Sometime after the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition in 1897 an anonymous author recalls an incident in the South during the Civil War.
A soft answer turneth away wrath but grievous words stir up anger.—Proverbs 15:1.
A Flag Presentation.
DURING our Civil War the colonel of a fine Union regiment came to his general, in a high state of excitement.
“General,” said he, “I was waited on by two lovely ladies, this morning, who wish to present a flag to my regiment, on the coming Fourth of July.”
As the brigade was at that time quartered in a very hostile Southern city, this produced considerable surprise on the part of the general; but he finally said:
“Well, it will be worth seeing. Turn out your regiment and let the ceremonies go on.”
When the famous day arrived, every soldier was clad in his best, and the colonel looked fairly resplendent in his finest uniform. There was quite a large number of spectators present. The young ladies appeared, escorted by some of their male friends, and were given a post of honor.
One of them made a speech, in which she mentioned liberty as among the choicest blessings in the world, and extolled the conduct of our brave, Revolutionary forefathers. It was a very eloquent address, and was heard by all with approval and delight.
At its close, she uncovered and unrolled the flag, and with a smile upon her face, said, sweetly,
“I now have the pleasure of presenting, sir, to you and your regiment, the grandest and most characteristic symbol of the liberty for which our forefathers fought, that has ever seen the light of day.”
She unrolled the flag, which, to the unlimited surprise of most of those present, proved to be a Confederate one!
For a moment, there was an intense silence. The Southerners present did not dare to cheer, however much they felt like it; the soldiers were sternly restrained by their officers as well as by their natural chivalry toward the sex.
The colonel’s eyes flashed fire; but he was a man of the world, and had been an accomplished politician before entering the war; and, with a gentle and engaging smile, he advanced, and received the flag from the hand of his fair (and unfair) guest. Then, in a clear resonant Fourth-of-July tone, he responded:
“Madam, you are my guest, and a lady. I am the colonel of this regiment, which is composed entirely of gentlemen, as well as soldiers, and I trust I am deserving the same appellations. We have listened with interest to your views as to which is the symbol most typical of freedom of any in the world. We” (looking at the colors of the regiment) “hold a different opinion, or we should not be here. We are glad to know, too, that our views are gradually gaining ground. We have already received in surrender several flags similar to the one you have just handed me, and shall keep this as a token, that at last even the fair daughters of the Confederacy have decided that their cause is a hopeless one, and have commenced capitulating their colors—eulogizing them, very naturally, as they so do.”
The turning of the tables had been accomplished so neatly that the crowd cheered, in spite of themselves; the young lady, who had perhaps harbored an idea that she would be arrested, and made a sort of martyr, rushed away in confusion; and the colonel marched his regiment back to quarters with flying colors. He afterwards received a merry note from his acquaintance of a day, apologizing for the trick she had attempted to play upon him, thanking him for the gentlemanly manner in which he had treated her, and acknowledging that he had had the best of the incident.
During a late visit to the Nashville Exposition, he enjoyed the pleasure of meeting her—now a handsome “Colonial Dame”—and of laughing with her over the incident.