now, but it can be wiped out, and it will be. See that you help to do it. Remember Manassas-its cowardly treachery-its barbarous butchery. There is a defeat to be atoned for, and unheard of cruelties to be avenged.
Take, then, this banner, and bear it before ye:
The herald of triumph-the symbol of glory-
And wherever it leads may God's blessing attend it,
And nerve ye, brave men, with your lives defend it,
Till its folds once again shall triumphantly wave
O'er the Union restored, and her foes in the grave.
Tumultuous applause followed this eloquent and stirring address, the delivery of which was repeatedly interrupted by enthusiastic cheers. Then followed a patriotic duet, by Miss E. Myers and Miss Almira Inks.
After an excellent repast, partaken of under the trees, the soldiers were again addressed by Messrs. Allen, Dr. Morse and Benj. I. Browne. The latter spoke with much feeling and effect. Festivities then became the order of the day-Terpsichore mounted a sylvan throne, and in utter defiance of intense heat, gaiety and music echoed through the woods, while the patter of delicate feet, the smiles of lovely maidens, the ringing of merry laughter, kept the woods in perpetual glee, until lengthening shadows warned the revelers of approaching evening. The hilarious groups then dispersed and the delightful fete champetre was over, save as it will long continue with your correspondent, and I doubt not a hundred others, to swell the pleasures of memory.