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This belief sometimes gets brought up, but, unless some state or municipality has some local law to this effect, it is an urban myth. According to the US Flag Code, private individuals are permitted to retire the flag in this manner. However, those fine organizations and others do it in an organized way, often with a ceremony that can be quite moving to attend. I have also seen where The Girl Scouts have a ceremony that includes first cutting the retired flags into strips before they are burned. But the US Flag Code does not require that step.
The Flag Code is also silent on what method other than burning would be considered dignified. As with many things in our beloved country, that decision is left to the dictates of our own respective consciences. But I have always stuck with burning. We used to just do it ourselves at my shop or at my home. But then I came to find out that towns have laws against the opening burning of anything and had to stop.
Therefore, I save up flags that people drop off at my shop. When I see that a veterans organization or scout troop is having a retirement ceremony, I bring them there. Sometimes quite some time goes by and I have boxes of them. But I always find an outlet. Some VFW posts in our area have a wonderful idea. These are the giant mailboxes found on city streets. They put a sign on them saying "old flag drop off" or words to that effect. This is a wonderful service. After all the years in this business some things still move me a great deal.
One of them is the care that many folks take when it comes time to say goodbye to a worn out flag. Here is my favorite story in that regard. I got a call from what was clearly the classic "little old lady". She wanted to know how to go about disposing of her worn out flag. I told her about burning it and told her if it is not possible for her to do so she could bring it to our shop.
She asked me many questions about how we would handle the flag, how we would treat the flag, where we would bring it. Would it be done the right way? She was very concerned and very involved. She needed to satisfy herself that her Old Glory would be handled with the care it deserved for its final service. All her questions answered, she thanked me and we said good-bye. You could appreciate the next part of the story better if you knew the layout of our shop. Our building was not built as a commercial building and the shop entrance is all the way around the back.
I admit it is a long walk for some people and it can be quite an effort to get around there. In fact, anymore when I see a person making their way in who is challenged by the walk, I just head them off in the parking lot to save them the effort. Nowadays with cell phones, disabled people sometimes just call us from the parking lot or call ahead so we can watch for them. Anyway, later that day I was sitting at my desk in my office from where I can see our parking lot. A car pulls up and out gets a little old lady.
I did not yet know it was the same lady who called. I watch her slowly begin the march around to the entrance and I proceeded into the shop area to meet her. After a moment she comes in and approaches the counter saying she had called about having a flag to retire. But I see no flag. Out of here purse comes the tiniest of 4x6" American flags on a little stick! That is smaller even than the typical flag you get at a parade. It is a desk size flag. She had made that call, asked all those questions, driven to my shop and made that march just to be sure that her tiny little flag would get the respectful retirement it deserved.
When I see our American Flag neglected, worn and faded beyond recognition yet still being displayed, I just think of that little old lady, of her long march, and I just smile. I also note with interest that you write from Fredericksburg in our great sister state of Virginia. There was a day not all that long ago where many thousands of guys also went to a great deal of effort on behalf of their flags. Thanks for wanting to do the right thing. Question: We were discussing proper flag disposal and that brought up the question of what actually constitutes an American flag.
Is a flag decal considered an actual flag or just the representation of a flag? Does the decal deserve the same disposal etiquette as an actual flag? How about a lapel pin? Or those very small flags that some people fly on their cars? Thanks, T. Elkhart, Indiana. Answer: The Flag Code is silent on these matters. Much of what the code does is to leave many things up to our own discretion, common sense and interpretation. We all get to decide for ourselves how long a list of items constitutes a flag for purposes of retirement and disposal.
I think a good cut off is on the material. To me personally I make a distinction between fabric and metal. I consider the small car flags or small flags on sticks still to be flags worthy of not being simply thrown away. I consider flags on postage stamps or printed in the newspaper not to be flags for retirement ceremony purposes and able to be just thrown away.
You can bet that every day in Congress, The White House and The Pentagon they also simply throw in the garbage images of flags printed on paper. I would consider flag decals to be in the category of postage stamps and paper products. Same thing with metal. I would not consider a flag pin or any other rigid material to constitute a flag for this purpose. If the standard were to give ANY representation of a flag the same retirement standard we give to the flags we fly on poles, would the activity still have meaning? Can you imagine millions of us every day busy sorting out every paper image of a flag that we come across?
If we were to really sort out every postage stamp, worn out decal, newspaper image, photograph and on and on, would the activity still have meaning? Not in my mind. But again, until some definitive list appears in The Flag Code that gives us guidance for many thousands of items that may portray a flag, we are all left to decide the matter for ourselves. But that is why we live in The United States of America. One important point: Your state may have laws regarding this matter. If you want to include more rather than fewer items, there certainly is no fault in it.
As with most answers to flag etiquette questions, there is no one answer. I hope this response helps. Does it? Question: Hello. The college I work at is looking into buying some new top ornaments for the 2 flag poles U. The question came up about having the eagle on top of both poles, or only have the eagle on the U. Is there any rule to follow regarding the use of a top ornament? Would the eagle be okay on top of each, or is the eagle only supposed to be used on the U.
The answer has several components. First, the US flag code is silent on this issue. It says nothing about only the US flag being able to take the eagle. So there is no help from that source. Second, in my experience, most civilian users do use eagles on both. Third, however, there is a tradition, which I personally adhere to, for using the eagle only on the US flag and some other ornament on the other flags. I just feel it reserves a special distinction for the US flag. Many people do follow this method. I suggest a round spear. Fourth, it is possible that your state has enacted some type of law in this regard.
Individual states do have various rules about flag usage and I do not know yours. Maybe ask your Attorney General's office. Fifth, the military quite certainly has rules of flag protocol that apply to this and other issues. Click on the link above to West Point Protocol Office. I have seen this question addressed in those army regulations. Military regulations are not binding on civilian situations. As well, the various military branches can have rules that disagree with each other. To sum up, absent any local or state ordinance, in my opinion, it is proper for you as a civilian to use eagles on both flags OR to reserve the distinction of the eagle for the US flag.
Either way is proper. I feel the eagle, our national bird, is best reserved for Old Glory. Does this help? Question: My father passed away two weeks ago. My mother was presented the flag from the ceremony, the spent cartridges form the salute were passed to me. I thought that since the cartridges were also given to us, it would be fitting to display them in the case with the American flag.
Is it proper to display the brass with the flag? Answer: I am sorry for your loss. Yes it is. People display patches, medals and all kinds of things with the flag. The Flag Code does not prohibit personal effects from being displayed with a flag. We have a display case in our shop that has extra compartments for mementos. If you are local to us come in and see it. Otherwise, give me a couple days and I will add it to the selection of cases on the web site so you can see it. Question: The second questions concerns two memorial flags that my father had stored away.
One was from his sister who never married, my father had been presented with her flag. The other was from an unmarried friend of the same aunt's. She had been presented that flag years ago. What is the proper disposition of these flags? They, of course, are beautiful and we would be proud to fly one of them, but I feel that may not be proper etiquette.
Should they be retired? Answer: It is quite proper to display these flags. In fact, it is a moving tribute. Such flags from funerals are usually 5 x 9. They are by rights also too large for most home in-ground poles. Since they would be oversize for those types of poles, display them only on a calm day during good weather because they will stress the pole much more that a properly sized flag.
Do it with care to protect your pole, and only during that time of calm weather. You could damage your pole with such an oversize flag. OR you could just display them vertically on an exterior wall or hanging down from a porch. Stars would to in the upper left corner as you view the flag. Flags from funerals are almost always cotton which is the least durable fabric for outdoor display. To extend their life some people display them just once in a while on selected holidays or special days. You might display them say on Memorial Day or on the person's birthday.
OR, you could donate them to a fire company, school or house of worship that might have a pole big enough to actually handle them for normal continual use. Your departed loved ones might like the notion that their flags are serving in that manner. Look how this Boy Scout leader gives honorable new life to funeral flags that are languishing in closets:. I have 12 of them in our troop. People have given them to us following funerals usually of aunts, uncles, etc when they really had no use or desire to keep them.
We honor those flags by caring for them and using them to teach our new scouts about flag folding, presenting, caring, etc. We also publicly collect flags to retire at each of our monthly campouts AND publicly on Memorial Day. So, the suggestion for funeral flags: Contact your local Boy Scout Troop and let them have them for training purposes! The flags will of course then eventually wear out just like you and I will.
At that time they would then be properly retired, preferably by being burned up in a respectful manner as suggested by The US Flag Code. Also don't be concerned if the flags happen to have 48 stars. Historic versions of Old Glory are proper to display and retain all the honor and respect due to our current day flag. In short, special memorial flags need not be hidden away. During aftermath of the crisis, when there was a nation wide flag shortage every flag seller had lines more than an hour long. In one of the most moving things I have experienced in my decades as a flag dealer, a lady showed up at our shop and gave away to strangers the funeral flags from her WWII Veteran husband and her Vietnam Veteran son.
Those flags were able to stand watch when here loved ones no longer could. I hope this helps Thank you for being concerned about how your flags are used. My Aunt called and asked me to pick the flag up and give it to one of the grandchildren my two sons. My brother has stated that he wants it.
He served about 2 years in the army and was given a general discharge. My personal belief is that he doesn't deserve it as it would be an injustice to my Dad's record but I don't want to cause any hard feelings. Is there a protocol in this matter as to who should receive the flag? Thanks Answer: I am sorry for your losses. That is the code that is meant to be a guide for civilians. It is silent on who gets the flag from a funeral. There just is no protocol known to me that addresses this exact situation.
You might study the Army Regulation found on West Point's Protocol Office web site and linked from our own etiquette page. The relevant section only states that the "The internment flag may be given to the next of kin at the conclusion of the internment. It also states who even gets to have a flag on the coffin at a military funeral.
Pardon my ignorance, but my understanding is that a general discharge is less than an honorable one. The army regulation does not apply to civilians who are free to do as they wish. But maybe their regulation provides some kind of guidance for you. The Army Regulation does say the flag goes to the next of kin. That current next of kin in your own family chain of those who have had the stewardship of this flag has made her decision.
However, what you have is a family matter that will require more insight and guidance than I can provide. What would be an injustice to your Dad's record I can hardly say. I wonder what your Dad would say. If you could all divine that which his intent would be, you would have your answer. Your situation calls for an answer that any code or regulation can not have anticipated. I am afraid I do know know that the answer is, or if there even is one.
Does any of this information help? Lowering and folding. The flag should be folded in the triangular shape of a cocked hat. See fig At military funerals. When a half-couch casket is opened, the flag will be folded on the lower half of the casket in the same relative position as when displayed full length on a closed casket. The flag will not be lowered into the grave, and it will not be allowed to touch the ground. The internment flag may be given to the next of kin at the conclusion of the internment.
See figs and Here is what is required of the Department of Defense in the rendering of military funeral honors for veterans and as codified in : Title 10, Chapter 75, Section , U. Unless a bugler is a member of the detail, the funeral honors detail shall play a recorded version of Taps using audio equipment which the detail shall provide if adequate audio equipment is not otherwise available for use at the funeral.
Question: Is it appropriate to have more than one internment flag for presentation at the grave? Answer: Yes. Presenting Flags: Only for military? Question: I sit on an elected board for my community. One of our board members re-enlisted in the Marines. At his last meeting before going away a group of his political supporters had an American Legion Post present to him a folded flag in a wood box.
After the Legion members left the room one of his supporters requested demanded that the flag in its box should be placed in front of his seat at board meetings until his return. Privately the board members agreed that we would not consent to the request. One of the members is a former member of the armed forces and said the presentation was inappropriate. Such a flag is presented only to the family of a fallen hero or upon death of a former member of the service or it is presented to a member of the military after long service.
What say ye? There are many things going on here and an unfortunate misconception is involved that I have begun to see recently. It is incorrect that a flag may only be presented to military people or their families. There is not one thing in The Flag Code that even hints at that concept. I know of no published protocol that says a commemorative flag folded into a triangle and presented in a case is inappropriate for those who have not died or who are civilians. In fact, we are near West Point, and they do it all the time for civilian workers who are retiring or being transferred.
I would like to see a reference found in the several flag codes of each of the armed forces that deems such a presentation inappropriate. There is a link to the Army regulation on our etiquette page. Each armed force has its own such document. I would ask the former armed forces member what his source is that deems it inappropriate. I was recently sent such a flag in a case with a certificate by some guys serving in Afghanistan right now who appreciated some things I did for them. The certificate was signed by their three star general. I am a civilian and they know it.
They still presented me with a flag. I recently heard from a fireman who said his department would not allow a flag to be used at a departmental funeral because the deceased fireman had not been a veteran. There is nothing in The Flag Code to support that restrictive decision. The letter writer was working on behalf of the poor widow who wanted the flag to drape the coffin. The bosses were telling them "you show me where it says a civilian can have a flag on his coffin. If you can not do so, then he can not have a flag.
Position and manner of display n When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground. Oh yes there is. Don't believe me?
Well then, believe The Flag Code. It tells you so at the very beginning. Just read it. Display and use of flag by civilians; codification of rules and customs; definition The following codification of existing rules and customs pertaining to the display and use of the flag of the United States of America is established for the use of such civilians or civilian groups or organizations as may not be required to conform with regulations promulgated by one or more executive departments of the Government of the United States.
The armed forces each has their own flag regulations. These incorporate The Flag Code and then go into way more detail. If you are in the Army, you do it Army way. If you work for the Department of Defense or The State Department, your department surely has lots of its own flag regulations. If you are a civilian, then the flag code was written with you in mind because you have no "regulations promulgated by one or more executive departments of the Government of the United States" with which to comply!
However, I can not speak to the other component of your situation regarding the flag being presented during a town meeting or being placed at the absent board member's seat until he returns. Those matters become more of a discussion of politics, personalities, decorum and even parliamentary procedure. Those issues are for wiser minds than mine and are, as they say, "above my pay grade. I don't have any idea where to find it in the flag code —have researched it but could not find any ruling. Answer: This is a common misbelief.
The flag is for all who love it. Ask anyone who tells you otherwise to show you the source of this supposed prohibition. The answer is right in the very code you are reading. Then just read The Code and believe it. Accompanying the misbelief that a flag can only be presented to a veteran is the related misbelief that a flag may only be used to drape the coffin of a veteran. It was heart breaking because the widow dearly wanted a flag on the coffin. Oh yes there is! Just read The Code. The very presence of the practice showing us how to do it is proof that the practice is proper for civilians because The Flag Code IS, for civilians.
Well then, believe The Flag Code itself. It simply tells you so at the very beginning. The Flag Code meant to guide civilians does not contain within it detailed instructions how do drape a coffin with a flag if civilians are prohibited to have a flag on their coffin. Now of course, the armed forces each has their own flag regulations. These incorporate The Flag Code and then go into way way more detail. The different armed forces have conflicting rules within their respective codes.
HOWEVER, if you are a civilian, then the very Flag Code itself tells you that it was written with you in mind because you have no "regulations promulgated by one or more executive departments of the Government of the United States" with which to comply! The Flag Code specifically states that its very purpose is to guide civilians on proper flag usage.
It then explains how to use a flag on a casket.
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See the flag etiquette page on our web site for extensive flag protocol info. Anyone who tries to tell you that a civilian may not have a flag on his casket should be asked to tell you the source for this prohibition. Then, when he can not show you the source, show him The Flag Code which was created to tell civilians how to display flags. Military funerals are an entirely different matter.
They are clearly only available for armed forces members and veterans. Military funerals include traditions and honors to which civilians are not entitled. A flag on the coffin is not one of those honors. Both military funerals and civilian funerals may use flags on coffins. Just look in The Flag Code. I am not making it up. The Flag Code simply says so. The words spoken to her by the soldier were very touching and special. Are these words standardized, and if so, where can we get a copy? The message of condolence is; On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of state service members rank and name.
Fringe: On The American Flag. No, it does NOT mean we live under martial law The following is quoted verbatim from the Institute of Heraldry web site. Gold fringe is used on the National flag as an honorable enrichment only.
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It is not regarded as an integral part of the flag and its use does not constitute an unauthorized addition to the design prescribed by statutes. Records of the Department of the Army indicate that fringe was used on the National flag as early as and its official use by the Army dates from There is no record of an Act of Congress or Executive Order which either prescribes or prohibits the addition of fringe, nor is there any indication that any symbolism was ever associated with it. The use of fringe is optional with the person or organization displaying the flag.
Gen states:. An external fringe is to be distinguished from letters, words, or emblematic designs printed or superimposed upon the body of the flag itself. Under the law, such additions might be open to objection as unauthorized; but the same is not necessarily true of the fringe. It is customary to place gold fringe on silken rayon-silk-nylon National flags that are carried in parades, used in official ceremonies, and displayed in offices, merely to enhance the beauty of the flag.
The use of fringe is not restricted to the Federal Government. Such flags are used and displayed by our Armed Forces, veterans, civic and civilian organizations, and private individuals. However, it is the custom not to use fringe on flags displayed from stationary flagpoles and, traditionally, fringe has not been used on internment flags.
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All rights reserved. Not legal advice. There is actually some interesting history behind this nonsense. Its use or disuse is a matter of practical policy, to be determined, in the absence of statute, by the Commander in Chief Perhaps you can see where this is going? Because the Attorney General expressed the opinion that the President as Commander-in-Chief can put a fringe on military flags, tax protesters have leapt to the conclusion that all flags with fringes are military flags.
This idea has been flatly rejected in numerous court decisions. See, e. Greenway, F. Greenstreet, F. McCammon, F. Appel, Pa. In Leverenz v. No flags of war will serve this case jurisdiction. Retirement Trust v. Arbeitman, 89 F. Flag Myths. If the flag touches the ground it must be burned: False. The code does say the flag should not be allowed to touch the ground but there is no requirement in the code that a perfectly good flag needs to be burned if it does so.
Those fine organizations are not the only ones allowed to do so and do not claim to be. They both have fine ceremonies to retire worn flags. Other groups such as The Girl Scouts do too. As well, any private person may do so on his own. The Flag Code only calls for a worn out flag to be "destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
In fact, it does not restrict the destruction to burning. I've seen inside lots of gold balls and have never seen anything in there other than New York air. This myth gets told in different variations and is invariably accompanied by an explanation something like this: As the invading hoards are bearing down on his hopeless position, the last man standing can at least have time to get the razor blade, shred the flag, burn the pieces and then do himself in with the bullet. The story never includes the explanation as how he is supposed to get up to the top of the flagpole.
The gold fringe on a flag is proof that we are living under martial law: False. Fringe On Flags. It is improper to fly the American flag in the rain: False. The Flag Code Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 6 specifically allows this practice if "an all weather flag is displayed. Even very light weight flags can do so. They just will not do so as long as the better models. Of course it is true that Texas was indeed an independent republic having won its independence from Mexico.
The flag should be half staffed because we are at war: False. I have a friend whose wife works at the local community college. She was approached by a supposed veteran and read the riot act because the flag in front of her building was not at half staff. His reasoning for it needing to be at half staff is because our nation is at war. This guy had pushed his complaint all the way up the chain until the flag out front of the college was lowered. If I have missed something within the code I would sure like to know. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Veteran U. The guy reading the riot act should be asked for the source of his information.
There is none. I know of no code or regulation that says any such thing. The entire Flag Code in every word of its legalese is linked at the top of this page. Show me where is says any such thing. The college should be asked what on earth it is doing. Incorrectly altering their flag display because they have been yelled at? They are at full staff too. Flags are at full staff at every school, town hall, post office and government building nation wide.
I find that when guys come in off the street and yell at a business or an institution over some supposed flag infraction, they are often wrong and way off base. Often the perceived infraction is based on some fantastic flag myth. I had another inquiry from a large corporation that had been dressed down because they had a bench within 50 inches of their flagpole.
The Rebels were too near, and got the gun and turned it. Before they could fire it, Company M struck them headlong, but they took the terrible impact without flinching, and for a few minutes there was fierce hand-to-hand work, with sword and pistol. The Rebel leader sank under a half-dozen simultaneous wounds, and fell dead almost under the gun. Men dropped from their horses each instant, and the riderless steeds fled away. The scale of victory was turned by the Major dashing against the Rebel left flank at the head of Company I, and a portion of the artillery squad.
The Rebels gave ground slowly, and were packed into a dense mass in the lane up which they had charged. After they had been crowded back, say fifty yards, word was passed through our men to open to the right and left on the sides of the road. The artillerymen had turned the gun and loaded it with a solid shot. Instantly a wide lane opened through our ranks; the man with the lanyard drew the fatal cord, fire burst from the primer and the muzzle, the long gun sprang up and recoiled, and there seemed to be a demoniac yell in its ear-splitting crash, as the heavy ball left the mouth, and tore its bloody way through the bodies of the struggling mass of men and horses.
This ended it. The Rebels gave way in disorder, and our men fell back to give the gun an opportunity to throw shell and canister. The Rebels now saw that we were not to be run over like a field of cornstalks, and they fell back to devise further tactics, giving us a breathing spell to get ourselves in shape for defense. The dullest could see that we were in a desperate situation. Critical positions were no new experience to us, as they never are to a cavalry command after a few months in the field, but, though the pitcher goes often to the well, it is broken at last, and our time was evidently at hand.
The narrow throat of the Valley, through which lay the road back to the Gap, was held by a force of Rebels evidently much superior to our own, and strongly posted. The road was a slender, tortuous one, winding through rocks and gorges. Nowhere was there room enough to move with even a platoon front against the enemy, and this precluded all chances of cutting out. The best we could do was a slow, difficult movement, in column of fours, and this would have been suicide.
On the other side of the Town the Rebels were massed stronger, while to the right and left rose the steep mountain sides. We were caught-trapped as surely as a rat ever was in a wire trap. As we learned afterwards, a whole division of cavalry, under command of the noted Rebel, Major General Sam Jones, had been sent to effect our capture, to offset in a measure Longstreet's repulse at Knoxville.
A gross overestimate of our numbers had caused the sending of so large a force on this errand, and the rough treatment we gave the two columns that attacked us first confirmed the Rebel General's ideas of our strength, and led him to adopt cautious tactics, instead of crushing us out speedily, by a determined advance of all parts of his encircling lines.
The lull in the fight did not last long. A portion of the Rebel line on the east rushed forward to gain a more commanding position. We concentrated in that direction and drove it back, the Rodman assisting with a couple of well-aimed shells. We were frequently successful; we were on the inside, and had the advantage of the short interior lines, so that our few men and our breech-loaders told to a good purpose.
There were frequent crises in the struggle, that at some times gave encouragement, but never hope. Once a determined onset was made from the East, and was met by the equally determined resistance of nearly our whole force. Our fire was so galling that a large number of our foes crowded into a house on a knoll, and making loopholes in its walls, began replying to us pretty sharply.
We sent word to our faithful artillerists, who trained the gun upon the house. The first shell screamed over the roof, and burst harmlessly beyond. We suspended fire to watch the next. It crashed through the side; for an instant all was deathly still; we thought it had gone on through. Then came a roar and a crash; the clapboards flew off the roof, and smoke poured out; panic- stricken Rebels rushed from the doors and sprang from the windows-like bees from a disturbed hive; the shell had burst among the confined mass of men inside!
We afterwards heard that twenty-five were killed there. At another time a considerable force of rebels gained the cover of a fence in easy range of our main force. Companies L and K were ordered to charge forward on foot and dislodge them. Away we went, under a fire that seemed to drop a man at every step.
A hundred yards in front of the Rebels was a little cover, and behind this our men lay down as if by one impulse.
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Then came a close, desperate duel at short range. It was a question between Northern pluck and Southern courage, as to which could stand the most punishment. Lying as flat as possible on the crusted snow, only raising the head or body enough to load and aim, the men on both sides, with their teeth set, their glaring eyes fastened on the foe, their nerves as tense as tightly-drawn steel wires, rained shot on each other as fast as excited hands could crowd cartridges into the guns and discharge them.
The shallower enthusiasm that expresses itself in oaths and shouts had given way to the deep, voiceless rage of men in a death grapple. The Rebel line was a rolling torrent of flame, their bullets shrieked angrily as they flew past, they struck the snow in front of us, and threw its cold flakes in faces that were white with the fires of consuming hate; they buried themselves with a dull thud in the quivering bodies of the enraged combatants. The relief was so great that we jumped to our feet and cheered wildly, forgetting in our excitement to make use of our victory by shooting down our flying enemies.
Nor was an element of fun lacking. A Second Lieutenant was ordered to take a party of skirmishers to the top of a hill and engage those of the Rebels stationed on another hill-top across a ravine. He had but lately joined us from the Regular Army, where he was a Drill Sergeant. Naturally, he was very methodical in his way, and scorned to do otherwise under fire than he would upon the parade ground. He moved his little command to the hill-top, in close order, and faced them to the front.
The Johnnies received them with a yell and a volley, whereat the boys winced a little, much to the Lieutenant's disgust, who swore at them; then had them count off with great deliberation, and deployed them as coolly as if them was not an enemy within a hundred miles. After the line deployed, he "dressed" it, commanded "Front!
The logs and stones had evidently been put there for the use of skirmishers, the boys thought, and in an instant they availed themselves of their shelter. Never was there an angrier man than that Second Lieutenant; he brandished his saber and swore; he seemed to feel that all his soldierly reputation was gone, but the boys stuck to their shelter for all that, informing him that when the Rebels would stand out in the open field and take their fire, they would d likewise.
Despite all our efforts, the Rebel line crawled up closer an closer to us; we were driven back from knoll to knoll, and from one fence after another. We had maintained the unequal struggle for eight hours; over one-fourth of our number were stretched upon the snow, killed or badly wounded. Our cartridges were nearly all gone; the cannon had fired its last shot long ago, and having a blank cartridge left, had shot the rammer at a gathering party of the enemy.
Just as the Winter sun was going down upon a day of gloom the bugle called us all up on the hillside.
Then the Rebels saw for the first time how few there were, and began an almost simultaneous charge all along the line. The Major raised piece of a shelter tent upon a pole. The line halted. An officer rode out from it, followed by two privates. The punctillious soul of the old "Regular"--for such the Major was swelled up instantly, and he answered:. The Adjutant reined his horse back. His two followers leveled their pieces at the Major and waited orders to fire.
They were covered by a dozen carbines in the hands of our men. The Adjutant ordered his men to "recover arms," and rode away with them.
He presently returned with a Colonel, and to him the Major handed his saber. As the men realized what was being done, the first thought of many of them was to snatch out the cylinder's of their revolvers, and the slides of their carbines, and throw them away, so as to make the arms useless. We were overcome with rage and humiliation at being compelled to yield to an enemy whom we had hated so bitterly. As we stood there on the bleak mountain-side, the biting wind soughing through the leafless branches, the shadows of a gloomy winter night closing around us, the groans and shrieks of our wounded mingling with the triumphant yells of the Rebels plundering our tents, it seemed as if Fate could press to man's lips no cup with bitterer dregs in it than this.
The night that followed was inexpressibly dreary: The high-wrought nervous tension, which had been protracted through the long hours that the fight lasted, was succeeded by a proportionate mental depression, such as naturally follows any strain upon the mind. This was intensified in our cases by the sharp sting of defeat, the humiliation of having to yield ourselves, our horses and our arms into the possession of the enemy, the uncertainty as to the future, and the sorrow we felt at the loss of so many of our comrades.
Company L had suffered very severely, but our chief regret was for the gallant Osgood, our Second Lieutenant. He, above all others, was our trusted leader. The Captain and First Lieutenant were brave men, and good enough soldiers, but Osgood was the one "whose adoption tried, we grappled to our souls with hooks of steel. A quiet, pleasant spoken gentleman, past middle age, he looked much better fitted for the office of Justice of the Peace, to which his fellow-citizens of Urbana, Illinois, had elected and reelected him, than to command a troop of rough riders in a great civil war.
But none more gallant than he ever vaulted into saddle to do battle for the right. He went into the Army solely as a matter of principle, and did his duty with the unflagging zeal of an olden Puritan fighting for liberty and his soul's salvation. He was a superb horseman--as all the older Illinoisans are and, for all his two-score years and ten, he recognized few superiors for strength and activity in the Battalion.
A radical, uncompromising Abolitionist, he had frequently asserted that he would rather die than yield to a Rebel, and he kept his word in this as in everything else. As for him, it was probably the way he desired to die. No one believed more ardently than he that. Among the many who had lost chums and friends was Ned Johnson, of Company K. Ned was a young Englishman, with much of the suggestiveness of the bull-dog common to the lower class of that nation. His fist was readier than his tongue. His chum, Walter Savage was of the same surly type.
The two had come from England twelve years before, and had been together ever since. Savage was killed in the struggle for the fence described in the preceding chapter. Ned could not realize for a while that his friend was dead. It was only when the body rapidly stiffened on its icy bed, and the eyes which had been gleaming deadly hate when he was stricken down were glazed over with the dull film of death, that he believed he was gone from him forever.
Then his rage was terrible. For the rest of the day he was at the head of every assault upon the enemy. His voice could ever be heard above the firing, cursing the Rebels bitterly, and urging the boys to "Stand up to 'em! Stand right up to 'em! Don't give a inch! Let them have the best you got in the shop! Shoot low, and don't waste a cartridge!
When we surrendered, Ned seemed to yield sullenly to the inevitable. He threw his belt and apparently his revolver with it upon the snow. A guard was formed around us, and we gathered about the fires that were started. Ned sat apart, his arms folded, his head upon his breast, brooding bitterly upon Walter's death.
A horseman, evidently a Colonel or General, clattered up to give some directions concerning us. At the sound of his voice Ned raised his head and gave him a swift glance; the gold stars upon the Rebel's collar led him to believe that he was the commander of the enemy. Ned sprang to his feet, made a long stride forward, snatched from the breast of his overcoat the revolver he had been hiding there, cocked it and leveled it at the Rebel's breast. Before he could pull the trigger Orderly Sergeant Charles Bentley, of his Company, who was watching him, leaped forward, caught his wrist and threw the revolver up.
Others joined in, took the weapon away, and handed it over to the officer, who then ordered us all to be searched for arms, and rode away. All our dejection could not make us forget that we were intensely hungry. We had eaten nothing all day. The fight began before we had time to get any breakfast, and of course there was no interval for refreshments during the engagement. The Rebels were no better off than we, having been marched rapidly all night in order to come upon us by daylight. Late in the evening a few sacks of meal were given us, and we took the first lesson in an art that long and painful practice afterward was to make very familiar to us.
We had nothing to mix the meal in, and it looked as if we would have to eat it dry, until a happy thought struck some one that our caps would do for kneading troughs. At once every cap was devoted to this. Getting water from an adjacent spring, each man made a little wad of dough--unsalted--and spreading it upon a flat stone or a chip, set it up in front of the fire to bake. As soon as it was browned on one side, it was pulled off the stone, and the other side turned to the fire.
It was a very primitive way of cooking and I became thoroughly disgusted with it. It was fortunate for me that I little dreamed that this was the way I should have to get my meals for the next fifteen months. After somewhat of the edge had been taken off our hunger by this food, we crouched around the fires, talked over the events of the day, speculated as to what was to be done with us, and snatched such sleep as the biting cold would permit. At dawn we were gathered together, more meal issued to us, which we cooked in the same way, and then were started under heavy guard to march on foot over the mountains to Bristol, a station at the point where the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad crosses the line between Virginia and Tennessee.
As we were preparing to set out a Sergeant of the First Virginia cavalry came galloping up to us on my horse! The sight of my faithful "Hiatoga" bestrid by a Rebel, wrung my heart. During the action I had forgotten him, but when it ceased I began to worry about his fate. As he and his rider came near I called out to him; he stopped and gave a whinny of recognition, which seemed also a plaintive appeal for an explanation of the changed condition of affairs.
The Sergeant was a pleasant, gentlemanly boy of about my own age. He rode up to me and inquired if it was my horse, to which I replied in the affirmative, and asked permission to take from the saddle pockets some letters, pictures and other trinkets. He granted this, and we became friends from thence on until we separated.http://mail.beetsoslo.com/complete-medical-guide-for-disease-volume-xiv.php
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He rode by my side as we plodded over the steep, slippery hills, and we beguiled the way by chatting of the thousand things that soldiers find to talk about, and exchanged reminiscences of the service on both sides. But the subject he was fondest of was that which I relished least: my--now his--horse. Into the open ulcer of my heart he poured the acid of all manner of questions concerning my lost steed's qualities and capabilities: would he swim? I smothered my irritation, and answered as pleasantly as I could.
In the afternoon of the third day after the capture, we came up to where a party of rustic belles were collected at "quilting. The Sergeant told the girls we were going to camp for the night a mile or so ahead, and if they would be at a certain house, he would have a Yankee for them for close inspection. After halting, the Sergeant obtained leave to take me out with a guard, and I was presently ushered into a room in which the damsels were massed in force, --a carnation-checked, staring, open-mouthed, linsey-clad crowd, as ignorant of corsets and gloves as of Hebrew, and with a propensity to giggle that was chronic and irrepressible.
When we entered the room there was a general giggle, and then a shower of comments upon my appearance,--each sentence punctuated with the chorus of feminine cachination. A remark was made about my hair and eyes, and their risibles gave way; judgment was passed on my nose, and then came a ripple of laughter.
I got very red in the face, and uncomfortable generally. Attention was called to the size of my feet and hands, and the usual chorus followed. Those useful members of my body seemed to swell up as they do to a young man at his first party. Then I saw that in the minds of these bucolic maidens I was scarcely, if at all, human; they did not understand that I belonged to the race; I was a "Yankee"--a something of the non-human class, as the gorilla or the chimpanzee.
They felt as free to discuss my points before my face as they would to talk of a horse or a wild animal in a show. My equanimity was partially restored by this reflection, but I was still too young to escape embarrassment and irritation at being thus dissected and giggled at by a party of girls, even if they were ignorant Virginia mountaineers.
I turned around to speak to the Sergeant, and in so doing showed my back to the ladies. The hum of comment deepened into surprise, that half stopped and then intensified the giggle. I was puzzled for a minute, and then the direction of their glances, and their remarks explained it all.
At the rear of the lower part of the cavalry jacket, about where the upper ornamental buttons are on the tail of a frock coat, are two funny tabs, about the size of small pin- cushions. They are fastened by the edge, and stick out straight behind. Their use is to support the heavy belt in the rear, as the buttons do in front.
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When the belt is off it would puzzle the Seven Wise Men to guess what they are for. The unsophisticated young ladies, with that swift intuition which is one of lovely woman's salient mental traits, immediately jumped at the conclusion that the projections covered some peculiar conformation of the Yankee anatomy--some incipient, dromedary- like humps, or perchance the horns of which they had heard so much.
This anatomical phenomena was discussed intently for a few minutes, during which I heard one of the girls inquire whether "it would hurt him to cut 'em off? This was too much for the Sergeant, who had been intensely amused at the girls' wonderment. He turned to me, very red in the face, with:. I nevertheless assured him that there really were some Yankees that did not have any musical accomplishments, and that I was one of that unfortunate number. I asked him to get the ladies to sing for me, and to this they acceded quite readily.
One girl, with a fair soprano, who seemed to be the leader of the crowd, sang "The Homespun Dress," a song very popular in the South, and having the same tune as the "Bonnie Blue Flag. The rest of the girls made a fine exhibition of the lung-power acquired in climbing their precipitous mountains, when they came in on the chorus. On our journey to Bristol we met many Rebel soldiers, of all ranks, and a small number of citizens. As the conscription had then been enforced pretty sharply for over a year the only able-bodied men seen in civil life were those who had some trade which exempted them from being forced into active service.
It greatly astonished us at first to find that nearly all the mechanics were included among the exempts, or could be if they chose; but a very little reflection showed us the wisdom of such a policy. The South is as nearly a purely agricultural country as is Russia or South America. The people have, little inclination or capacity for anything else than pastoral pursuits.
Consequently mechanics are very scarce, and manufactories much scarcer. The limited quantity of products of mechanical skill needed by the people was mostly imported from the North or Europe. Both these sources of supply were cutoff by the war, and the country was thrown upon its own slender manufacturing resources. To force its mechanics into the army would therefore be suicidal.
The Army would gain a few thousand men, but its operations would be embarrassed, if not stopped altogether, by a want of supplies. This condition of affairs reminded one of the singular paucity of mechanical skill among the Bedouins of the desert, which renders the life of a blacksmith sacred. No matter how bitter the feud between tribes, no one will kill the other's workers of iron, and instances are told of warriors saving their lives at critical periods by falling on their knees and making with their garments an imitation of the action of a smith's bellows.
All whom we met were eager to discuss with us the causes, phases and progress of the war, and whenever opportunity offered or could be made, those of us who were inclined to talk were speedily involved in an argument with crowds of soldiers and citizens. But, owing to the polemic poverty of our opponents, the argument was more in name than in fact. Like all people of slender or untrained intellectual powers they labored under the hallucination that asserting was reasoning, and the emphatic reiteration of bald statements, logic. The narrow round which all from highest to lowest--traveled was sometimes comical, and sometimes irritating, according to one's mood!
The dispute invariably began by their asking:. Even General Giltner, who had achieved considerable military reputation as commander of a division of Kentucky cavalry, seemed to be as slenderly furnished with logical ammunition as the balance, for as he halted by us he opened the conversation with the well-worn formula:.
The question had become raspingly monotonous to me, whom he addressed, and I replied with marked acerbity:. The answer seemed to tickle him, a pleasanter light came into his sinister gray eyes, he laughed lightly, and bade us a kindly good day. Four days after our capture we arrived in Bristol. The guards who had brought us over the mountains were relieved by others, the Sergeant bade me good by, struck his spurs into "Hiatoga's" sides, and he and my faithful horse were soon lost to view in the darkness. A new and keener sense of desolation came over me at the final separation from my tried and true four-footed friend, who had been my constant companion through so many perils and hardships.
We had endured together the Winter's cold, the dispiriting drench of the rain, the fatigue of the long march, the discomforts of the muddy camp, the gripings of hunger, the weariness of the drill and review, the perils of the vidette post, the courier service, the scout and the fight. We had shared in common. I had often gone hungry that he might have the only ear of corn obtainable.
I am not skilled enough in horse lore to speak of his points or pedigree. I only know that his strong limbs never failed me, and that he was always ready for duty and ever willing. Now at last our paths diverged. I was retired from actual service to a prison, and he bore his new master off to battle against his old friends. Packed closely in old, dilapidated stock and box cars, as if cattle in shipment to market, we pounded along slowly, and apparently interminably, toward the Rebel capital.
The railroads of the South were already in very bad condition. They were never more than passably good, even in their best estate, but now, with a large part of the skilled men engaged upon them escaped back to the North, with all renewal, improvement, or any but the most necessary repairs stopped for three years, and with a marked absence of even ordinary skill and care in their management, they were as nearly ruined as they could well be and still run.
One of the severe embarrassments under which the roads labored was a lack of oil. There is very little fatty matter of any kind in the South. The climate and the food plants do not favor the accumulation of adipose tissue by animals, and there is no other source of supply. Lard oil and tallow were very scarce and held at exorbitant prices. Attempts were made to obtain lubricants from the peanut and the cotton seed.
The first yielded a fine bland oil, resembling the ordinary grade of olive oil, but it was entirely too expensive for use in the arts. The cotton seed oil could be produced much cheaper, but it had in it such a quantity of gummy matter as to render it worse than useless for employment on machinery. This scarcity of oleaginous matter produced a corresponding scarcity of soap and similar detergents, but this was a deprivation which caused the Rebels, as a whole, as little inconvenience as any that they suffered from.
I have seen many thousands of them who were obviously greatly in need of soap, but if they were rent with any suffering on that account they concealed it with marvelous self-control. There seemed to be a scanty supply of oil provided for the locomotives, but the cars had to run with unlubricated axles, and the screaking and groaning of the grinding journals in the dry boxes was sometimes almost deafening, especially when we were going around a curve. Our engine went off the wretched track several times, but as she was not running much faster than a man could walk, the worst consequence to us was a severe jolting.
She was small, and was easily pried back upon the track, and sent again upon her wheezy, straining way. The depression which had weighed us down for a night and a day after our capture had now been succeeded by a more cheerful feeling. We began to look upon our condition as the fortune of war. We were proud of our resistance to overwhelming numbers. We knew we had sold ourselves at a price which, if the Rebels had it to do over again, they would not pay for us. We believed that we had killed and seriously wounded as many of them as they had killed, wounded and captured of us.
We had nothing to blame ourselves for. Moreover, we began to be buoyed up with the expectation that we would be exchanged immediately upon our arrival at Richmond, and the Rebel officers confidently assured us that this would be so. There was then a temporary hitch in the exchange, but it would all be straightened out in a few days, and it might not be a month until we were again marching out of Cumberland Gap, on an avenging foray against some of the force which had assisted in our capture.
Fortunately for this delusive hopefulness there was no weird and boding Cassandra to pierce the veil of the future for us, and reveal the length and the ghastly horror of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, through which we must pass for hundreds of sad days, stretching out into long months of suffering and death. Happily there was no one to tell us that of every five in that party four would never stand under the Stars and Stripes again, but succumbing to chronic starvation, long-continued exposure, the bullet of the brutal guard, the loathsome scurvy, the hideous gangrene, and the heartsickness of hope deferred, would find respite from pain low in the barren sands of that hungry Southern soil.
Were every doom foretokened by appropriate omens, the ravens along our route would have croaked themselves hoarse. But, far from being oppressed by any presentiment of coming evil, we began to appreciate and enjoy the picturesque grandeur of the scenery through which we were moving.
The rugged sternness of the Appalachian mountain range, in whose rock-ribbed heart we had fought our losing fight, was now softening into less strong, but more graceful outlines as we approached the pine-clad, sandy plains of the seaboard, upon which Richmond is built. We were skirting along the eastern base of the great Blue Ridge, about whose distant and lofty summits hung a perpetual veil of deep, dark, but translucent blue, which refracted the slanting rays of the morning and evening sun into masses of color more gorgeous than a dreamer's vision of an enchanted land.
At Lynchburg we saw the famed Peaks of Otter--twenty miles away--lifting their proud heads far into the clouds, like giant watch-towers sentineling the gateway that the mighty waters of the James had forced through the barriers of solid adamant lying across their path to the far-off sea. What we had seen many miles back start from the mountain sides as slender rivulets, brawling over the worn boulders, were now great, rushing, full-tide streams, enough of them in any fifty miles of our journey to furnish water power for all the factories of New England.
Their amazing opulence of mechanical energy has lain unutilized, almost unnoticed; in the two and one-half centuries that the white man has dwelt near them, while in Massachusetts and her near neighbors every rill that can turn a wheel has been put into harness and forced to do its share of labor for the benefit of the men who have made themselves its masters. Here is one of the differences between the two sections: In the North man was set free, and the elements made to do his work.
In the South man was the degraded slave, and the elements wantoned on in undisturbed freedom. As we went on, the Valleys of the James and the Appomattox, down which our way lay, broadened into an expanse of arable acres, and the faces of those streams were frequently flecked by gem-like little islands. Early on the tenth morning after our capture we were told that we were about to enter Richmond. Instantly all were keenly observant of every detail in the surroundings of a City that was then the object of the hopes and fears of thirty-five millions of people--a City assailing which seventy-five thousand brave men had already laid down their lives, defending which an equal number had died, and which, before it fell, was to cost the life blood of another one hundred and fifty thousand valiant assailants and defenders.
So much had been said and written about Richmond that our boyish minds had wrought up the most extravagant expectations of it and its defenses. We anticipated seeing a City differing widely from anything ever seen before; some anomaly of nature displayed in its site, itself guarded by imposing and impregnable fortifications, with powerful forts and heavy guns, perhaps even walls, castles, postern gates, moats and ditches, and all the other panoply of defensive warfare, with which romantic history had made us familiar.
We were disappointed--badly disappointed--in seeing nothing of this as we slowly rolled along. The spires and the tall chimneys of the factories rose in the distance very much as they had in other Cities we had visited. We passed a single line of breastworks of bare yellow sand, but the scrubby pines in front were not cut away, and there were no signs that there had ever been any immediate expectation of use for the works. A redoubt or two--without guns--could be made out, and this was all. Grim-visaged war had few wrinkles on his front in that neighborhood.
They were then seaming his brow on the Rappahannock, seventy miles away, where the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac lay confronting each other. At one of the stopping places I had been separated from my companions by entering a car in which were a number of East Tennesseeans, captured in the operations around Knoxville, and whom the Rebels, in accordance with their usual custom, were treating with studied contumely. I had always had a very warm side for these simple rustics of the mountains and valleys. I knew much of their unwavering fidelity to the Union, of the firm steadfastness with which they endured persecution for their country's sake, and made sacrifices even unto death; and, as in those days I estimated all men simply by their devotion to the great cause of National integrity, a habit that still clings to me I rated these men very highly.
I had gone into their car to do my little to encourage them, and when I attempted to return to my own I was prevented by the guard. Crossing the long bridge, our train came to a halt on the other side of the river with the usual clamor of bell and whistle, the usual seemingly purposeless and vacillating, almost dizzying, running backward and forward on a network of sidetracks and switches, that seemed unavoidably necessary, a dozen years ago, in getting a train into a City. Still unable to regain my comrades and share their fortunes, I was marched off with the Tennesseeans through the City to the office of some one who had charge of the prisoners of war.
The streets we passed through were lined with retail stores, in which business was being carried on very much as in peaceful times. Many people were on the streets, but the greater part of the men wore some sort of a uniform.
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