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“to Show Where Their Flag Had Been …”

June 2024
1min read

The triumphal victory parade of the Union Armies in Washington, May 23 and May 24, 1865, is the scene that would have given me the most pleasure. There is an unforgettable description in The Letters of Mrs. Henry Adams: “A lovely summer afternoon—blue sky overhead—roses everywhere all over the houses—regiment after regiment came marching past, bands playing—squads of contrabands looking on. We sang out as each regiment passed, ‘What regiment are you?’ ‘Michigan!’ ‘Wisconsin!’ ‘Iowa!’

”… We were early and got nice seats … and eighty feet from us across the street sat the President, Generals Grant, Sherman, Howard, Hancock, Meade…

“About nine-thirty the band struck up ‘John Brown,’ and by came Meade with his staft”, splendidly mounted. Almost all the officers in the army had their hands filled with roses. … And so it came, this glorious old Army of the Potomac, for six hours marching past, eighteen or twenty miles long, their colours telling their sad history. Some regiments with nothing but a bare pole, a little bit of rag only, hanging a few inches, to show where their flag had been. Others that had been Stars and Stripes, with one or two stripes hanging, all the rest shot away…

“Wednesday, another glorious day— bright and cool, and we sit in the same place as before and see Sherman ride by at the head of 70,000 men, who, in physique and marching, surpass decidedly the Potomac Army…”

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