Comrades, Survivors of the splendid army of over 75,000 men, furnished by the State of Iowa during the great rebellion: This day is to the whole people of the state, and especially to you, a day of absorbing interest--a day to become historic in the annals of our beloved state. You have been called together by the proclamation of the governor of the state, for the purpose of removing these old battleflags, borne by you and your comrades on so many sanguinary battlefields, during that momentous struggle, from their present resting place in this arsenal to the place prepared for them in the corridors of the new capitol of the state, for their better preservation.
The sight of these dear old flags stirs your souls to their very depths. They awaken afresh in your memories the thrilling scenes of a third of a century ago. The whole panorama of that great war passes in review before you. You hear anew the startling sound of an enemy's artillery firing upon a United States fort. You feel again the depths of that emotion which stirred the hearts of all loyal citizens to realize the danger which threatened the union, and awakened in your hearts the patriotic resolve to swear anew allegiance to the old flag and to offer your services, and your lives, if need be, to preserve the union bequeathed to us by the fathers of the republic.
You recall the hour of the greatest trial experienced in your soldier life--the hour of parting from your wife and child; or from father and mother, sisters and brothers, or your sweetheart.
You remember the shout which greeted the first flag received by your regiment as it was unfurled to the breeze in your sight. It was perhaps the gift of the patriotic women of your own neighborhood. The Thirty-fourth Iowa regiment, to which I belonged, went into camp at Burlington. The patriotic women of that city presented us with our first regimental flag.
In doing so they charged us to bear it bravely in the face of the foe, and never allow it to be trailed in the dust or to be dishonored. We pledged them life, fortune and honor to obey their injunction. This was an inspiration which the regiment could never forget. How well our pledges were redeemed history must record. An evidence of our fidelity, however, is seen in this battle-scarred flag--the one they presented to us, and one of the three flags the Thirty-fourth furnished to the collection before us. If I remember aright the patriotic women of Burlington presented the First Iowa cavalry and perhaps other regiments with their first regimental flag.
Comrades, you recall the battles in which you were engaged and in which the stars and stripes were your inspiration to noble deeds. You bore them until they were torn and tattered, often bullet-riven and blood-stained, until no longer fit for service and then, with careful hands you folded them up and sent them to the adjutant-general of the state for safe keeping, where you find them to-day.
In recalling the heroic deeds witnessed by you in your army life nothing swells your breasts with greater pride than to remember the devotion of the color-guard to the flags and standards in their keeping. Their heroism was witnessed on many a battlefield. One color-bearer is shot down and another springs to his place, raises the fallen flag and moves forward only to fall as the first, until sometimes three or four have fallen in a single battle. Witness the Second Iowa at Fort Donelson; the fourth color-bearer falls, but is able to rise and bear the flag to the end of the fight and to victory. And that color-bearer is with us to-day in the person of Comrade Twombly, late treasurer of state. Many instances of a similar character might be enumerated, but time will not permit.
Comrades, your hearts may well beat with honest pride to-day when you remember how gallantly you bore these flags at Wilson's Creek, Vicksburg, Donelson, Lookout Mountain, Mission Ridge, Atlantic, Mobile, Blakely, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Fredericksburg, and on to victory at Appomatox. You kept your pledges to the noble women who presented you so many of these flags. Our flags have never been lowered or disgraced by an Iowa regiment; a few of our flags were captured by the enemy, but the troops that bore them were facing the foe defending them with undaunted courage. Here are the great body of the flags we carried to battle and to victory, our witnesses to the people this day.
Look upon them! Not only battle-scarred, but purple-stained with the blood of your fallen comrades. They were placed here for safe keeping, but soon they began to fade and waste away. Seeing this, the patriotic care of an Iowa woman, partly with her own hands, encased them in tarlton for their preservation--the wife of the then governor--Mrs. John H. Gear. This was a partial protection, but it was evident that they could not long be kept intact unless otherwise cared for. Iowa is proud of the record made by her citizen soldiery. She has shown this by many liberal laws on her state statute books. Proud of her military record and of the fidelity, valor and patriotism of her sons, and regarding these flags as the best evidence of that record, of that valor and patriotism, and viewing their possession as a sacred trust, she has prepared receptacles in the rotunda of our new capitol for their deposit, consisting of hermetically sealed glass cases, where, it is hoped, they may be preserved in their present condition for long years, if not for ages to come. There they will be in a position where the whole people of the state may look upon them as often as they pass through the capitol, patriotic object lessons, not only to the present generation, but to our children's children down the ages.
Color-bearers, yours is the post of honor to-day; you take these old flags in your hands for the last time; you carry them to the capitol and deliver them into the hands of the governor of the state who, on behalf of the state, receives them at your hands and sees to their proper deposit.
Comrades with us in the great struggle for the union who served in regiments from other states, we are glad to welcome you with us on this occasion. To you is equal honor due for the triumph of our cause. Being now citizens of Iowa, we know that you share with us the just pride we feel in preserving, as long as possible, our revered old battleflags.
Citizens of Iowa, your presence with us signifies your deep interest in all that pertains to the honor and welfare of our beloved state. Your loyalty to both the state and nation has ever been conspicuous. Your devotion to the flag has never faltered, and your regard for the union soldier has been constant. We are proud of the fact that the whole people of the state unite with us in our care for these battleflags, and share with us the honors and the responsibilities of their safe preservation.
One very sad thought forces itself upon us as we gaze at these battle-scarred and blood-stained banners--the thought that so many of the gallant men who carried them to battle and to victory were not permitted to return with them. All honor to the noble dead who "died that the nation might live." And are they dead to us? An Iowa poet has said:
"There is no death! The stars go down
To rise upon some fairer shore,
And bright in heaven's jeweled crown
To shine forever more.
There is no death! The dust we tread
Shall change beneath the summer showers
To golden rain or mellow fruit,
Or rainbow-tinted flowers.
There is no death! An angel form
Walks o'er the earth with silent tread--
He bears our best loved things away,
And then we call them dead."
They shall live in our hears and memories and in history, so long as patriotism continues to be the crowning virtue of good citizenship.
Last update: Sun Dec 24 00:57:33 CST 1995