1st Arkansas Returns
Flag of 76th Ohio
At Ringgold Gap, Ga., on November 27, 1863, the 1st Arkansas Infantry captured the colors of the 76th Ohio Infantry in a desperate fight, in which eight color bearers of the Ohio regiment were shot down. On September 20, 1916, this flag was returned by the survivors of the 1st Arkansas Infantry during the thirty eighth annual reunion of the survivors of the 76th Ohio at Newark, Ohio.
An impressive address by Governor Willis of Ohio, was followed by the presentation speech of Governor elect Brough, of Arkansas, whose introductory remarks revealed the special fitness of his participation in this ceremony when he said: "As the great nephew of Ohio's famous War Governor, John Brough, who ranks with Dix of New York, Curtin of Pennsylvania, and Yates of Illinois as one of the four great War Governors of Northern States, I take pleasure in behalf of the brave troops of the 1st Arkansas Regiment in returning to the brave men of the 76th Ohio the flag captured in the battle at Ringgold Gap, Ga., November 27, 1863."
The survivors of the 76th Ohio Regiment were seated to the left on the stage of the theater, with the survivors of the 1st Arkansas on the right, while between them were seated the Daughters of the Confederacy who accompanied the veterans to Newark. The flag was placed in the hands of the Arkansas veterans, who then marched across the stage to the survivors of the Ohio regiment. The latter grasped the flag with their left hands and the hands of the Southerners with their right, and as the band played the "Star Spangled Banner" the Southerners loosed their hold of the flag, while all the veterans turned and marched around the stage, blue and gray together, until they reached their respective seats.
To William C. Montgomery, of Johnstown, was given the glory of receiving the flag for the 76th Ohio Regiment.
Mr. Montgomery said: "I was the first of the seven color bearers to carry the flag into battle when the 76th engaged the 1st Arkansas at Ringgold Gap, Ga. I had not proceeded very far with 'Old Glory' when a shell carried away my right arm, and the colors fell. One by one six other men picked up the flag only to be shot down. After a hard skirmish we retrieved the lost ground but our banner was gone."
The veterans from Arkansas were headed by J.R. Gibbons, Commander of Omer R. Weaver Camp, U.C.V., of Little Rock Ark., while other survivors of the 1st Arkansas in the party were: C.F. Wiley, J.F. Leach, James Shappoch, John F. Medlock, William E. Bevens and John A. Cathey.
The flag was received with a beautiful speech of acceptance by Judge Edward Kibler, son of the late Col. Charles Kibler, the last commander of the 76th Ohio. His address was chiefly what his father had prepared for the occasion the year before, and in it he reviewed the loss and return of the flag, saying in part:
"After the capture of this banner in the battle of Ringgold, Ga., its existence was overlooked for nearly fifty years. It was then found among the effects of General Hardee, who had commanded the corps of the Confederate army engaged in that battle and at Missionary Ridge. The daughter of General Hardee graciously proposed to return the banner to the 76th Ohio. That capture was accomplished by the 1st Arkansas Infantry, which was part of the division under command of Gen. Patrick Cleburne, of General Hardee's corps.
"The fact of the capture of the banner by the 1st Arkansas Regiment was probably unknown to the daughter of General Hardee when she proposed to return the banner. The proposition to return it was made known to Governor Cox, and the final arrangement was made to do this at the Reunion of the Confederate Veterans and the Sons of Veterans in May, 1914, at Jacksonville, Fla. A committee of the 76th, in charge of George F. Burba, private secretary of the Governor, went to Jacksonville to receive the banner.
"In the meantime the survivors of the 1st Arkansas Regiment made the claim, and not without merit, that, as the actual captors of the banner, they should at least be consulted about its return. They acquiesced in the formal return of the banner at Jacksonville, but reserved the right to come to Ohio later and publicly make over to the State of Ohio their right as captors of the emblem. As a result of this arrangement, you, the survivors of the 1st Arkansas Regiment, are here today.
"We receive this banner in the spirit you tender it - that is, of good will, in that adorable spirit which blesses him that gives and him that takes. It shall for all time remain in the flag room of the Statehouse, not only as the original banner of the regiment, but sanctified by its generous restoration.
"The colors of a regiment are the poetry of the service. The men love their banner; they march under it; they fight under it. If the color bearer falls, another seizes it and holds it aloft, and so on until the battle ends. The firm determination is to keep it flying at whatever cost; and if in the stress of war it is lost, the sorrow is universal and profound. Up to the 27th of November, 1863, this banner had been carried by the 76th Regiment in every battle in which it had been engaged - at Fort Donelson, at Shiloh, the operations near Corinth, at Vicksburg, at Lookout Mountain, at Missionary Ridge - but at Ringgold it was lost, lost without dishonor and captured with honor. Each regiment there found foemen worthy of its steel. The 76th Regiment in about ten minutes lost fifty-two out of the two hundred engaged in killed and wounded. Four officers and forty-eight men were killed in support of the colors. Eight color bearers were killed and wounded. Not a man was captured or missing. The banner was lost in this way: the brave bearer of it was grieviously wounded and fell forward toward the 1st Arkansas, and as he fell the banner was projected farther forward. Several men were wounded in an attempt to recover it. Just then came the order to fall back fighting, and the banner was captured.
"This shows the valor of the men who captured it, and I think it shows why the old soldiers do not regard the return of the banner as an idle thing.
"We, the survivors of the 76th Regiment, feelingly thank you, the survivors of the 1st Arkansas Confederate Infantry, for the return of this banner, and we fully appreciate the fact that you have come so far to take part in this ceremony. It has this significance: it evidences that, whatever hatred or animosity existed between the sections of the country (and there was little between the rank and file of the opposing armies), it is in the deep bosom of the ocean buried, and henceforth we ought to be, and can be, brethren dwelling together in unity, comrades living, fighting, it may be, under the one flag."
Hon. M.E. Dunaway, of Arkansas, representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans of Arkansas, also made an address. A reading by Miss Eula Spivey, sponsor for the 1st Arkansas veterans, and a song by Miss Lucile McDermott completed the program most acceptably.
These Confederate veterans received royal entertainment during their stay in Newark. They were entertained at the best hotel there and were invited to attend the business meetings of the reunion and also took part at a "Camp Fire" of the veterans. During the sessions they had seats upon the platform with the President of the Survivors' Association and were accorded most distinguished honors. At the Camp Fire meeting a resolution was passed that the President appoint a committee to memorialize the next legislature to return the Confederate flags now in the archives of the State at Columbus to the Confederate regiments from which they were taken.
From: Confederate Veteran
Volume 25 March, 1917
1st Arkansas Infantry:
Reminiscences of a Private. William E. Bevens of the First Arkansas Infantry, C.S.A. Edited with an Introduction by Daniel E. Sutherland. The University of Arkansas Press. Fayetteville, Arkansas 1992
76th Ohio Infantry:
A Boys Service With the 76th Ohio. By Private Charles Willison. Reprinted with additional material by Blue Acorn Press. Box 2684. Huntington, West Virginia 1995
For more info see the 76th Ohio Infantry page at Ohio in the Civil War
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