Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Presentation of the Colors to the Victors of Dranesville

The month of January 1862 was cold, damp, and miserable for the Pennsylvania Reserves encamped at Langley.  The men huddled inside their crude huts as the snow and rain fell and the ground outside turned into mud.  The winter weather even interfered with the daily routine of army life.  As a soldier from the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves wrote to the Philadelphia Press, "owing to the unfavorable weather with which we have been visited, drill and other duties have been almost suspended."  Nothing, however, not even the elements, could get in the way of bestowing honors on the victors of Dranesville

The Pennsylvania Reserves had become the darling of  the political and military establishment ever since the battle.  At the end of the December, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin visited the Reserves at Camp Pierpont and declared that the regiments involved at Dranesville would have the name of the battle inscribed on their standards.  (See here for a recent post on the governor's visit.)  The flags were soon sent to Washington to be painted with the battle honors. 

Flag of the 6th Pennsylvania Reserves with a barely visible "Dranesville" inscription (courtesy of Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee)

Flag of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves with a faded "Dranesville" inscription (courtesy of Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee)
A couple weeks later, on January 11, the entire division participated in the presentation of the colors to the men who had won the day at Dranesville.  All fifteen regiments, "in full uniform," formed and marched out to the parade ground, which was "in a wretched condition, occasioned by the rains of the previous day."  ("Letter from Camp Pierpont," Phila. Press, Jan. 20, 1862.)  A fifteen-gun salute was fired by the Reserves' artillery, and various regimental bands "returned the compliment."  ("Letter from Camp Pierpont," Phila. Press, Jan. 20, 1862.)  Speaker of the House Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania traveled to Langley for the occasion and met the Reserves on the parade ground.  As the soldier from the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves described the scene:
. . . the color companies attached to the different regiments in [E.O.C.] Ord's brigade took an advanced position, when the flags on which were neatly inscribed the word "DRANESVILLE," in honor of the late victory, were presented by [Grow] -- the ceremony winding up with a few complimentary remarks from that gentleman.  The cavalry and artillery that accompanied the brigade were also on the ground, and were presented with new flags similarly inscribed.*

Rep. Galusha Grow,  Speaker of the House, 1861-63 (courtesy of Wikipedia)
The regiments then filed past Grow and the other notables gathered on the parade ground.  Overall, the soldier from the 7th considered that "the affair passed off admirably" despite the muck and mire.  Perhaps the review lifted more than a few spirits in the middle of the harsh winter.  The glow of Dranesville, however, would grow dimmer as the new year progressed and the war's toll grew to unimaginable proportions.

*Ord's brigade was comprised of the 6th, 9th, 10th, and 12th Pennsylvania Reserves.  All of these regiments were engaged at Dranesville. The 1st Pennsylvania Rifles ("the Bucktails"), although not part of Ord's brigade, also participated in the battle, and it is likely that they also received the inscribed flag during the ceremony.

"Letter from Camp Pierpont," dated Jan. 14, 1862, Philadelphia Press, Jan. 20, 1862;  O.R. Howard Thomson & William H. Rauch, History of the "Bucktails" (1906).

No comments: