91st PA--flag presentation

Flag presentation


[source: Philadelphia Inquirer Saturday 7 December 1861, page 8]

Four Thousand Men in the Field.

Summer appeared to have revived yesterday, as if for the express purpose of allowing our citizens to witness grand military display under a clear sky, and in a balmy air. Early in the morning there were some indications of rain, but the clouds passed away and the sun glanced upon the arms of the troops, and gave them the appearance of burnished silver.

The announcement which appeared in THE INQUIRER of yesterday, that five regiments would parade, and receive standards from Governor CURTIN, attracted an immense crowd to the spot designated. This was a large field situated between the depot at the Ridge Avenue Railroad and the Odd Fellows' Cemetery, on Islington lane. The cars running to the ground were filled to repletion, many of them having occupants on top. Conductors, drivers and horses were sorely troubled, but no accident occurred.

The field chosen contained an area of probably ten acres, the ground being level, although in many places soft and damp. This did not incommode either cavalry or infantry, and probably no better place for the exercises could have been chosen in or near the city. It was necessary to station policemen around this field at various points, in order to prevent the populace from occupying it, and thereby seriously incommoding the military. On the north side, near Islington lane, a wooden platform was erected of rough material, but sufficiently elevated to command a fine view of the adjoining country. This was for the distinguished visitors. The spectators ranged themselves along the lane and filled the steps of the Odd Fellows' Cemetery, as well as sundry trees in the vicinity--the evergreens thus bearing a new species of fruit, in the form of ragged urchins and anxious young men with military proclivities.

Ten o'clock was fixed upon as the time for the arrival of the volunteers, but they did not appear, and delicate ladies and thin-shoed citizens sought for boards to protect themselves from the damp ground. In this laudable endeavor they were assisted by some of the policemen. The adjacent fences assumed the appearance of long lines of black coats and hats, and hundreds of carriages, standing in the lane and in the adjoining fields, were ranged in such positions as would afford their inmates the best view of the anticipated proceedings.

Finally, the head of the cavalry regiment of Colonel RUSH appeared in the distance, preceded by the Colonel in person, mounted on a fiery horse that might have excited the pride of a chief of the desert. The regiment turned into the field, and assumed a position in line, facing the stand erected for Governor CURTIN. Soon after the infantry regiments appeared upon the scene--those of Colonel STAUNTON, Colonel GREGORY and Colonel JONES having bands. The military then formed in the following order, preparatory to the arrival of the Governor and staff:--

Colonel GREGORY'S Regiment, (Ninety-First).
Colonel LYLE'S Regiment, (Ninetieth).
Colonel STAUNTON'S Regiment, (Sixty-seventh).
Colonel JONES' Regiment, (Fifty-eighth).
Colonel RUSH'S Cavalry, (Sixth).

Governor CURTIN was driven to the ground in an open barouche. He was accompanied by his Staff and a number of invited guests, who had accompanied him from Harrisburg. Among them were the following:--

Colonel Russell, of Pittsburg. }
Colonel Riddle, of Philadelphia. } Staff.
Colonel Parker, of Carlisle. }
Colonel Potts, of Harrisburg.
General Keim.
General Irvin, Commissary Department.
General Hale, Quartermaster.
General Bart Shaffer.
Captain Anderson, First Cavalry.
S. B. Thomas, Deputy Secretary of State.
Colonel Meridith, commanding Camp Curtin.
O. W. Lees, Harrisburg.

Among those who soon assumed positions on the platform were Major-General PATTERSON and General FRANK PATTERSON, together with MORTON McMICHAEL, [illegible word] Mrs. RUSH, wife of Colonel RUSH, and a number of ladies.

On the left of the platform were the mounted aids of General PATTERSON. On the right were General PLEASONTON, staff, the officers of the Home Guard and Reserves. The State Society of the Cincinnati occupied the platform. The members were seven or eight in number, and were distinguished by blue rosettes.

The flags for presentation were brought upon the ground shortly after the arrival of the Governor--They consisted of the Regimental Standards for each organization, and a number of guidons for the use of the cavalry, each company being entitled to one. The standards were placed in front of the platform, and all being in readiness, Governor CURTIN addressed the military as follows:--


I appear before you in obedience to law, to present to you, before your departure in the service of your country, the Regimental Standards provided by the State. The duty is not new to me, nor have I grown weary from its frequent performance. It is always impressive to contemplate the separation of our friends and fellow citizens from their homes. But all the feelings which such occasions excite are intensified, when those about to leave are under arms, and prepared to encounter the vicissitudes and trials of actual war. We are in Pennsylvania truly a peaceful people. Our genial climate, our geographical position and our vast material resources have led us to cultivate those arts and occupations, and those relations of social life, which are not in harmony with military discipline and pursuits, or with antagonisms and hostilities.

Having scarcely a military organization in the State, and our citizens having had no expectation of any attempt being made to disturb the nation, and as we were at peace with all the world, this Rebellion found us in a measure without military preparation. But we have, what is infinitely better than mere military training, a loyal people devoted to the Government, and ready at any moment to take up arms in its defense.

This is no time to trace events in the history of this country which led to the most causeless and wicked rebellion of ancient or modern times. When the vast conspiracy which had been formed by leading men of the South, and covered by pretext without foundation of truth, developed itself, they expected, with a united South and a divided North, to crown their folly and ambition with success. They at least expected that public opinion in Pennsylvania would be divided. Their designs and anticipation of success, based, as they were, on sinister and selfish motives, and directed to the destruction of our Government, could find no response from the people of Pennsylvania but one of condemnation, and of active and determined opposition.

When they seized the public property, besieged our forts, resisted the execution of the laws, and the master spirits of the conspiracy had retired from the counsels of the nation, Pennsylvania was first among the loyal States to declare officially her fidelity to the Government. Her soldiers were first at the Capital when its security was threatened, and when their peaceful passage to it was interrupted, and they were subjected to insult and injury, her people declared, as with one voice, that to the extent of her blood and treasure, the treason and Rebellion should be suppressed, and the Government sustained. We may now point with pride to the record, which shows how faithfully she has redeemed her pledges.

Before the expiration of the terms of service of the volunteers enrolled for three months for the National Government, anticipating the necessity for troops to be enlisted for a longer term of service, and in conformity with an act of the Legislature, an army of fifteen thousand men was organized in the State, fully equipped and prepared for service. When the great army of the Government met with repulse at Manassas, and Washington was again threatened, and the President himself maintained his occupancy of the White House, for a time, under circumstances threatening his safety, who has forgotten the gratitude expressed by the Government at Washington, the praises that were freely awarded by other loyal States, and the thrill of pride and pleasure which ran through the hearts of every Pennsylvanian, on knowing that fifteen thousand of her men were in motion from the various camps within twenty-four hours after their services had been called for; and when, too, it became known that within four days eleven thousand of this army, thoroughly armed and equipped, had passed the border of our State in their march to Washington.

I need not enlarge on this subject; I speak to Pennsylvanians, and every man in my presence must have preserved the record deeply written in his heart, as day by day thousands of our brave men have been added to the number, until now nearly one hundred thousand of our people are in the field. They are at Washington, in Virginia, in Maryland, in Kentucky, in North Carolina and in South Carolina. And it is proper that I should declare, that since the beginning of the rebellion no demand has been made upon this State by the Federal Government that has not been promptly obeyed, no requisition that has not been filled, no pledge that has not been redeemed.

The man in Pennsylvania who can sympathize with this wicked rebellion, and who will not give himself and all his powers--intellectual and physical--who will not devote his property, and if need be, his life itself, to the cause of his country, has not the true loyal heart of this great people; has no sympathy with sentiments of true patriotism, belongs not here, and should seek an abiding place amid traitors and rebels. You soon go to swell still further the great army of the Government, and to join your friends who have gone before you from Pennsylvania. You are about to separate yourselves from home, from parents, wives and children, the comforts and pleasures of social life, and from those pursuits to which you have been trained--pursuits of peace and industry, which tend to moral and physical progress.

You go to vindicate the history of the past, and make that of the present--and, as you shall save our great Government from destruction, to insure a still brighter page for its future, that liberty, civilization and Christianity may continue to grow and spread in the world. All mankind have an interest in your success, all loyal men will give you countenance and support, and all good men will send up their constant prayers for your prosperity and ultimate victory. Thousands and tens of thousands of your fellow citizens at home will watch your progress, and from every part of this great Commonwealth, from all its homes and firesides, from the family altar of the high and the low, the rich and the poor, will go up supplications in the evening and in the morning, that the God of Battles may strengthen and protect you by His Almighty power.

This is no time, my friends, for antagonisms or disagreements; the one great idea of the re-establishment of this Government by a union of all our strength is big enough for the mind of any loyal man. You go with the Constitution pure and unadulterated as it came from the hands of the framers, to offer its blessings and its benefits to all the loyal citizens of the rebellious States, and to the disloyal the sword and the scaffold. You go to aid in re- establishing the Government upon its original basis in all the States of the Confederacy--and to assert now and forever the principle that there is in our form of Government an inherent power to enforce obedience to the laws. We desire to secure stability in the Government and not at this junction to agitate reforms; with those who sustain this rebellion we are at war, and are justified in the use of any means recognized in civilized countries for the suppression of insurrection and the punishment of traitors.

It is the duty of all good and true men to maintain legitimate authority, independent of differences of opinion or personal relations. It is for the maintenance of the Constitution and the Government, and for the support of its duly constituted agents in the discharge of their duty, that you have taken up arms; it is for this that thousands have gone before you, and thousands will follow as demands are made by the Government, until peace and order prevail throughout the land, and the Government established by our fathers, and under which we have been blessed with so many years of prosperity, shall be re-established in all its original power.

It is our duty to transmit to our posterity the precious legacy given to us by our fathers, perfect and unimpaired. Under it, we have enjoyed seventy-three years of continued enlargement of national power and individual happiness and prosperity. If you, and the brave men associated with you, shall re-establish and maintain it, future generations will rise up and call you blessed.

This struggle, my friends, involves the existence of the Government; and if the history of the part taken by Pennsylvania in this rebellion shall ever be faithfully written, its proudest page will be that on which is portrayed the unity of her people in the support of the Constitution and laws. It is not improper, that I should refer here to the fact that, in Pennsylvania and in Philadelphia, the great idea that man was capable of self-government was, through the Declaration of Independence, first promulgated to the world; that it was here that the Continental Congress held its sessions during the Revolution, except when driven out by the enemy; and that, after the struggle was over, here the Convention of Delegates was held, which framed our matchless Constitution and gave to this great people the most beneficent form of Government ever conceived by the mind of man; and as memories of the past crowd upon us, when within the precincts of this classic locality, we may not forget that the National Flag, with its stars and stripes, now known and honored throughout the world as the emblem of liberty, nationality and power, was first unfolded here. And it is in perfect harmony with all the proceedings of the day and the occasion, as with the memories and traditions of the past, that we are honored by the presence of the remnant of the members of the Society of Cincinnati, an association established by the immortal WASHINGTON himself, and which constitutes a link between the living and the dead, the present and the past, the dawn of liberty in the world, and the perfect unity of all good men to maintain it against the combination of bad men to destroy it. The Society of the Cincinnati early in this struggle presented me with a sum of money, to be used at my discretion in arming and equipping the volunteers of the State. The subject was referred by me to the Legislature then in session; they directed the Governor to procure and present standards to the volunteers as they passed into the service of the United States.

It is written in the law that when you return, the names of the actions in which you distinguished yourselves shall be inscribed upon these standards, and that they shall be carefully preserved by the State, as part of its military history. I now deliver to you these standards, and confide to you the honor of your great State. It will be well to remember our history and traditions, and amid the privations and the dangers you are about to encounter, that Pennsylvania expects you all to perform your duty. And now, as representing the people of the State, I pray that the Providence which has so long upheld this great nation may maintain and support you in the contest in which you are about to engage, and shield you by His Divine power, that you may safely return to your friends and families.

During the speech of Governor CURTIN, the Colonels of the different regiments took a position in front of the stand. They were all mounted. The five Regimental Standards were then unfurled and placed in the hands of the respective Colonels, who, upon receiving them, addressed the Governor as follows:--


GOVERNOR:--On behalf of the officers and men of the Sixth Regiment of Pennsylvania Cavalry, I thank you, and through you, the Society of Cincinnati, to whose liberality we partially owe these Colors, and to the people of the State of Pennsylvania. We have heard the eloquent patriotic and forcible sentiments you have uttered. You have expressed the hope that these Colors will be restored to the State, in accordance with the law, unstained and unsullied, with the promise that those actions, in which it may be the good fortune of my regiment to distinguish itself, shall be engraved upon these Colors. I trust this hope will not be misplaced. I trust that the regiment will be worthy of the wishes expressed for it in anticipation. Nevertheless, I may be forgiven in saying that a little time is required to complete the thorough organization of a regiment of cavalry. The combination of horse and leader is a difficult task, and require much training on the part of the soldier. If we do not, at an early day, give a good account of ourselves, due allowance may be made, and we must not be judged harshly.--In behalf of the officers and men of my regiment, I again thank you.


Taking the standard of the Ninety-first in his hand, Col. GREGORY responded as follows:--The officers and men of the Ninety-First Regiment, from their hearts, thank you for this beautiful banner. We hail it as the banner of freemen. We here stand before you, the head of our State Government, pledged to hold this standard high, and to keep it up against all enemies wherever they may be found. I speak the sentiment of the officers of the Ninety-first Regiment when I say we will stand by it to the last. Sir, this beautiful banner speaks to us of the past; it speaks to us of our forefather, of the Revolution and of Bunker Hill, and we recognize its value and its meaning. We value it not alone for its beauty, but for the principles which it represents; and we take it, knowing the responsibilities which it represents, and as freemen and lovers of our land, pledge ourselves to stand by it, and when it falls, many of us shall fall to rise no more.


On behalf of the commanding officer of the Sixty-seventh Regiment, and in his absence, I thank you, as well as in the name of the regiment. You have alluded to the dangers and difficulties which may environ us, but as you have enumerated them our hearts have warmed toward our institutions and our country, and however arduous the task, the banner shall never be trailed in the dust until the Sixty-Seventh Regiment is extinguished and become a byword of the past. When it is returned to the State we hope that the deeds to be inscribed upon its folds will redound to the credit of our country and our God.


I thank you for this banner, which is this day presented to the Fifty-eighth Regiment. Truly, words are inadequate to express my feelings on receiving this emblem. When this banner was first raised my grandfather stood beside it, and men of my kin have fought under it in every battle field of the Republic. It has, therefore, an hereditary claim upon my devotion--a hereditary claim upon my life. But, sir, in addition to these feelings, there are others which appeal to us as to all Pennsylvanians. I come to speak of the great Republic of which this banner is the emblem, the nationality under which we have grown and lived. The flag is the representative of our country, involving all that is dear and sacred to our hearts, our happiness, homes and all we own--all we hope for, of the certain things of this earth. This banner is our symbol as of the sacred things of the world to come--is our Saviour's cross. Our nationality is the hope of the world.

In this crisis, reminiscences cluster around our flag and link themselves with the sad thought that it is our brethren with whom we are contending. But we look without flinching upon domestic enemies, as well as foreign foes, and pledge ourselves never to trail this banner, nor hand it back until every Rebel in the land is suppressed, and the Republic contains an undivided people. Then, indeed, shall we be in the future, as in the past, the great Republic.


The speech of Colonel Lyle was very brief and to the point. The magnificent present was received with thanks. He would give no pledges for the future, but pointed to his men as intent upon success in the glorious cause. The record of the regiment, he believed, would be creditable to themselves, their State, and their country. The stan[words missing on the photocopy I was sent] with the last man and with the last life. (Great applause.)


At the conclusion of the addresses of the various Colonels, the members of the State Society of the Cincinnati collected in a group around the Governor, upon the platform. Mr McEWEN, Vice President of the Society, then spoke to the Governor.


The review then took place, Governor Curtin driving in an open carriage in front of the line. He then resumed a position near the platform, and the troops passed before him. The assemblage, which consisted of at least twenty thousand people, then dispersed.

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revised 31 May 02
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