Flag Presentation in New Orleans

 

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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 2, 1862

This site contains online editions of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These newspapers contain rich content related to the war, and the people who fought it. We are hopeful you find this archive beneficial to your study and research.

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Vicksburg

Vicksburg

Vicksburg Description

Description of Vicksburg

Morgan's Kentucky Raids

General Couch

Fort Powhatan

Fort Powhatan

New Orleans

New Orleans Flag Presentation

General Dix

General Dix

California Joe

California Joe

Vicksburg

City of Vicksburg

Harrison's Landing

Harrison's Landing

Ladies of New Orleans

Ladies of New Orleans

Army Cartoon

Army Cartoon

 

 

 

 

AUGUST 2, 1862.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

487

(Previous Page) sketch by Mr. Mead. It represents the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac singing their favorite song, "McClellan is our Man! Our artist gives us one verse as a sample brick. It runs:

"McClellan is our man,

McClellan is our man,

We'll show our deeds,

Where'er he leads,

M'Clellan is our man!"

The sentiment is sound, whatever may be said of the poetry.

FLAG-PRESENTATION AT NEW
ORLEANS
.

ON page 493 we give an illustration of the PRESENTATION OF A FLAG TO THE THIRTEENTH CONNECTICUT REGIMENT BY LOYAL LADIES OF NEW ORLEANS. This interesting event—whose political significance will be readily appreciated—took place on 4th July. The Herald correspondent says:

The feature of the day, however, was the presentation of one of the most beautiful flags I have ever seen to the Thirteenth Connecticut Regiment, Colonel H. W. Birge, by two very pretty and loyal young ladies, Mademoiselles Angela Snyder and Lucena Courcelle. To show the appreciation of such praiseworthy conduct on the part of two New Orleans ladies, it was determined to make the affair worthy of the object and the day; consequently General Butler consented to be present with his staff and review the regiment. At six o'clock in the afternoon the General, in full dress uniform, and accompanied by his staff, left his house, and, followed by the Second Massachusetts cavalry, under Lieutenant S. A. Perkins, commanding, rode down to the Custom house, and thence to the levee. The Fifteenth Connecticut, with the young ladies and their flag following in a carriage, marched from their quarters through several streets to the levee, where they were drawn up in line near Canal Street. The First Maine battery, Captain Thompson, was stationed a little below, and fired a national salute. The General and staff then rode to the centre and saluted the American flag, while the regiment presented arms. After this the General and staff rode in review along the line, while the band played

"Hail to the Chief!"

The regiment then marched in review before the General, and, after they were again formed in line, the ladies alighted from the carriage, and Mademoiselle Snyder, taking the beautiful color in her hand, presented it to Colonel Birge, remarking that she intrusted the flag to the gallant men of his command, assured that they would never allow it to be dishonored, adding that her prayers and those of her cousin—Mademoiselle Courcelle—should ever be offered for the success and victory of the Thirteenth Connecticut Regiment. Colonel Birge answered eloquently and with deep feeling, thanking the ladies for their superb gift and complimenting them for their loyalty, which, through all the trials and temptations to which they had been subjected in the midst of treason, they had preserved pure and bright and warm within their faithful hearts. He added that their handsome present should be placed beside the regimental flags, and promised for his command that it should never be torn from their hands or disgraced so long as their stout arms could defend it. Handing it to a color sergeant, it was placed beside the Stars and Stripes and saluted by the regiment. General Butler then rode up to the young ladies, and, in a few words, thanked and complimented them for their courage and generosity. The whole affair passed off very pleasantly. There was nothing to mar the satisfaction, and a large crowd was collected to witness the ceremony.

The regiment looked splendidly, and in their marching and the manual of arms acquitted themselves in a manner that one of our "crack" militia regiments needn't have been ashamed of. This regiment is composed of a fine class of men. Added to this, they are handsomely uniformed and equipped, and from this circumstance they derive a commendable pride that evinces itself not only in their fine appearance, but in their correct deportment and earnest effort to improve in every soldierly quality. Colonel Birge and his officers have reason to be proud of their fine regiment.

The flag presented is of heavy, plain blue silk, doubled, and on each side are thirty-four large silver stars. It is bordered by a heavy silver fringe, with silver cord and tassels. In the centre are the words "Union," "Thirteenth Connecticut Regiment," "New Orleans, 1862." The staff is surmounted by a splendid spear of solid silver.

Mademoiselles Snyder and Courcelle are cousins, and are both French natives or creoles of New Orleans. Throughout the war their devotion to the Union has never wavered, and their courage is peculiarly manifest from their conduct ever since the occupation of this city by the Union army. It will be remembered that these same young ladies dared to come forward in May, when thousands of men were afraid to speak to a Union officer, and presented a guide color to the Thirteenth Connecticut. All honor to them! They are of the material that infuses new vigor and fidelity into the hearts of men, and elevates the moral and manly tone of society.

OUR SECOND LIEUTENANT.

"AFTER all, Burnet, this bachelor life is not to be despised, though a few weeks ago we did feel the dearth of woman's kindness, the lack of woman's tears."

An expressively contemptuous "Humph!" was the Indian reply.

I felt very communicative or I should not have continued,

"Burnet, my boy, I came very near being entangled in the noose matrimonial once upon a time."

Ah!"

"Yes, the bait was tempting, nearly as successful as our trout flies this morning. Methinks I see the glittering vision yet; the orbs of blue cerulean, the maze of maizen hair: will that do, think you? But the voice, Burnet—the soft, sweet voice—falling musically and fatally as the water of a cascade in which some nymph of deadly beauty dwells."

"Those clouds promise more rain; we shall have a freshet if the weather does not change soon."

I was not to be checked in my vein of sentiment by his quiet coolness.

"Her face was fair with easy, wreathing smiles; but oh, her head! Blanche had a Cleopatra head."

"Blanche, what Blanche?" was asked so suddenly that I gazed at my friend in surprise. His dark, stern face showed feeling as well as curiosity, but I had now the chance to be serenely indifferent.

"No matter; 'a rose by any other name,' etc."

He succumbed at once, and puffed again at his cigar,

"Burnet," I asked again, willing to be conversational in spite of his moodiness—"be candid, do you believe those Soeurs de Charite down at N— Hospital would have dressed our wounds with half the tenderness had they not known we were unmarried?"

"They knew no such thing, Winslow, I was married ten years ago."

It was my turn to ask how, when, and where, for my surprise was genuine.

We two were in the same regiment—though I outranked Burnet, a man of character and refinement worth half our officers, though only a second lieutenant—both of us were wounded in the same engagement, and having struck up a cordial friendship during our camp life, had concluded to spend our furloughs together in recruiting health and strength among the mountains of Pennsylvania. I had never known Burnet before, and knew none of his antecedents; but the man's face and bearing stamped him a gentleman, while I daily discovered the ring of the true metal in his tastes and opinions. His physiognomy was striking, very broad and strong, expressive of much energy and resolution; only once had I seen him act apparently from impulse, and that under rather singular circumstances. It was at the close of a hard day's fighting: I had been wounded in the arm but had returned to the field, and was close beside Burnet just as a rebel officer fell near us, We both rushed toward him, and as we did so he opened his eyes, and faintly murmured something, "Water," or "Quarter," I don't know which. For a moment Burnet looked at him—oil, what a look! His face was blackened and grimed with powder and smoke; his forehead only gleamed white from over his flashing, angry eyes as he looked at the rebel, who seemed fascinated by the fearful glare, and gazed back again with undaunted defiance: suddenly the defiance changed to veritable fear—craven, mortal terror overspread his pallid countenance. It was all in a moment. I glanced at Burnet, he raised his rifle and aimed a certain, steady charge at the rebel's breast. Horror-stricken myself at such inhumanity, I dashed his weapon down with a quick blow, saying:

"Would you kill a fallen man, Burnet!"

"Thank God!" he said, in a deep, relieved voice, growing pale beneath the grimness of his dusky face. At that moment leaden hail dropped desperately near us. Burnet was wounded by the same bullet which finished his rebel foe. The man died instantly, and still Burnet, with the blood dripping from his wound, gazed with a fearful intensity at the dead man. I had to urge him away. We had never since spoken of this occurrence, though I had often imagined Burnet about to explain; but his mood would change, and other matters drove it front my mind. That the impulse was a horrible one my quickness in preventing its action and Burnet's sincere expression of relief were most natural evidences.

Excitement and illness had followed, and we both were much absorbed in the usual trivialities of invalid life—such a fearful bore to strong, healthy men, until the prospect of a few days' trouting reinvigorated our muscles of endurance.

"So I have been holding up the charms of bachelorhood to the sarcasm of a man blessed with a wife?" I resumed.

"No, Winslow, not a man blessed but cursed with a wife."

His tone was too keenly bitter for more of my nonsense, Looking at his face, now working painfully, mirth would have been like that in Scripture, spoken of as the crackling of thorns.

"The woman you described just now would have answered the common idea of my wife; her name, too, was Blanche."

"Blanche Mayo?" I asked,

"The same; where have you seen her?" be asked, still with that pained repression of excitement in his voice, though it was nearly tremulous.

"I saw her years ago. She was then very young, exquisitely beautiful, the belle of her clique—a very worldly one by-the-way, but not worldlier than Blanche's mother—Miss Mayo's mother," I corrected myself.

"Yes, she was indeed beautiful. What did you think of her?"

"Shall I be honest?"

"Yes, I can bear it now;" and he half shaded his eyes from the light.

"She seemed to me one who needed every influence that strength of character could give to shield her from the effects of flattery and folly."

I found he waited for more, so I went on:

"Her beauty was of the winning, weak kind; irresistible to some men, even when tempting to sin."

"Hush!" said Burnet, suddenly. "I can not bear even now to hear her calmly discussed. I will tell you all in a moment, Let us walk."

We strolled toward the swollen river, noted for its picturesque beauty and attracting tourists yearly to its banks. Its wildness lent a lively beauty to the neighboring woodland; but in the spring it often became a source of alarm to the village adjacent, and freshets, thought of seldom occurrence, were known to have caused much loss of life and property. Rain had fallen all day since our attempts at fishing, and only then had ceased for a while, as was apparent from the driving, ragged clouds. After a long silence, during which I studiously avoided Burnet's face, he began again speaking.

"I have wanted to explain matters to you for some time, Winslow, but I have found it such hard work that I have been obliged to refrain. Some wounds go deeper than these," he said, tapping his lame shoulder—" deeper and deadlier, and they never seem to heal, but fester on till one's life would seem to be exhausted by them."

I linked my arm in his with silent sympathy, and he continued:

"You remember how you saved me from a murderer's conscience, Winslow? I fear I am none the less a murderer in God's sight for it; but it was so wonderful a chance for the avenging spirit I had cherished, demon that it was. Shall I tell you the thoughts which sprang into my heart just then? It seemed to me that fate at last was propitious—the very man of all others most deserving his death-blow was lying there awaiting it from just the hand that ought to give it by all the world's decree. I forgot that he was wounded and at my mercy; I forgot every thing except his

damnable sin and my revenge; I forgot even the beautiful face which he had robbed me of, the being whose purity he had made impure. I should have killed him, Winslow, as you would have killed a cur whose rabid bite has poisoned the well-springs of a life more sacred to you than your own.

"I do not hesitate to call this murder. Once I might have veiled the truth in smoother terms; but misery and despair led me to the only refuge wretched men ever find—the religion of Christ; which indeed I thought I possessed until that moment on the battle-field, when the old longing for revenge broke out anew, putting to shame all Christian charity and forgiveness, breaking down the barriers with which they had sought to shield my unhappy soul. Common manliness in the face of that wounded man should have stopped me. Measure his sin by my sin, and you can then understand my provocation. Understand? No, that you can not.

"The last night I saw my wife was one very different from this sombre, sullen evening. There had been rain, but the sunset streamed gold and crimson, the crimson of ripe fruit, and the gold of molten ore, under the long purple curtain of the vanishing storm clouds. The night seemed unequaled in beauty, clear starlight, and I sauntered out on the grounds to escape the throng of dancers filling the rooms. It was very warm, and I heard Blanche called often away to little Ned, our child, who was fretful and almost ill. Poor little Ned was often ailing, and in the way of his mother's amusements; he was not the link of two lives made spiritually one. Blanche feared me. I married her for her beauty—loving her as I could not help doing, but impatient with the fruits of her false education; annoyed by her girlish frivolity and giddy friends; and, above all, that Blanche only made a toy of her little baby, just as she would have done of any other pretty gift. But that night—I know not if she were conscious of the brink her white feet were treading—she seemed tenderer both to use and little Ned.

"We had differed once that day, but had let the slight cause pass without more than an impatient word or two, which yet jarred on my memory, and I thought if I could steal a smile or loving tone from her it would quite banish the remembrance; but I did not care to meet the people in my house, so I clambered up to the piazza outside my bedroom. Just as I peered through the blinds the baby cried again, and Blanche came in tossing down some roses impatiently, and with a sudden jealousy bidding the nurse leave the room. At this little Ned cried louder, till, with a child's fitfulness, he spied the diamond glittering in his mother's ear; then he paused, and I think I never saw a lovelier picture.

"Blanche, in her airy dress of white lace so beautifully blending with the delicate fairness of her skin and silken bands of hair, seated in the shaded light, which subdued material things to a spiritual beauty, in the sanctity of her child's innocence, looked to me angelic. I did not care to disturb her dreams, and little did I imagine the hideous temptation then assailing her. Her graceful attitude as she bent a little toward the child in its simple night-gown gave her a listening look, as if some one were whispering sweet words in her ear. The devil himself must have been then urging her to wrong, for suddenly she nearly rose, the baby slipped from her lap. 'Love him? oh, indeed I do!' she murmured; then clasping her hands over her eyes, she shuddered violently. People on the verge of drowning rehearse every action of their lives, and so I am sure it must have been with Blanche that night, hovering, as she was, near the whirlpool of ruin; for when she raised her hands her eyes had that far-off look, as if they had been gazing over the past, I, stupidly ignorant of her danger, dared not intrude at that moment, for she had thought herself alone.

"The next day she was gone.

"I could have more easily forgiven her had she taken poor little Ned; but leaving him seemed even worse than leaving me."

Burnet's voice broke once or twice in the course of his conversation, but here it gave out completely. I felt his arms tremble near me, and I could comprehend, from the agitation of his strong nature, how great must have been his anguish. I said not a word, leaving silence to do for us in sympathy what was impossible to convey in language.

Already it was raining again—dashing coldly in our faces and dripping from the fresh spring foliage. I could not justly blame myself for reviving Burnet's misfortune, yet I was provoked that my idle words had been provocative of so much that was painful.

We parted for the night soon after; and I knew, from the return pressure of his hand, that he felt and appreciated the sincerity of my feeling for him. The storm was raging when I blew out my candle, and great blasts of wind swept down the valley with immense force.

At midnight a thundering crash awoke me; the sullen roar of water and wind chiming in nearly hushed the voices which screamed, "The bridge is gone! the bridge is gone!"

I dressed hastily and went to Burnet's door; he had not been in bed, and willingly joined me in the desire to see how great was the injury or danger. People were flocking away from the river-side with their household gods. Several houses were swept away by the rapidly-rising river, and the freshet promised to realize the worst fears. At one cottage the inmates were fairly turned out with only the clothing they could hastily collect, and from vague remarks we gathered there was still a person in it who could not escape. Burnet no sooner heard this than he determined to find out the truth for himself. It was with difficulty that we obtained a boat; still more dangerous was it to pilot it through logs, trees, and the mass of debris accumulated by the swollen torrent. We reached the house, however, and forced our way through the upper windows. It was a little cottage, and though I held a lantern before Burnet he could

scarcely find out whether or not there was a living person in it; certainly, had they taken refuge in the lower portion of the cottage, they must have been drowned before we arrived there.

"Hark!" said Burnet, listening.

"It is only the hoarse noise of the water," I replied.

"No, it was lower than that."

"The wind through the keyholes."

"No, it was a voice; surely I heard it."

We pushed on, stumbling over furniture, bruising ourselves, heroically indifferent to our own fate. We came to a little room where the door stood ajar. I held the lantern up, and its pale light gleamed on the dress of a woman kneeling at the bedside. She did not move, but buried her head down farther out of sight; but that streaming silken hair and Cleopatra head were not to be mistaken. Burnet halted one moment; the next he seized her in his arms and sprang for the window. We had forgotten to fasten our boat!

The waves dashed in angry violence against the sill of the window; a furious gust blew out my lantern. "Save yourselves!" said Blanche, in that same sweet, soft voice of old, steady as if there were no danger. Burnet answered, and the quiet tone of his wife's voice changed to a stilled exclamation—half a scream. She now knew in whose arms she was held.

"Oh, Horace!" she cried, "do not save me. I want to die! I have longed for death! In mercy let me go, and save yourself!"

"Not while God gives me strength to do otherwise," he replied.

"It is cruel to me—to yourself! I have prayed —yes, I have dared to pray for death!"

"Come, Winslow, we can wait no longer; we must swim," said Burnet, preparing, as I supposed, to go, though I could not see him. It was a perilous thing to do, for the darkness was impenetrable, and the river must have been strewn with the remnants of the broken bridge. We both struck out, I striving to guide myself near him, for I feared his lame shoulder would find itself too heavily taxed. But in the noise and danger we became separated; for a long while I battled the furious current, finding my own strength momentarily diminishing, and I can hardly now remember how I reached the shore. Daylight, was just dawning, and a little crowd of anxious, frightened people stood near the bank where Burnet had, with immense strength, brought his wife. But no longer his wife ; for, pale and prostrate as a storm-crushrd blossom, Blanche lay dead in his arms. She must have been too exhausted to have been able to keep her head above water; or else, perhaps, was struck by some floating fragment.

I never heard how she happened to be in that cottage, or even in the village, and could only assign it to a strange coincidence.

How beautiful she was! the marble purity her brow shaded by the long silken tresses of pale golden color, the blue eyes hidden, their false light faded; the soft, sweet voice, which had charmed, alas! to destruction, hushed forever.

Burnet allowed no one to touch her. Tenderly he carried her in his arms, as if she had been only a sleeping child. Almost a Divine forgiveness—certainly a noble forgetfulness of his cruel wrong—pervaded his actions, and the love which life had slighted death accepted.

"I shall take her home, Winslow," was all he said as we parted; for my furlough was out, and 1 had to return to the regiment.

Four weeks after we were again side by side stemming a more furious tide, battling a deadlier freshet—the stream of human blood running crimson from warm hearts. Burnet's thin face glowed with heroic beauty; self and sorrow, life and its bitterness, became a dream; with all the ardor that battle inspires he encouraged the men to more determined assaults, more victorious efforts, than any other man in the field. But I missed him suddenly, and as the roar of artillery ceased, and the retreating enemy gave us time lo attend to our wounded, I sought each prostrate figure with more and more painful eagerness. Near a fallen tree I found him, ghastly pale, but smiling as if no a wound were powerful to hurt him, and I doubt if any physical pain could have done so. I held him in my arms till the surgeon came; but he could do nothing. Life was going.

"Poor Blanche!" he whispered. "I had forgiven her; I had tried to forgive him. This war was my avenger, it is my friend now. No: He is giving; me rest—He who only knew my weariness. Winslow, under God you saved me from the crime of murder. It was a fearful temptation. I have prayed for forgiveness. Stand by the old flag, Winslow! If all goes against us, still stand fast!
Good-by!"

The setting sun was tinging the spikes of willow-leaves with gold; the meadows all along the road were white with daisies; and a brooding stillness, like the "peace which passeth all understanding," hushed to quietness even insect songs, till the sudden wail of a trumpet and a muffled drum-beat front our little cortege woke the echoes:

As I listened to the retreating music after we had laid our friend at rest, I could not but think of the three souls so lately summoned to the bar of God—the two guilty, remorseful wretches, and the victim of their crime—to be judged by the perfect law of love which thinks and speaks no evil; and I wondered over that fatal gift of beauty which. had worked such ruin. As I turned to go I saw another head-stone of white marble, so low and near the ground that the vines had nearly hidden it—a bush lull of white rose-buds blowing their fragrance in the face of death. On the stone was simply cut—"LITTLE NED."

"For us, whatever's undergone

Thou knowest, willest what is done.

Grief may be joy misunderstood;

Only the Good discerns the good"—

I said over to myself as I hastened away. But I could not help wondering why Burnet's fate had not been mine; for I came very near losing my heart with the fair, false Blanche Mayo.


 

 

  

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