In 1861, when they perceived their rights to be
threatened; when those who would change the nature of the government
of their fathers were placed in charge; when threatened with change
they could not accept the mighty men of valor began to gather.
A band of brothers, native to the Southern soil, they pledged themselves
to a cause; the cause of defending family, firesides, and faith.
Between the desolation of war and their homes they interposed their
bodies and they chose me as their symbol. I AM THEIR
Their mothers, wives and sweethearts took scissors
and thimbles, needles and thread and from silk or cotton or calico
- whatever was the best they had - even from the fabric of their
wedding dresses, they cut my pieces and stitched my seams. I
AM THEIR FLAG
On courthouse lawns, in picnic groves, at train
stations across the South the men mustered and the women placed
me in their hand. "Fight hard, win if possible, come back
if you can, but, above all, maintain your honor. Here is your symbol," they
said. I AM THEIR FLAG.
They flocked to the training grounds and the
drill fields. They felt the wrenching sadness of leaving home.
They endured sickness, loneliness, boredom, bad food and poor quarters.
They looked to me for inspiration. I AM THEIR FLAG.
I was at Sumter when they began in jubilation.
I was at Big Bethel when the infantry fired its first volley. I
smelled the gun smoke along Bull Run in VA and at Belmont along
the MS. I was in the debacle at Ft. Donelson; I led Jackson up
the Valley; for Seven Days I flapped in the turgid air of the James
River bottoms as McClelland ran from before Richmond. Sidney Johnston
died for me at Shiloh as would thousands of others whose graves
are marked Sine Nomine, "without a name," unknown. I
AM THEIR FLAG.
With ammunition gone they defended me along the
railroad bed at Manassas by throwing rocks. I saw the fields run
red with blood at Sharpsburg. Brave men carried me across Doctor’s
Creek at Perryville. I saw the Blue bodies cover Marye’s
Heights at Fredericksburg and the Gray ones fall like leaves in
the Round Forest at Stones River. I AM THEIR FLAG!
I was a shroud for the body of Stonewall after
Chancellorsville. Men ate rats and mule meat to keep me flying
over Vicksburg. I tramped across the wheat field with Kemper and
Armistead and Garnett at Gettysburg. I know the thrill of victory,
the misery of defeat, the bloody cost of both. I AM
When Longstreet broke the line at Chickamauga
I was in the lead. I was the last off Lookout Mountain. Men died
to rescue me at Missionary Ridge. I was singed by the wildfire
that burned to death the wounded in the Wilderness. I was shot
to tatters in the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania. I was in it all
from Dalton to Peachtree Creek and no worse place did I ever see
than Kennesaw and New Hope Church. They planted me over the trenches
at Petersburg and there I stayed for many long months. I
AM THEIR FLAG.
I was rolled in blood at Franklin; I was stiff
with ice at Nashville. Many good men bade me farewell at Saylor’s
Creek. When the end came at Appomattox, when the last Johnny Reb
left Durham Station many of them carried fragments of my fabric
hidden on their bodies. I AM THEIR FLAG!
In the hard years of so-called "Reconstruction;" in
the difficulty and despair of years that slowly passed, the veterans,
their wives and sons and daughters, they loved me. They kept alive
the tales of valor and the legends of bravery. They passed them
on to the grandchildren and they to their children and so they
were passed to you. I AM THEIR FLAG!
I have shrouded the bodies of heroes, I have
been layed with the blood of martyrs, I am enshrined in the hearts
of millions, living and dead. Salute me with affection and reverence.
Keep undying devotion in your hearts. I AM HISTORY.
I AM HERITAGE, NOT HATE. I AM THE INSPIRATION OF VALOR FROM THE
PAST. LOOK AWAY, DIXIE LAND! I AM THEIR FLAG!