To the Veterans of the 122d Regiment
After Twenty-five Years
August 26, 1887 — Reunion of the 122d Regiment NY Volunteers, Bennett’s Grove, Fayetteville NY
Mr. Chairman and members of the 122d. Regiment: —
When rumors of war first arose in the fall of 1860, no one in the North believed in its possibility, but when Beauregard gave orders to fire upon the little starving garrison of Fort Sumpter, all doubt vanished. The country was at once aroused. The whole North was in motion. It was to be a war for the salvation of that county — a war to decide whether we were a national extending east and west, north and south. In one respect we are unique: All great empires of old extended from east to west: This seems a natural order of things. “Westward the star of empire takes its way:” Yet one of the man problems solved by this war was that of a permanent nationality extending north and south as well as east and west, and in rendering this decision, men of the 122d, you aided.
Old Onondaga was already ready with her sons. She had sent the first cavalry company organized in the state; two regiments were already in the field, when again came a call for more troops and the 122d was recruited. When in 1862 with words of cheer I gave into your hands that flag so beautiful in our eyes, that flag so appropriately named “Old Glory” by the the “boys in Blue,” I had you remember it was for liberty you were in battle — that the greatest blot on the American escutcheon — slavery — must be forever wiped away, as without that consummation no real freedom was to be attained. When you returned, slavery was dead; the old abolitionists had laid aside their weapons; no more conventions were held; no more anti-slavery literature was printed; the Liberator, the Era and all the papers of like character were discontinued; the need was past.
How well you performed your part the world knows. History is not silent in regard to your brave deeds — you live in the past, the present, the future.
The South virtually declared that the old articles of confederation of 1774 were still extant; that the constitution of 1787 was of no binding force. But you helped in the decision of two great questions: First, that the United States is a nation and not a confederation: Second, the status of citizenship — that it does not inhere in the State, but in the United States.
You here present, who were old abolitionists or who remember the history of our country, will recall the fact that in his “Dred Scott Decision,” once so famous, Chief Justice Taney recognized the state as paramount — first the state, then the nation, and this was the hypothesis upon which the civil war started. But aside from the military, political powers were invoked. The 14th amendment submitted in 1865, ratified in 1868, declared that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizen of the United States and of the state in which they reside.” Thus the constitution declare the nation supreme.
But aside from the general aid you gave in the restoration of the Union, we have not forgotten the special points of your good works. We do not forget your aid in driving that arch traitor Jefferson Davis from the headquarters of his confederacy in Richmond. We recall that while sitting in church an orderly whispered cautiously in his ear: that he arose and left the building as it was surmised upon military business of importance, but, as was proven, to secure his own safety, and to that step the 122d. had driven him. [next sentence bracketed in pencil by Gage] For we remember that at the charge on the works of Petersburg the Sixth Corps formed in the shape of a wedge of which the 122d was at the very apex, directly piercing Lee’s center and causing him to send Davis this telegram, “My center is broken; we must evacuate Richmond.”
And we recall that at Cedar Creek when the Sixth Corps alone held the ground until Sheridan came up, General Bidwell commander of the brigade to which the 122 was attached, while dying from a wound received in battle, said, “God bless the 122d — they have saved the day!”
We remember you at Fredericksburg, in the Wilderness, at Cold Harbor, at Fort Stevens, and above all at Gettysburg which you reached after three days of long and fatiguing marches — over muddy roads in pouring rain, where you took your place beside the gallant 149th — another Onondaga regiment of which too we are justly proud — and behind the breastworks on Culp’s Hill did memorable service in that decisive battle.
Until the war of the Rebellion, history mentioned but fifteen battles which had hanged the course of civilization — of which one, that of Saratoga, had been fought upon our own soil: But Gettysburg rises in history as the sixteenth.
No regiment left the field with better record than the 122d.
But I must say a word of the company from my own town, Company C, the color company, had the merit of being the first bona fide full company raised in the County of Onondaga for the new regiment; the names of one hundred and one men were on the enlistment rolls.
It is no subject of surprise that the ladies too of the town of Manlius were alike fired with the patriotic spirit. Although it was from my hands you received your flag, yet the gift was from all. One hundred and thirty ladies, from the humble workwoman who gave but twenty-five cents, to the lady who headed the list with ten dollars, all were equally interested and to them all, should your remembrance turn this day.
We did not forget to follow the fortunes of our flag. I need not remind you that it was first carried by one who, frightened by the din of war, suddenly left his regiment — not upon furlough — nor that the next to take it in charge proved faithless to his trust: but of the man who carried it through its remaining period of service — standing now by my side — I wish to speak. He was from Fayetteville, that village whose ladies gave the flag. He looks no older after twenty-five years of struggle on the battlefield and in peace, than he looked on that day. In fact his premature gray hair prevented his acceptance when first he attempted to enlist. But men lived at that day whom obstacles could not prevent from serving their country and grand old Amasa Chase was one. Would not gray hairs be accepted in battle for the country and the flag? There was a way — a path many feet were at that time treading. Mr. Chase went home repelled but not disheartened. The next day! The next day a man appeared at the recruiting office. He was the build of Mr. Chase; his very height; his very look in the face; his very age, but his hair no longer gray, “Had turned from white in a single night,” to the sunny-hued brown of youth. He was accepted. His brawn, his muscle, his courage were what the country needed. When other abandoned the flag, he picked it up, carrying it as a volunteer for a month before receiving his warrant as color bearer. The eagle, that proud emblem of the free, loosened from his perch at the top of the staff, he carried in his pocket for one hundred miles. Word came that southern soldiers were entering the North. For seventy hours you marched after them, stopping but to make coffee. History tell us that men have slept still marching. Amasa chase slept yet still clung to the flag, and, sleeping, was still mindful of his trust. On the 3d of July — the second day of that memorable battle — the 122d reached Gettysburg. In the crowning battle of the war, our flag received a baptism of blood. Six bullets tore their way through its silken folds while born aloft in the hands of Mr. Chase at Gettysburg.
I remember — you too will remember — that General Shaler, the commander of your brigade — whom we regret not to see here today, while gladly welcoming Adjutant General Roome — General Shaler in his dispatch to General Sedgwick, the commander of your corps, declared the 122d has been baptized in blood, and the honor falling to the regiment, it gives me pride to say, was shared by the flag which the patriotic women of Fayetteville placed in your hands. All were imbued with the same spirit, all must share in the honor done me this day by the 122d, because of the old flag.
But do not let us forget the man bright examples of patriotism among the women of the South — a patriotism for which the world has as yet given the small credit. I recall that when one of our gun boats carrying a flag of truce passed down the Pedee river, near Georgetown in South Carolina, a woman waved her hand in salutation of the old flag and for it, she was shot dead. Her breast pierced by a Minnie ball! That woman as truly died for her country, as did any soldier upon the battle field. Another name comes to my lips, that of Annie Carter Lee, daughter of the Commander-in-Chief of the rebel forces, scarcely yet in her twenties, in the enjoyment of all that wealth and social position can bring. She was disowned by her father, becoming an outcast from her family, because of her love for the Union. She died in the second year of the war, at Jones Springs, Warren County, N.C., tended in her last hours only by an old colored woman!
Elizabeth VanLieu of Richmond, a wealthy, cultivated, aristocratic Southern woman loved the Union. Her premises covered a whole square and upon them many a Union soldier, with his horse was sheltered, the animals taken into her very house, twelve or fifteen at a time. None dared venture within, but from the street fired into the building. The fortunes of war left her poor — so poor that when General Grand made her postmistress at Richmond, she cried from thankfulness of heart. But although she introduced many reforms, providing street letter boxes, etc, the enmity against her was so great she lost her position. That enmity follows her today. Not a week since I read of her removal from a lucrative office in Washington, a paltry, poorly paid one being offered in its stead!
Think you woman has forgotten the lessons of the war, when “reconstructed” rebels sit in the halls of Congress, in the Senate and in the House, to make laws for loyal women?
I will detain you with but a single name more, that of Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland, daughter of Thomas King Carroll, formerly governor of that state. Her ancestors founded the city of Baltimore, and she belonged to the family of Charles Carroll of Carroltown [sic], one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. When the war broke out she was an inmate of the family of Governor Hicks, and a personal friend. Owing to her influence, that state, despite the dulcet song of “Maryland, My Maryland,” was preserved to the Union. She made such an able reply to the treasonable speech of Senator Breckenridge during the July session of Congress in 1861, that the government circulated it as a campaign document. Asking her further assistance, in compliance she prepared a paper upon the Rights of the Government in case of Revolted Citizens and the Suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus, which suspension you will remember met with great opposition from even loyal persons. Later in the same year Miss Carroll journeyed to St. Louis in the interest of the country. It has then been determined to send a fleet of gunboats down the Mississippi. Miss Carroll saw that under the rapidity of the steam a disabled boat would float at once into enemy hands, but that an expedition sent up the Tennessee river, which was navigable to the muscle shoals of Alabama, would command the Memphis and Charlestown railroad, cutting the Confederacy in two from east to west at its most vulnerable point. As Hon. Edmund M. Bates had been a member of the cabinet to first propose the Mississippi expedition, to him Miss Carroll sent her plan. It received immediate attention, and Hon. Thomas Scott, at that time assistant Secretary of War, and who possessed more knowledge than any other person, in regard to the railroad system of the Southwest, was at once dispatched for investigation. At the time the expense of the Army was [sic] $2,000,000 a day. We had no credit with foreign nations, and sixty days more of such warfare could bankrupt the nation. More than this, both France and England stood in readiness to proclaim the South belligerents, and raise the blockade. The situation of the country was perilous in the extreme. But fortunately for the world Miss Carroll’s plan was adopted. The first result was the capitulation of Fort Henry; Columbus and Bowling Green were evacuated, Fort Donelson was given up, and its rebel garrison of 14,000 troops marched out as prisoners of war and the name of Grant was honored for the first time. The French and English withdrew, President Lincoln considered the victory at Fort Henry to be of the utmost importance, and issued a proclamation of thanksgiving and rejoicing. Beauregard himself was conscious that this campaign settled the fate of the Confederacy. From that moment the Union was secure, and thus the patriotism of the women of the South, overbalanced and nullified the treachery of its men.
To woman as well as to man is credit due for the life our our country.
Source: The “War Scrap Book” of Matilda Joslyn Gage: Witness to Rebellion, ed. Peter Svenson (Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press), 2019, pp. 417-421.