This week’s “150 Years Ago…” column shows the patriotism for the United States in July, 1860 in Arkansas. Still several months to go before the eventual breaking up of the Union, one would never guess the impending War Between the States as an eventual reality.
The ladies of Little Rock, for this last July 4th celebration before the break up of the U.S., have sewn an American Flag (banner) and presented it to the State Militia Captain Churchill, who would become of the the Confederates’ Arkansas officers.
While the first part of this week’s column illustrates the unwavering citizen support of the militia, the second part is the response of Captain Churchill on the reasons why a standing militia is so important to the defence of the state and nation: (Note: Capt. Churchill was then commander of the company of the 10th Arkansas Militia: The Pulaski Lancers, which would eventually become part of the 6th Arkansas Infantry C.S.A.)
[LITTLE ROCK] ARKANSAS TRUE DEMOCRAT, July 7, 1860
For the Arkansas Baptist.
Address of Miss English, and the Reply
of Capt. Churchill.
Deputed by the Young Ladies of this city to present to you, and through you to your company of brave and gallant Lancers, the flag of our country, I have the honor to perform the pleasing task assigned me. With their own hands they have prepared for you this beautiful BANNER OF FREEDOM—the ENSIGN of our GREAT and GLORIOUS REPUBLIC, around which cluster memories of the heroic battles of the REVOLUTION, in which the chains of the oppressor were shivered by the strong arms and brave hearts of MEN who preferred DEATH TO SLAVERY! It was to them the FIRE CROSS, streaming upon the unfettered winds, calling them from their hearth-stones to the gory fields of battle, and cheering them on through sunshine and cloud, hunger and cold, tempest and flood until the Lion of the oppressor cowered to the proud bird of freedom on the plains of YORKTOWN.
Around it also cluster undying memories of the war of 1812-15, when our country asserted and maintained the freedom of the seas, and taught the world that every vessel covered by the STARS AND STRIPES must plough the ocean unmolested!
Around it also cluster fresh and unfading memories of the victorious battle fields of MEXICO, on which our gallant soldiery chastised an enemy whose invading foot had desecrated American soil, and attempted to trample on American rights! Thither, SIR CAPTAIN, you and many other brave sons of the South, followed the flag of our country to vindicate her honor, and avenge her wrongs.
Its stars symbolise the Union of thirty-three sovereign but dependent sisters, bound together by a common origin, common weal and common destiny, which, like a constellation of the siderial [sic?] heavens, or brighter, more beautiful and harmonious because of the Union, but if severed, one star might rush madly upon another, or upon a larger body, and be blotted from the heavens.
Take it, Sir Captain, [here the flag was handed to Capt. C.] cherish, in peace, the glorious memories which cluster about it, and should the honor or defence of your country again demand your services, unfurl the banner of freedom to the breeze, lead your gallant men to the field of conflict, and remember that your fair country-women have tears for the fallen, smiles for the brave, and chaplets for the brows of the victors!
“The star-spangled banner,
Long may it wave,
O’er the home of the free
And the land of the brave.”
Miss English and Ladies—
On behalf of this gallant troop which I have the honor to command, I can scarcely find suitable language, to express to you our grateful acknowledgements for this manifestation of your kindness; be assured that it is with feelings of no little pride and satisfaction that we accept this Banner as a tribute of your high consideration and esteem; and believe me, when I say that the heart of each soldier here present thrills with joy in knowing that he has your sympathies and that your hearts are enlisted in his cause. As yet we are unskilled and inexperienced in military science, and there is much before us to learn; but if there is anything that could incite us to attain that perfection in military discipline which is so necessary to make the soldier, it is the generous encouragement that we have this day received at your hands. The days of Chivalry and Knight errantry have passed away; and though we may not be permitted to break a lance in your behalf yet the privilege must not be denied us of inscribing upon our hearts the memories of this day; and should an occasion ever offer itself we will endeavor to prove to you by our acts that the trust reposed in our hands this day has not been unmerited.
You must not believe that the life of the soldier is one of ease and inactivity but it is in time of Peace that we must prepare for war.—It is then by study, patience and perseverance and the severe rigor of a military discipline, by constant drill that he learns the duty and becomes a soldier. Few men by birth are soldiers; but the American untrained and untaught approach it nearer than them all. The profession or calling of the soldier is a noble one; for who should be more lauded and honored than he who is ever ready to buckle on his armor at this country’s call, and, if necessary, to spill his blood in her defence?
The study of Military science is calculated to make a man more chivalrous, more high toned, and tends to elevate him above the strifes and jealousies of the day, and makes him feel as if upon his shoulders rested the honor and character of the Nation.—In this country where all men are born free and equal—we are not surprised to see the merchant Prince, the Planter and men of rank and fortune descend to the rank of the soldier—his motives are alone those of the patriot, and in armies composed of such metal and material as this. It can be no wonder to the world that the American Arms are always triumphant. In all ages the name of the warrior has stood high upon the scroll of fame and who more than to the conquerer has the world been more ready to pay its homage?
Ladies, I must thank you again for this handsome gift, and it is with unfeigned pleasure that we accept it. It is but a fit emblem of the purity of your own hearts, and when we look upon these stars and stripes they will ever remind us of you all and call to mind the pleasant recollections of this joyous day. In receiving this Banner, we here as soldiers, pledge you our honors and our swords in its defence. Perhaps, at no very distant day we may march under its folds to the battle fields; it will then be most refreshing to the soldier to look upon it—it will then be dearer to us than ever—it will then remind us of the dear and loved ones that we have left behind—it is then that knowing by whose fair hands it was presented, the holiest wish of us all will be to preserve and return it to you as pure and unsullied as when it was first received. In that moment then, there would be but one simultaneous cry of “Onward to the charge!”