"Peculiarly distinguished among the advance guard, where all were distinguished, must be recorded . . . Private J. W. Brown, of Company F, First Georgia Regiment, who, upon hearing the order to fall back, exclaimed, 'I will give them one more shot before I leave,' and while ramming down his twenty-ninth cartridge fell dead at his post." - General Henry R. Jackson in his report of the Battle of Greenbrier River.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Flag of the Gate City Guard

During the desperate retreat of the First Georgia from Laurel Hill, the flags borne by several companies of the regiment were lost.  One of those banners was the flag of the Gate City Guard, lovingly sewn and presented by the ladies of Atlanta to the company before their departure in early 1861.  The wagon carrying the flag was wrecked by sliding into a ravine during the muddy slog over Pheasant Mountain, and the banner was retrieved by pursuing Federal troops.  At some point after the war it was returned to Gate City Guards in Atlanta.  It now resides in the collection of the Atlanta History Center, and can be viewed here.

The story of how the flag was returned to the Gate City Guard has been obscured in history.  Quite by accident, I recently came across an article from the May 29, 1901, edition of the Mansfield Ohio News, which describes in detail the transfer of the flag from a veteran in that city to the old company.  

A Silken Banner Restored to
an Atlantic Company by
George L. Emminger.
The following story from recent issues of the Atlanta Journal is not only appropriate to the Memorial day anniversary as seeking to show the passage of the old-time sectional hate and prejudice, but will have special interest to the old soldiers and to Mansfield people in general on account of the fact that George L. Emminger, who returned the southern banner, was, until recent years, a resident of this city.
When the old Gate City Guard went to war in the stirring times of ’61, they carried a beautiful flag presented to the company by the ladies of Atlanta, through Miss Henlieter, daughter of the late C. R. Hanlieter, editor and publisher of the Southern Confederacy.  The flag, after a time, went to the enemy, and all trace of it was lost.  Now, after nearly forty years, the scarred flag has been found, and will be restored to the Gate City Guard organization, which is still maintained.
Yesterday Mr. H. H. Cabiness received a letter from Mr. George L. Emminger, of Toledo, O., to whom the organization is indebted for the return of the flag.
Mr. Emminger wrote that an old lady of his acquaintance, some time before her death, gave to his son the staff and remnants of a regimental flag captured by her brother, at what battle he did not remember.  From the remaining inscription he saw that it had been presented by the ladies of Atlanta to the Gate City Guard.
“I do not know if there are any of the members of this organization yet able to answer “roll-call” in your city or section,” said Mr. Emminger, “but if so, they would like a return to the memories of the stirring times of ’61 and ’62 by a sight of that which led them.  They can have it by the mere expression of the desire.”
Mr. Emminger stated that there was a large portion of the silk gone, but enough is left to recognize it by.
In reply to the letter of Mr. Emminger, Mr. Cabiness stated that the company would joyfully receive the flag and would (unreadable) much pleasure in associating his name with the incident of its return.  He was asked to express the flag at the expense of the company to Mr. Harry Krouse.
Mr. Krouse was a member of the Gate City Guard,
the company which left Atlanta in April, 1861, belonging to the First Georgia
regiment of volunteers.  Mr. Cabiness had three brothers in the regiment, one a captain from Dahlonega, another a lieutenant of a company from Forsyth, and still another one who left college to join the Forsyth company.  After a little service in Pensacola, Fla., this company was sent to northwest Virginia and encountered McClellan’s forces.  The First Georgia regiment, together with the other Confederate troops, retreated from a position called Laurel Hill in crossing Cheat river.  It was here a battle was fought and the flag
was lost. 


Last night, in their armory, the Gate City Guard received the battle-scarred banner that waved over the company when the cause of Confederacy called southern troops to the field of chivalrous valor.  It was the same flag that Atlanta ladies made with their fair hands when fathers, brothers and sweethearts enlisted for the cause in ’61.  It differed from that emblem presented to the company more than thirty years ago only through its rent and ragged aspect, eloquent evidence of the fierce encounters which befell those who followed it in battle.
The members of the old Guard were out in force to see the flag come home.  Men were present who saw the banner presented to the company by the ladies who made it.  They saw it later as it rolled down the steep side of Cheat mountain, in Virginia, when the gray clad boys were running from the Yankees, and it was the last glimpse of the flag they had until they looked
on its folds last night.
The entire membership of the active Guard was present.  Governor Candler and his staff were present, and there were members of the Confederate Veterans, Sons of Veterans, Daughters of the Confederacy and members of the Ladies’ Memorial Association.  The spacious hall of the
armory was filled with the infantrymen and their friends.
The flag was returned to the company through H. H. Cabiness, who learned of its existence from a personal friend in Toledo, O.  The Ohio gentleman was George Emminger, who wrote to Mr. Cabiness, stating that the flag was in his possession.  Through Mr. Cabiness’ efforts the flag was sent to Atlanta to be returned to its original owners.


Governor Candler made the introductory remarks to the presentation exercises last night.  He extolled the bravery of Confederate soldiers in general and the members of the Gate City Guard in particular.
Mr. Cabiness requested F. H. Richardson to make the presentation speech.  Mr. Richardson referred in the happy memory of his childhood, of the departure of the Gate City Guard to join the Confederate army, and of how firmly their gallant appearance (unreadable) his faith in the invincibility of the southern cause.  He then paid a tribute to their record both in war and the work of the righteous reconstruction of the south.  Speaking of the tattered
battleflag he was to present to Captain O’Neill in behalf of his company, he
rejoiced in the fact that it had never been the flag of oppression or a flag
that represented anything but the highest courage of men, the noblest virtues
of women and the sweetest hopes of both.  In this connection he deplored the departure of our government from the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the constitution of the United States.  He condemned the drift towards imperialism and militarism and predicted that there will be a return to those ideas of civic liberty and justice on all men which was never so nobly illustrated as they were to the men of the south who constituted the grandest army that ever stepped on God’s (unreadable), in which there were no better or more heroic soldiers than the Gate City Guard. 


Captain James F. O’Neill received the flag for the company in an eloquent speech.  His sentiments went straight to the hearts of the assembly, and his speech was considered by the entire audience as one of the best that has ever been made in Atlanta on a similar occasion.
Harry Krouse, who was a member of the company during the war, and who followed the flag from the time it was presented to the company until it was lost on the retreat at Cheat mountain, gave a history of the organization.  It was both interesting and eloquent, and the audience was greatly entertained by the recital of the narrative. 


Governor Candler then called on Mr. Cabaniss for a speech.  Mr. Cabaniss, in the center of his remarks, said: 
Mr. Cabaniss spoke briefly and said that during frequent visits to the cities of the south, northwest and west, it had been his good fortune to meet a large number of representative people of those sections.  He had not found any trace of the bitterness which had formerly existed toward the people of the south; that the good people there not only entertained the kindest, feelings toward the people of the south, but manifested such friendship, frequently in a very substantial manner.
One of the gentlemen he had met was a prominent citizen of the state of Ohio, George Emminger, who in coming into possession of this battle-scarred and time-worn flag. It was his first impulse to send it to its proper owner.  For this kindly act I honor him.
The men who fought under this flag were heroes and those who opposed them were heroes.  It was American against American from 1861 to 1865, and the great destructiveness of the battles waged proved that each side had brave, loyal and unconquerable soldiers.
I thing [sic] this flag, and all other Confederate flags should be furled, never to be unfolded upon the battlefield.  They are mementos, peerless relics, to be guarded with sacred care and undying love.
But all other American battles must be fought
under the our American flag, the Stars and Stripes.  It is our flag as much as anybody’s, and of it the late Senator Hill said:
“Southern breezes kiss it; southern skies reflect it; southern sons will fight for it, and southern heroes will die for it.”
We drop a tear as we consider the past, but we must look to the future and its reunited union, under a restored flag, as one people we will do our part in maintaining a common country in its proud position as the greatest nation in the world and aid it with all our strength in pressing forward to the beauty and majesty of its missions.


Colonel Robert J. Lowry, Colonel Andrew J. West, Captain T. H. Jones, a Confederate veteran who came to Atlanta several years ago from Kentucky, and Captain W. L. Ezzard, who commanded the company during the war, made short speeches.
Refreshments were served during the evening.  As the active Guard were marching to the upper room with the old flag in their midst, a (unreadable) moment occurred.
A lady who was standing near the door as the line of uniformed soldiers marched through, grasped the folds of the tattered flag and imprinted a kiss on it.  She was one of the ladies who made the flag and presented it to the company in 1861.  The incident was witnessed by the entire assembly and there were many in the crowd who could not restrain tears at the spectacle of extreme love and devotion to the lost cause and the flag by which it was represented last night.
The Gate City Guard will keep the flag in their archives.  It is  (unreadable) as one of the most valuable relics in the possession of the command.