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Unknown to officers and soldiers of the Virginia colored guards

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05335 Author/Creator: Unknown Place Written: s.l. Type: Manuscript letter Date: circa 1863-1864 Pagination: 3 p. ; 31 x 20 cm.

Summary of Content: An unknown female author presents a flag to African American troops stationed in the vicinity. States "it has often been remarked how much better this company has behaved than others previously encamped on this ground_ the ladies have spoken highly of the courteous manner of the soldiers ..." Urges the men to protect the flag during battle at all costs, stating "but soldier! never let its shadow be tarnished by a mean or cruel deed ... Ladies cannot fight, we have not courage to face the cannon's mouth ... but we respect a brave and honorable soldier." Instructs the soldiers to protect the flag from the enemy, and to protect themselves from the vices of camp life. States "when you return to the North and hear our state spoken of with contempt ... say that you found in Dixie, sons and daughters true to their country and this flag ... " Possibly written in Virginia.

Background Information:

Full Transcript: [draft]
page 1st
Officers and Soldiers of the Virginia colored guards. Sir.
I have been appointed, in behalf of the people of this neighborhood, to present to you and your ...company this beautiful flag, as a token of thanks to your soldiers for their good behavior since they have been with us- it has often [inserted: been] remarked how much better this company has behaved than others previously encamped on this ground_ the ladies have spoken highly of the courteous manners of the soldiers_ much praise has been bestowed upon them for their strict attendance to military duties; we do not see how you could be otherwise than brave and honorable, when dressed in that beautiful uniform; we know you have left homes and friends, to fight for your country, in time of great peril, for this reason we feel that you will love, cherish, and defend this flag, emblem of your country's freedom_ soldier this time "country's freedom" formerly a name without foundation, is now as dear to you as to the white man, for says an eminent writer "when knowledge has made a man and discipline a soldier- no edict can again make a slave."
If you should be called to the field of battle whether in Old Virginia or elsewhere, we feel assured that, rather than this flag should fall into the hands of [inserted: the enemy] and be insulted by the name of "Yankee [R?]ag" you will defend it through long and severe conflicts_ although the prospects may look dark, we feel that you will cast your eyes upon these stars and stripes and say
"Flag of the brave! thy folds shall fly,
The sign of hope_ and triumph high,
When speaks the signal_ trumpet tone,
And the long line comes gleaming on,
Ere yet the life-blood, warm and wet,
Has dimmed the glistening bayonet,
Each soldier's eye_ shall brightly turn
To where thy meteor glories burn;
[2] 2nd
And as his springing steps advance,
Catch war and vengeance from the glance."
If you should be called to leave us, we will go with you, in our minds, wherever you may go_ if some great deed should be accomplished under this banner, how proud we should feel of it and you_ but soldier! never, never let it shadow be tarnished by a mean or cruel deed.
Ladies cannot fight, we have not courage to face the cannon's mouth_ in this [inserted: case] respect we are weaker than you_ but we respect a brave and honorable soldier, there is something in the glitter of those buttons, when a brave heart beats beneath them_ the tinkling of that sword when worn by a man of honor, that fascinates; call it weakness or whatever you please, no true union lady can look upon that uniform but with feelings of pride, we admire it, because it is an emblem of our country's might and freedom_ if you should be called to suffer you will find kind and generous hands, in the people of this neighborhood, to relieve your sufferings.
While we honor virtue, we hate vice, doubly so, when clothed in uniform; soldier! the hearts of the givers hope while you are defending this flag fom he enemy you will also defend yourselves from the temptations of camp life_ if so, when you return home, your wives, Mothers, sisters and children will look upon and greet you [inserted: with] pride, you will become worthy citizens of a free government, and after you are dead, your friends will tell with pride and pleasure your brave deeds, done in this honorable war_ is not this enough, while you look upon this flag, to tempt you to take an oath never to desert or dishonor it? this would be the best thanks to render to the givers.
Officers! when you return to the North and hear this our State spoken of with contempt, will you not defend us? say that you found in [3] Dixie, sons and daughters true to their country and this flag, who love every star, every stripe, yes every fold_ we will welcome them if they will come with their enterprise and spread improvements among us.
As we resign this flag to your charge, we will say,
"Flag of the free heart's only home!
By angel hands- to valor given,
Thy stars have lit the welkin dome,
And all thy hues were born in Heaven,
Forever float that standard sheet!
Where breathes the foe but falls before us,
With freedom's soil beneath our feet,
And freedom's banner waving o'er us!"
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Historical Era: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877

Subjects: Women's HistoryMilitary HistoryCivil WarAfrican American TroopsAfrican American HistoryAmerican FlagMorality and EthicsUnion ForcesConfederate States of America

Sub Era: The American Civil War

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