American Slavery Must be Crushed
August 1, 1864 — Presentation of Flag, Ceremony for British West India Emancipation, US Army L’Ouverture Division, and L’Ouverture Hospital, Alexandria VA
PHYSICIANS, SOLDIERS AND FRIENDS;
For the first time in Alexandria we have me to celebrate a day made historical to our race — the day of BRITISH WEST INDIA EMANCIPATION.
It is thirty-one years to-day since the shackels [sic] fell from the British slave – since his fetters were broken. British gold paid for that emancipation act.
We are passing through times that will secure for us a higher and nobler celebration. American gold will never secure freedom equal rights and justice to our race. No! before these can come American slavery must be crushed, and its foul stain wiped from the Nation[‘]s escutcheon.
Soldiers, what we have got came through the strength and valor of your right arms.
Three years ago this flag had no significance for you, we could not cherish it as our emblem of freedom. You then had no part in the bloody struggle for your country, your patriotism was spurned; but to-day you are in arms for the freedom of your race and the defence of your country — to-day this flag is significant to you. Soldiers you have made it the symbol of freedom for the slave, unfurl it, stand by it and fight for it, until the breeze upon which it floats will be so pure, that a slave cannot breathe its air.
Through the kindness of friends in Pennsylvania I present this flag to you. Soldiers they have confidence in your loyalty, aye in your courage and daring. They remember Wagner, Fort Pillow, and Plymouth.
On the record of this rebellion your names will occupy no mean place. On the pages of history that honored grave at Wagner will make you glorious: then make that spot a sacred shrine where your countrymen, your children, and children[‘]s children, shall visit and revere, even to their latest generation.
Dr. Barker in presenting this flag to you for L’Ouverture Hospital — you, the soldier’s physician and friend — you, who have by your many acts so endeared yourself to all within this place; upon you and upon this institution I invoke the blessings of Almighty God.
Soldiers, when you return from the field of blood and strife, sick, wounded and wary, you will find a welcome here. We will bind up your wounds and administer faithfully unto you. Then take the dear old flag and resolve that it shall be the beacon of liberty for the oppressed of all lands, and of every soldier on American soil.
[Because Dr. E. Bently, Surgeon in charge of Third Division U.S.V. General Hospital, was unable to attend, Dr. Barker received the flag on behalf of L’Ouverture Hospital. The flag was then raised to the top of the pole, “amid the cheers of the gallant boys,” and the band played the Star Spangled Banner.]
Source: “Flag Presentation at L’Ouverture Hospital, Alexandria, Va.,” Anglo-African, 3 September 1864: 1.
Also: The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008), p. 578.