|PETERSBURG, Va., October 27, 1905.-
The crowning event of the Eighteenth Annual Reunion of the Grand Camp,
Confederate Veterans of Virginia, was the closing scene to-night-the ceremony
of receiving from the Commonwealth the captured Virginia flags that by
Act of Congress had been returned to
the State by the United States Government. The ceremony was purely
sentimental and figurative, but it was glorious. It was the act of turning
over to the keeping of the men who fought under them, the battle flags
of Virginian's brave companies, battalions and regiments.
The committee appointed by the camp at the morning session to go
to Richmond by trolley car to bring over the battered banners, returned
at once, carried the flags to the Academy of Music, where many of
them were placed prominently upon the stage, and the long box containing
the others was placed just in front of the Grand
BEAUTY AND CHIVALRY.
The Academy of Music was early filled from the outer door to the
stage with the beauty and the chivalry of old Virginia. Hundreds of
people who came late could not get in the building.
On the stage were seated the officers and many members of the camp,
prominent guests and the fair sponsors and maids of honor. When Governor
and Mrs. Montague walked upon the stage the vas audience rose and cheered
itself almost hoarse. Ex-Governor Cameron was also received with cheers.
The exercises were opened with prayer by the Chaplain General and Adjutant
C. R. Bishop, of A. P. Hill Camp, in a short and eloquent speech, introduced
Congressman John Lamb, the author of the bill in Congress by which the
flags came back.
THE AUTHOR OF THE BILL.
Captain Lamb, in figuratively presenting the flags to the Governor of
Virginia, made a stirring speech, in which he gave a history of the legislation
by which the banners were returned. While he modestly explained that the
bill was first introduced in Congress by "a Virginia member," he gave credit
to Representative Capron, of Rhode Island,
a Grand Army man, for the successful passage of the bill. His tribute
to the men who fought under the flags was earnest and eloquent.
Hon. H. B. Davis, of Petersburg, introduced Governor Montague,
but before so doing he took occasion to explain that the "Virginia
member" so modestly referred to by the speaker who had just taken
his seat, the author of the flag returning bill, was Hon. John Lamb,
of the Third District.
Governor Montague was received with tremendous
The Governor explained briefly how the flags were entrusted to the temporary
care of the Chief Executive of the State. He had thus to assume a great
responsibility and he sought the aid and co-operation
of the Grand Camp, the organization which represents the men who fought
under and made the flags glorious. The Governor said he had received many
appeals for a different disposition of them for a distribution, etc., but
he could not and did not resist the conclusion
that the flags should be kept together, and that the Grand Camp of
Confederate Veterans should be the custodians until the Legislature
shall provide an everlasting abiding place for them. He recommended
that they be put away in a fire-proof vault until the Legislature shall
at the request of the camp.
The Governor's tribute to the brave men who fought under the flags
was eloquent and touching.
Colonel Tom Smith, of Fauquier, introduced ex-Governor William E. Cameron,
who on behalf of the Grand Camp, received the flags.
GOVERNOR CAMERON'S SPEECH.
Colonel Cameron's speech was a finished composition, couched in beautiful
English. Using the return form Persian captivity of the Jews
and their heroic sacrifices to rebuild the Temple of the Lord as an
illustration, he paid a glowing tribute to the valor of the Southern
soldier as displayed after the war in the work of rebuilding the waste
places of his desolated country. In conclusion, Colonel Cameron,
with eloquent tribute to the women of the Confederacy and admirable
words of good-will to those of the former enemies who "came out and fought
us like men," received the flags for the Grand Camp and closed his speech
amid the enthusiastic plaudits of the great audience, which rose en-masse
and cheered while the band played "Dixie." The ceremonies closed with prayer
by Dr. Myde. Many people lingered
to exchange greetings with visiting veterans and other friends. Governor
Montague was forced to hold an informal reception, being greeted by large
numbers of friends.
[Attention may be called to the article in the last volume (XXXII),
this serial reprinted under the capitol of "Confederate States' Battle
Flags" as to the effective agency of their return by the War Department
to their proper custody.
There can be no question as to the potent effect of this action toward
re-cementing, in common tie of pride and affection, the sections of our
The patriotic zeal of the veteran, Captain John Lamb, waxes in its felicitous
He writes of date February 6, 1906, that the joint resolution introduced
by him authorizing the Secretary of War to deliver certain unidentified
battle flags, had been reported on favorably and unanimously by the Committee
on Military Affairs, the custody being changed (at my suggestion) to "The
Confederate Memorial Literary Society, Richmond, Virginia," in which our
noble women of the South have provided proper cases for their display and
safe keeping, and in whose historic building are also preserved the treasures
of the Southern Historical Society.
The address which follows, is with the modest title and the diffidence
so characteristic of our efficient representative of the Third District
RETURNING CONFEDERATE FLAGS.
On April 30th, 1887, R. C. Drum, Adjutant General, addressed a
letter to Hon. William C. Endicott, then Secretary of War, calling
attention to the fact that a number of Confederate flags, which the fortunes
of war had placed in the hands of the government at Washington, were stored
in the War Department.
He suggested in an able letter the propriety of returning to the regular
constituted authorities of the respective States the flags that were
borne by the organizations formed in their territory.
On June 7th, 1887, the Adjutant General having been instructed by
the Secretary of War, through the President of the United States, Governor
Cleveland, made a tender of these flags to the Governors
of the respective States.
On June 16th, 1887, before sufficient time had elapsed for carrying
out the order, the President revoked his approval of the suggestion
of the Adjutant General, and directed that no further action be taken
until the Congress should make final disposition of these flags.
No further steps were taken until February, 1905, when a Virginia member
of Congress offered a joint resolution to return these flags.
He secured a hearing from the Committee on Military Affairs and presented
the matter in a short address, at the conclusion of which
Mr. Capron, of Rhode Island, a Grand Army man, offered a resolution
that the Committee report the resolution favorably. It was passed without
a dissenting vote and Mr. Capron was directed to make a report to the House.
The Speaker was seen and consented at once to recognize a member with
a view to calling up the measure. When he did so the Virginia member happened
to be absent and Mr. Capron was recognized.
He asked that the resolution be passed and there was not a dissenting
The work had been quietly done by sounding the views of the members
and the few objectors had been silenced by the overwhelming sentiment in
its favor. In a day or two the resolution went through the Senate without
objection, thus becoming a law as soon as signed by the President, which
he did without hesitation or delay.
In obedience to this law, the Secretary of War returned to the Governor
of the Commonwealth of Virginia sixty-two flags that had been captured
during the war, or at the surrender of our army at Appomattox.
This action on the part of the United States marks an epoch in American
history; for it most certainly indicates a change of sentiment in the North
and West. It is no secret that the action of the government in failing
to carry our the order made in 1887 was due to a popular demand, voiced
in great part by the Grand Army of the Republic, that these flags should
not be returned. The members of this organization were approached
in 1905, and those high in authority expressed themselves in approval,
saying the time had come for the return of these ensigns. The war with
Spain had been fought. The sons of men who wore the blue and the sons of
men who wore the gray, had marched shoulder to shoulder in
a conflict which, however unfortunate, had gone for to unite the two
sections. Officers who had served with distinction on the side of the South
for four years had cheerfully answered the call to arms and participated
in the short struggle with old Spain. The names of Fitz Lee and Wheeler
had become as familiar to the minds of men as those of Miles and Shafter.
Public opinion had been silently moulded by English and Southern writers.
The word "rebel" had been changed in histories and essays for the more
euphonious term "Confederate." The houses of York and Lancaster in the
New World were drifting close together through the logic of events. The
time was ripe and the appeal was answered gracefully. The report of the
House Committee said in part:
"Thus it will appear that the administration in 1887 advised the return
of these flags to the property constituted authorities of the States,
and that former Secretaries of War had before that time returned 44 of
these flags and that most likely all would have been returned but for
the fact that the Adjutant General in 1887 called attention to the
matter and the President decided that final disposishould originate with
"The reasons give for this action in 1887 apply with more force
to-day. Nearly twenty years have passed since that time. The loyalty
of the Southern States is nowhere questioned. The sons of the men
who carried many of these flags have entered the army of the United
States and helped to fight its battles. Organizations of men who wore
the blue as well as men who wore the gray, will be glad to have again
in their keeping the ensigns under which they marched to victory or defeat.
We think it will be a graceful act of the Congress to return these flags
to the respective States, and we feel assured that it will tend to
produce still more kindly feelings between the sections of our reunited
"The Committee on Military Affairs are unanimous in recommending
that the resolution be adopted."
The return of these flags sent a thrill of joy through the whole South.
This feeling was voiced through the press, through the action of Confederate
Camps, and through private letters. Many of these
reached the representative who prepared and offered the resolution
and will be preserved and handed down to his children's children.
The Southern States to-day hold no relics more precious to the gray-haired
veterans than those shot-riddled, shell-torn, blood-stained banners which
they followed through raining bullets and thundering cannon. No feature
of this reunion brings such bitter, yet sweet memories, as does the sight
of these flags waving beneath Southern skies once more.
The flag of the Stonewall Brigade, which accompanied these flags,
was graciously sent by the Governor of this States to the command in
Jefferson and Berkeley counties-the Alsace and Lorraine of the New World.
You should have seen the survivors of that immortal band as they gathered
around the stand at Shepherdstown, and with tears streaming down their
cheeks, strain their eyes to behold again on that flag the name of Cross
Keys and Port Republic and Winchester and Manassas and Cold Harbor and
Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. They you should have
seen the three thousand of another generation and heard the shouts of joy
that rent the air as they pressed to the front and each side of the Grand
stand to look upon the blood-stained banner under which their fathers had
marched to victory or died in defending. Had you been at Louisville you
would have seen
a delegation of those old heroes carefully guarding that banner and
showing it with pride and exultation to the members of our western army,
who as they passed uncovered, said:
"Boys; there's Stonewall Jacksons' old flag. Don't you wish God had
spared him to be with his men at Gettysburg?"
Could these battered and torn and soiled banners speak to us to-night,
what a story of sacrifice and suffering and anguish and bloodshed
and death would they unfold? It does not take much stress of the imagination
for these old soldiers to interpret the silent story they tell. The represent
over fifty organizations of Virginia troops. Some saw
first Manassas and heard the shouts of the victors on that historic
field. Others waved along the ramparts at Yorktown and saluted John Bankhead
Marguder as he passed over the sacred soil on which
the Father of his country won American Independence. Others were borne
in triumph at Gaine's Mill and Cold Harbor; at Savage Station
and Fraiser's Farm, or went down amidst carnage and death on Malvern's
blood-stained hill. Others passed from hand to hand at Slaughter's Mountain,
until the field was red with blood and the Thirteenth Virginia led by gallant
James A. Walker saved the day.
Some were borne in triumph at Groveton, where the genius of Jackson
made sure a great victory. Some others were gathered by the foe on
the heights of Gettysburg, because Jackson was not there to put in
the last brigade as he had done at Groveton. Others were carried over
with Johnson's men, at the Bloody Angle, the artillery having been
withdrawn and the position exposed.
These ensigns might tell a pathetic story of beleaguered Petersburg;
a story of hardships cheerfully borne, of heroic deeds unsurpassed
in the annals of war; of poor fare and grim want; alas, of some desertions
too, when soldiers saw the end had come, and wives and children were without
food at home!
These old flags refuse to dwell on the scenes at Five Forks and
Sailor's Creek. At the latter place a number of them fell into the
of the Federals. We were passing the brook "Cedron" to our "Gethsemane."
Brave men wept like children bereft of their mothers. Virginia was in ash
es; every landscape marred by ruins; every breath
of air a lament, and every home a house of mourning. When the last
command to "stack arms" came to that ragged starving army many soldiers
tore the ensigns from their staffs and concealed them in their bosoms.
These are sometimes seen at reunions and Camp Fires. The flag of the eighth
Alabama Regiment, and the second company of Richmond Howitzers was cut
into small pieces and distributed among the men.
These flags will revive many a thrilling story in the minds of old soldiers,
who, around the firesides of our Southland, will relate how they served
as they rallying point for broken and scattered commands, and often were
saved from captured by daring color bearers, who one after another fell
in the attempt to save from capture the banners that had been presented
by the fair women of the South, with the injunction,
that living would defend them, or dying, make them winding sheets to
wrap them for immorality.
Many of the flags were captured after hard fought battles. Some had
never waived over battlefield, but were stored away and taken by the enemy.
Single companies were not permitted to carry flags. Each flag, however,
represents a sentiment and has a history. They represent the patriotism
and affection of our glorious Southern women who sent
forth their sons to battle, with the Roman matron's injunction, and
gave the parting kiss to loved ones whom they cheerfully assigned to their
From the daughters of these women have come the strongest and
most touching letters that have reached the representative who introduced
in Congress the resolution that returned these flags. These will be kept
as rich souvenirs and left to posterity that they may help
to teach the lessons of reverence for the devotion and sacrifice of
our Southern men and women.
Several of these ensigns were captured from the cavalry arm of our service.
These men have waited patiently for forty years before having ample justice
done to their heroism and valor. The English historians
are telling the story of their deeds and giving them full credit for
their sacrifices. From the frozen shores of the Baltic to the Isles of
Greece. "The Isles of Greece-where burning Sappho loved and sung." All
Europe is delighting to honor their chivalric souls and measure their manhood
by those of her heroic slain. Scotland names them with those who fell at
Bannockburn; England recognizes them in the spirit of Balaklava; and France
counts them worthy to descend to posterity
with those of her own Imperial Guard.
The best made and preserved flag here belongs to the Norfolk Light Artillery
Blues. On it is inscribed the battles through which that splendid command
passed. Their organization is still preserved. The sons of
those gallant soldiers revere the memories and glory in the deeds of
heir heroic sires. This flag will some day pass into the keeping of
the command that bore it so gallantly through the war, and be exhibited
on every Memorial day when the citizens of the "twin cities by the
sea" party their annual tribute to the memory of their dead.
Many of these flags will be recognized by the old soldiers who
marched under them to victory or defeat. They will recall many
sleeping recollections of the past; around many of which memory
"No more with gallant spreading folds
And colors fresh and bright:
They fling their gleaming stars and bars
Triumphant to the light.
But slowly, round their broken staff
They droop in faded fold:
Thelr service o'er, their duty done,
Their wondrous story told.
These furled and silent banners stir
No sad regret and pain,
For we read their fairest history
In the story of their fame."
Virginia's part in the conflict that began so auspiciously and ended
so disastrously on her soil, will be told by two other Virginians, who
to participate in these interesting exercises. One, a former Governor
of this Commonwealth, a soldier in the war between the States and a
resident of this city, is well equipped for his task. The other, so well
known and loved in this Commonwealth-her able chief magistrate-
and one of her finest orators, will receive these emblems on behalf
the State he loves so well and serves so faithfully.
The pleasing me has been performed in a spirit of veneration for the
past, of gratitude for the present, and an abiding faith in the future
this noble Commonwealth. These flags are committed to her keeping.
*From Southern Historical Society
Volume XXXII January - December,
Pages 298 - 306
Special to the Times-Dispatch,
October 28, 1905.
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