General John W. Noble, formerly colonel of the Third Veteran Volunteer Cavalry regiment of Iowa, was introduced by Adjutant-General Prime, to be presiding officer of ceremonies at Des Moines, Iowa, battleflag day, August 10, 1894, and spoke as follows:
Comrades and Fellow Citizens: In calling this meeting to order, I wish first to acknowledge the great honor conferred upon me by your selection of myself as presiding officer. I must refer it rather to your partiality than to any claims of mine to distinction among so many eminent and war-worn veterans. It would have been honor enough for me to have met with you on this great battleflag day, to have recalled the days of our united service for our country, and know that I too was an Iowa soldier. I thank you and ask your kind assistance in discharging the duties of the hour.
By authority of the state given by act and resolution of the legislature and in pursuance of the proclamation of the governor we have assembled to place the battleflags borne by the soldiers of Iowa in the war for the union here in the capitol and the custody of the people forever.
It is a solemn, it may be said, sacred occasion, for around these flags what memories cling, and by their presence what thoughts and emotions are called forth. Military achievement and glory may swell the heart with the consciousness of victory, but the lapse of time cannot efface the sadness we must ever feel for the loss and sacrifice of those who held those banners aloft in the battle.
Said a sergeant, Lowe, of the Thirtieth regiment, when shot through the body at Kenesaw: "Tell my father and brothers that whenever they see the stars and stripes to remember that I died for the brave old flag."
In many different regiments assaulting the foe on varied fields of the war, man after man, when one was shot another springing forward, bore these flags onward, with the all but absolute knowledge that death would be the result. We know the glorious lives of these standards; what lives they cost; what lives and what liberty with the power of our union they saved.
But it is not for me to-day to cite the record or speak at length of their history. Others will recount them appropriately. All that may be said will be, however, but the renewal of memories to you, for they are your flags, and their history is your history. You, yes, let me say my comrades, we are the remnants of those who went forth with these banners, and our hearts will be cold and our tongues forever silent ere we shall cease to feel and celebrate the services, the suffering, the glory and the success of the Iowa soldiers, and claim for them and their equally deserving comrades of the other states who stood shoulder to shoulder with them the gratitude and recognition of our united people.
A third of a century ago the regiments of Iowa went forth to battle for the constitution and the union. The enterprise and intelligence of the eastern, and middle, and other states had peopled Iowa's cities and prairies. Than her soldiers, none were more loyal and daring. Her volunteers represented fully the worth of Iowa's property, education and patriotism. Her arms were supported by a well matured and vigorous manhood, and her courage by a nervous force and mental training unsurpassed among all the hosts that marched to the front. They were encouraged and supported, too, by as God-fearing and land-loving a people at home, a people as elevated in sentiment and pure in life, as this world has known; free as the northwest wind that fanned them, and strong as the currents of the great rivers that bounded their territory and nourished their land, forcing their ways through a continent to the sea. There was no reason these volunteers should fail in duty, and there was every incentive to the marked and eminent success they attained; alas! the achievement of death and suffering in all forms known to war, but, proudly we say it, the attainment of victory and the maintenance of the supremacy and continuance of these United States. That service was grandly performed.
The first regiment of Iowa volunteers, on August 10th, thirty-three years ago this day, sustained the brunt of the battle at Wilson's Creek, and thirteen other regiments, after braving and achieving all that to have served with Grant and Sherman implies, went on the march to the sea, and were at the close of the war in the grand review at Washington. Sheridan knew other of our regiments as among his most reliable in the great campaign of the Shenandoah valley, as he had long before gained his first distinction in connection with an Iowa cavalry regiment in Tennessee. Who that speaks of Donelson, Pittsburg Landing, Iuka or Corinth, Raymond, Champion Hill, Black River or Vicksburg, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Resaca, Allatoona, Kenesaw and Atlanta, Savannah or Columbia, Winchester, Cedar Creek or Fisher's Hill, Red River or Mobile, Montevallo, Ebenezer Church, Selma and Columbus, Franklin, Nashville, Blue Mills, Wilson's Creek, Kirksville, Springfield, Pea Ridge or Prairie Grove, Osage and Independence, or any of the fields of the west and south; who that marks the rise to greatness and renown of the most distinguished of our generals; who that knows how the shackles, placed upon the commerce of the Mississippi, were burst asunder and its avenues once more opened from river shore to ocean coast; who that reckons up the courage and endurance and all pervading love of country that met at every point the advancing and boasting hosts of secession and disloyalty; who that estimates the most important factors that maintained the constitution and sustained the flag, but must and gladly does recognize the continued and most efficient services, from the first to the last of the war for the union, of gallant, devoted and heroic sons of Iowa.
We are now to place in shrines of safety the battleflags of these troops. How bright they were when they went forth; with what loving and patient hearts the mothers and daughters, sweethearts and wives gave them to the keeping of men then young and full of hope, but all alike volunteering life and fortune for God and humanity. How soon the bloody record of that sacrifice began; how constantly it increased. The roll of battle and death came sullenly on through the long four years. But our flags were still there. And though every shell or bomb that rent the regiment on the field went on until it desolated a hearthstone away back in this fair state, the ranks were firmly closed again, and the sobs of affection were smothered in prayers for the flag. How the havoc increased; how dreadful was the number of the dead; how, even now, the soul shrinks at the recital of their names. But it was for the land we love; it was to do or die for our country. The re-enlistments came; experience had shown the reality and sternness of the duty originally assumed in the first outburst of enthusiasm, but the cause had not yet been won. It was a war of principle. The flags were still there, the symbols of that principle, and they were to remain there until wreathed with victory. The support from home was redoubled; the gray beards went to guard duty at points distant from home, and from the state. The sanitary commission and hospital nurses strove to render the camp more endurable, and soothe and support the sick and wounded. The colored troops were organized and officered by Iowa soldiers. But the thought to give over the strife came never to any in Iowa.
There was to be but one result--the supremacy of the national government. The union as it was and shall ever be.
Victory came at last in every state, and on every field. The regiments returned. Their dead, how many, and sleeping how far away, but ever to be remembered as those who had given the highest proof of constancy. The wounded and the wasted returned, and were enfolded to the heart of a grateful state and nation, and never will it be possible to reward them too highly. One of the brightest pages of American history will be that of the gratitude of our people for its veterans.
And the flags were borne home again and inscribed with names of successful battles for the republic that have passed into history as the most skillful military achievements for the worthiest cause the world has ever known.
And here are the flags!
Over them is the capitol of Iowa, and over all the constitution of the United States.
The work of the fathers has been preserved. The generation that supported it is passing away as the generation that created has long since departed.
Men may die, but principles never. The love of representative republican government, of constitutional freedom, is as strong to-day among our people as it ever was. The government that put down the great rebellion against the constitution is as strong as ever, and its people love it as they ever have. It will not be surrendered to insurrection; to unauthorized assumption of authority, or to the supercilious presumption of individuals.
The great guarantees of life, liberty and prosperity, wrought out by so much sacrifice, will be preserved and enforced under the constitution as it is, and the instrumentalities it controls. It is capable and its energy will meet and surpass every peril.
"Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
It is of the wave and not the rock.
It will prevail--"the least as feeling its care, and the greatest as not exempt from its power."
These flags will tell to the rising generations of Iowa, what their fathers and mothers did and suffered. Other like symbols will be borne into many a civil, and it may be, military contest by our immediate successors and their posterity. Rent and stained they too will be placed away in honor as we to-day enshrine those here, but there will be ever floating from the summit of the capitol that one supreme symbol of our national glory which though fresh and new, and dancing on the soft winds of summer, will be prouder because it has met adversity; brighter because it has been blackened by battle and blood; and there ever cheerfully waving in those future years and ages, because it is "the flag of the free hearts' only home" and the emblem of constitutional American liberty.
Comrades, I call this meeting to order.
Following General Noble's address the Des Moines Union band rendered some appropriate music after which Rev. A. V. Kendrick delivered an eloquent and impressive invocation, following which Major S. H. M. Byers read the following original poem:
Last update: Sun Dec 24 00:57:33 CST 1995