Thursday, July 21, 2016

Colonel William F. Bartlett to Governor John A. Andrew, April 14, 1864

Your Excellency, — I hope, sir, we shall do the flag more credit in action, than we can do ourselves in speech.

My Men! This flag, which is the standard of our own Massachusetts, and this which we have been taught to look upon as the sacred emblem of our nation, have today been formally entrusted to our keeping, to carry and defend, by the Governor of our State. Can I say to him for you, that you will try to do honor to this trust? That you will carry it and defend it, whenever and wherever duty calls; that you will never desert, disown, or disgrace it; that you will swear by it, pray for it, live for it, and if need be, die for it; and that you will devote yourselves to its service until it shall be feared and respected throughout the recreant South, as it is loved and cherished by the loyal North?

Ever since that flag was insulted by traitors in Charleston harbor, it has had a warmer place in the heart of every loyal man. When her high-toned orators threatened the South's rebellion and secession, we endured a great deal of personal insult and abuse, calmly and silently. But when, viper-like, she turned and fired upon that flag which had shielded and protected her, she struck a blow which blood alone can atone for. She made a blot on the page of our national history which we are in arms to-day to wipe out. As it went slowly and sullenly down on those battered walls, it went up like magic on every hill-top and tower, on every steeple and staff throughout the North; and nearer and dearer to us than anything else on earth, and reverenced next to our religion, is that old flag still.

There are those at the South who, still true to their country, are waiting silently and patiently till they see the gleam of its folds again — a token of the return of good government, the overthrow of despotism and rebellion; and there are those, too, who wait hopefully, prayerfully, for its coming, for they know that now and hereafter, wherever that flag floats, all men are free.

SOURCE: Francis Winthrop Palfrey, Memoir of William Francis Bartlett, p. 97-8

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