Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Speech of Colonel William F. Bartlett, March 17, 1864

Mr. Chairman And Fellow Citizens, — I could wish that it had been your fortune to present this testimonial to one who would have done more justice to it in words more befitting the occasion and the gift. Had I your own command of language I could hardly do justice to it. If in the performance of my duties as a soldier I have met your approbation, I am truly grateful for it. The consciousness of duty performed is in itself a sufficient reward, but to this to-day is added the knowledge of the approval and applause of others, and the assurance that those at home appreciate our sacrifices, and that it is to keep a desolating war from their hearthstones that we take the field. You in this quiet Northern town know little of the misery of war, and the desolation that follows in the track of an army. If some fine day you should see an army file into your fields, and destroy your growing harvests, and dig a rifle pit in your garden, or cut down your choicest trees because they obstructed the view, you would see that the misery that the South is now suffering is but the just reward of her treachery and rebellion. His Excellency has just assured me of his confidence by placing under my command another Massachusetts regiment. The last one I had the honor to command was enlisted for only nine months, but served nearly twelve, and I believe during that term had its full share of danger, and I never knew of its disgracing the service or the State. Massachusetts soldiers never do. The regiment I now command will serve three years, and it is proposed to end the war in a much shorter time; but if we should be needed for three times three years, we have enlisted for the war. I see around me here the names of places which I cannot soon forget — places where I have known the saddest and the proudest moments of my life. I see the tattered flags of the brave old Twentieth, under which my earliest duties as a soldier were done on the field of battle. If the names of all the gallant men who have fought and fallen around you in your defense could be inscribed in characters of gold within your folds, it would be a fitting tribute of their devotion to the cause of which you are to us the hallowed symbol. You at home hope that this war will soon be over, and we hope so too, but we will have no peace but an honorable one. If we would have a lasting peace, we must realize that our honor, our safety, our very existence as a nation, depend upon our self-sacrifice and our valor. You must put forth every exertion, you must give every dollar, and if need be send every man, until we can win a victorious peace. I go to the field in a few weeks and shall carry this beautiful gift. I shall bring it back, if I come, bruised and disfigured perhaps, but with no stain of dishonor. For it, and for this flattering ovation, for the presence here of so many friends, and among them one whom the State and country loves and honors — for this day never to be forgotten by me, I thank you.

SOURCE: Francis Winthrop Palfrey, Memoir of William Francis Bartlett, p. 94-6

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