"Old Flag" Speech
by W.H. Gibson 49th OVI
Extracts of a speech by General (then Colonel) W.H. Gibson on the occasion of presenting the "old Flag," carried by the troops under his command in the 49th Ohio Voluntary Regiment. This flag was presented by, then returned to the citizens of Tiffin, Ohio during the course of the Civil War on a 30 day furlough given to the troops in the winter of 1864. Bold words were those given emphasis during the speech.
Mr. Chairman and Fellow Citizens,
You have come here tonight to hear me, not because I have been on the field of carnage and battle and witnessed the slaughter of my fellow men. You have come because I have brought home again the soiled and battle-worn banner which you gave me eighteen months ago, which has since waved over bloody and hard fought fields.
I am a proud man; not of myself but of the boys of the 49th. I am proud of the army I am connected with because it has never been whipped, although it had come pretty near it once or twice. I am proud of the general in command of that army, because he thought more of the comfort of his men than he did of the rebel property.
Be assured, my fellow citizens, that the 49th is all right; its honor is unsullied by a single instance of court martial. I am satisfied with it - I am proud of the boys because I have done all I could for them; if the quartermaster failed to draw their rations, I let them make a special requisition and they did it; and they are proud of me because I kinder stuck to them when they got in a mess.
The banner presented by you eighteen months ago, I now return to you and will do so now through your chairman as a memento of this war. See that every star remains in its place, and should civil strife break out in your homes, take out the banner of the 49th and call the citizens to rally in its defense. I will go to other duties, to other fields - nobler achievements, to defend the nation whose emblem I now present to you. I am not a brave man but rest assured I shall be able to die in the performance of my duty. I love life a little too well; but Honor, instinct, and patriotism bade me to the task.
Take then the Flag; I may never touch its folds again - nay never draw again my naked sword in its defense - yet the "Old Flag" will still wave and the time will come when its starry folds will be greeted again with respect by the nations of the earth, floating in the air of their rivers and harbors. They will greet it more readily, because when scorned and maligned by evil men, a million loyal freemen rushed to its defense and beat them back until it waved again over our mighty rivers and lakes from the St. Lawrence to the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada's. It shall still wave to greet the coming millennium, which when arrived, shall salute the "Old Flag" in heaven.
Courtesy of: John Gibson Bradfield
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Last updated February 16 1998