« PreviousContinue »
RETURN OF THE FLAGS
[Address by General Lew Wallace, lawyer, soldier, author (born in Brookville, Ind., April 10, 1827; ), delivered at Indianapolis, Ind., July 4, 1866, on the occasion of the return to the State of the colors of all its commands that took part in the Civil War. A vast multitude was gathered at the ceremony, which was conducted with great splendor. To this presentation address of General Wallace the Governor of Indiana, Oliver P. Morton, made an appropriate response.]
Governor —The Soldiers' Association of the State have had it in mind to signalize in some especial manner the happy conclusion of the recent Civil War. This they have thought to accomplish by a ceremonious return of the colors with which their respective commands were entrusted: and, not without a dash of poetry, they have chosen this as a proper day for the celebration. For them, therefore, and for the great body of comrades, present and absent, whom they represent, I have the honor to give you back their flags, with the request that measures be taken by the next General Assembly to preserve them forever.
Sir, I shall never forget my first interview with you upon the subject of the war. It was a day or two after the fall of Sumter. The National Government had not recovered from that blow, and we were in nowise better off. You told me that the President had called for six regiments of volunteers from Indiana, and asked me to accept the Adjutant-Generalcy, and help you raise them, and I agreed to. It may be to our shame now, but truth requires the admission that we spoke of the matter then as one of doubt. The President hoped, yet feared, and so did we. Ah, sir, that there should have been a suspicion of our people or a dread that they would fail their Government! Yet had a prophet told us then what proportions the war would assume, what other quotas it would demand, what others exhaust, I much fear we would not have been stout enough to put despair aside. Now, I congratulate you upon the firmness with which you did your duty. I congratulate you also upon having a State whose people never failed their Governor. I return you the colors of thirteen regiments of cavalry, twenty-six batteries, and one hundred and fifty-six regiments of infantry. Have I not reason to congratulate you upon the glory acquired by our native State during your administration—a glory which you in a great part share— a glory which will live always? Most of the flags I return are grandly historical. I would like to tell their stories separately, because it would so much enhance the renown of the brave men to whom they belonged: that, however, is impossible; time forbids it; or rather it is forbidden by the number of flags. As the next best way to gratify curiosity concerning them, it is arranged that the sacred relics shall each be displayed before the audience, accompanied with a recital of the principal battles in which they figured. Still, I must be permitted to indulge in a kind of recapitulatory reference to them. There may be some citizen present who does not realize-how necessary his State was in the great work of suppressing the Rebellion—perhaps some soldier who has yet to learn what a hero he really was. When the war began, the military fame of Indiana, as you remember, was under a cloud. It was in bad repute, particularly with the Southern people. Why? It is unnecessary to say. Such was the case. I allude to it now to call attention to the fact that those sections in which our repute was worst bear to-day the deepest marks of our armed presence. A little over five years ago on this very spot a gallant regiment was sworn to “Remember Buena Vista”; to-day it can be said, with a truth which the long array of storied flags shortly to be displayed will eloquently attest, the slander of Buena Vista has been more than remembered—it is avenged. By a chance, much grumbled at in the beginning by the soldiers, much complained of by the historian, whose narrative it sadly complicates, our regiments were more scattered than those of any other State. Indeed, it is not too much to say that there has not been in the five years a military department without one or more of them; nor an army corps that has not borne some of them on its rolls; nor a great battle in which some of them have not honorably participated. As true lovers of our brave native State, let us rejoice at that distribution. It enabled our soldiers to serve the Union everywhere; it enabled them to convince all foemen, as well as friends, of their courage, endurance, and patriotism; it is the means by which the name of Indiana is or will be written upon every battle monument— through its chances every victory, wherever or by whomsoever won, in any degree illustrative of Northern valor, is contributive to her glory. Three of our regiments took part in the first battle of the war; while another, in view of the Rio Grande, fought its very last battle. The first regiment under Butler to land at the wharf at New Orleans was the 21st Indiana. The first flag over the bloody parapet at Fort Wagner, in front of Charleston, was that of the 13th Indiana. The first to show their stars from the embattled crest of Mission Ridge were those of the 79th and 86th Indiana. Two of our regiments helped storm Fort McAllister, down by Savannah. Another was amongst the first in the assaulting line at Fort Fisher. Another, converted into engineers, built all of Sherman's bridges from Chattanooga to Atlanta, from Atlanta to the sea, and from the sea northward. Another, in line of battle on the beach of Hampton Roads, saw the frigate “Cumberland" sink to the harbor's bed rather than strike her flag to the “Merrimac”; and, looking from the same place next day, cheered, as never men cheered, at sight of the same “Merrimac " beaten by a single gun in the turret of Worden's little “Monitor.” Others aided in the overthrow of the savages, red and rebel, at Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Three from Washington, across the Peninsula, within sight of Richmond evacuated, to Harrison's Landing, followed McClellan to his fathom