71st Regiment gets a New Flag

In 1862, three years after her husband’s death, Jane Mary Thorn presented a flag to the 71st Regiment to honour their service. The events of the day are recounted below. I have tried to find a picture of the flag, but no luck yet.

The 71st were a regiment of the New York State Militia (nicknamed the American Guard) and saw action in a variety of places including Washington and then Virginia (Manassas) at the Battle of Bull Run in the the early days of the Civil War. Eugene Thorn is listed as having been a 1st Lieutenant in both A and F Company. Companies were combined, so maybe that explains the shift.

71st Regiment Officers in Washington

1862: 71 ST REGIMENT, N. Y. S. M (New York State Militia)

February 22d was an eventful day, and a miserable one for the 71st — it was cloudy and a raw atmosphere over head, and under foot it was hummocks of snow and ice, and ponds of slush. The line was formed on Bond Street at 2 P. M., and, after a dress parade, the line of march was taken up for the residence of Mrs. Colonel Thorn, in West 16th Street, where the regiment was to be the recipient of a magnificent American flag.

The route of march was up Broadway to 4th Street, to Washington Parade ground, and from thence to Fifth Avenue and West 16th Street. The popularity of the regiment was never more apparent than upon this occasion. The windows of the houses were filled with ladies, who waved their handkerchiefs constantly, and at several points clapped their hands, and cheers were loudly meant for Colonel Martin and his command.

The presentation took place in front of the elegant residence of Mrs. Thorn, the patriotic donor of the flag; and a platform had been erected for the accommodation of the ladies, and the speakers selected for the occasion. A mammoth American flag was suspended from the third story of the house, while from the windows of the surrounding residences numerous banners were thrown out, or floating from the house-tops, in the utmost profusion.

The regiment being drawn up directly in front of the platform, Mrs. Thorn, accompanied by her daughter, Mrs. Edward Kirkland, and attended by G. S. Bibby, Esq., and by Lieutenant J. L. Morris, formerly of the Navy, came forward with the banner.

General Spicer, commanding the Brigade of which the 71st forms a part, and Captain Aug. V. H. Ellis who with his howitzer company (which was then attached to the regiment) performed such splendid service at the battle of Bull Run, were also on the platform. John B. Stevens, Esq., then after remarks complimentary to the regiment, said he was about to introduce to them the Hon. Charles P. Kirkland, who on behalf of Mrs. Thorn, would present to them a beautiful American flag. He knew the regiment would receive and preserve the banner sacred; and the presentation of it by Mrs. Colonel Thorn was an evidence that the spirit which actuated the ladies of 76 still lived in the hearts of the women of ’62.

He then introduced Mr. Kirkland, who stepped forward, and spoke as follows:

“Colonel Martin, and Officers, and Men of the 71st: “I have the honor to address you in the name and on behalf of Mrs. Colonel Thorn.

“Her heart, mine, the hearts of thousands of the men and women of this metropolis, went with you when, on the 21st of April, on the briefest notice, and with scarcely time to bid a hurried farewell to wives, mothers, sisters, you set out on the then perilous expedition to the Capital, to save it from the desperate traitors and rebels who threatened it.

“Never will your country forget the service which you and your gallant companions in arms rendered her in that, her hour of darkness and danger.

“The same hearts were with you when, after months of faithful and arduous service at the Capital, you took part, on the 21st of July, in the bloody conflict at Manassas.

“On that occasion, disastrous as was the result, it is everywhere conceded that there was as brave and daring men on that field as was ever engaged in battle — men who, though they did not ‘command success, did more — they deserved it.’ While we and you would accord all honor to others, the heroic Corcoran’s 69th, the un-daunted Rhode Islanders, and numerous other regiments, I may yet say that the New York 71st was not behind the foremost. The flag you then bore, and which is now before me riddled and torn by rebel bullets, will ever be to you a sacred relic, a cherished memento of that eventful day!

“You were appreciated by your countrymen, and abroad you received honorable mention; for I well remember reading, in August, in one London Journal, that the 71st New York Regiment inflicted severe loss on the enemy ;’ and in another, that ‘in the engagement between the 71st and the Alabama Regiment, the latter was badly cut up; the 71st lost heavily, but behaved exceedingly well, loading and firing as if on parade. On the hill, at the back, a rebel battery was playing on them.’ That the same hearts, which went with you in your departure were with you on your return on the 26th of July, the triumphant welcome you received is an abundant testimony.

“Our hearts are still with you, and never can we, or those who come after us, fail to remember the patriotism, the courage, the sufferings and the dangers of the 71st in a trying crisis of our country’s history. We of this day love to speak of our Revolutionary ancestors; the men of coming generations will dwell with the same grateful satisfaction on you and all who have fought or shall fight the present battles of the Republic. The men of that day performed the great work of building up this magnificent temple of liberty; the men of this day have done and are doing the equally great work of defending and preserving it !

“You, and the men who entered the service with you, were the pioneers in the holy mission of defending the Union and the Constitution. How well that mission has been continued, Springfield, Port Royal, Mill Spring, Roanoke, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, gloriously testify. What a thrill of pleasure courses through the loyal American heart at the mention of those names! But the victories are not ended. In the words of General Hallack, in his order of the day for the 19th of this month, ‘prepare for new conflicts and new victories. The Union flag must be restored everywhere, and our soldiers and sailors are ready to do it. Victory and glory await the brave.’

“This occasion cannot pass without an earnest tribute to the memory of your brothers, who under the mutilated flag I now see, fell or received their death wounds. They died for their country, they never will be forgotten.

“In the name of this excellent, respected, and, I add emphatically, patriotic lady, I now present you this banner — this emblem of your country’s greatness and glory — the flag of our Union, the banner of our liberty, ‘Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inesparable !’ The donor knows, and therefore she trusts, the hands to which she confides it; she knows that its fair folds will never be sullied by dishonor.

“Our glorious banner ! the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ I will not say of it, ‘Oh long may it wave,’ but I say, ‘forever and ever, and ever will it wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ ”

Colonel Martin accepted the present in the following speech :

“In behalf of the 71st Regiment, I thank you, and through you the donor of this magnificent gift, the emblem of our country’s greatness and glory. The greatest glory of the patriot soldier is to serve his country in its hour of peril and danger, and his greatest pleasure to receive the approval and plaudits of his fellow citizens.

“At our country’s call, we buckled on our armor, and hastened to the defence of the Capital. How far the services we rendered are appreciated, the presentation of this beautiful flag of our country, and your eloquent and touching remarks, attest. We accept the gift, and will assure you that if ever again we shall be called into active service, our colors shall be borne in safety, as in the battle of Bull Run, through the thickest of the fight, as long as there is a hand to uphold, and an arm to defend them. Gratefully we thank you ; thankfully we accept the gift.”

The Colonel then proposed three cheers for the Stars and Stripes, and the Union it represents ; and three for the donor of the flag, which were cordially given by the Regiment, and enthusiastically united in by the large concourse of citizens, who had assembled to witness the presentation.

Thus closed one of the pleasantest of the numerous commemorations of the day in the Commercial Metropolis of the Union.

THE BANNER

“The Banner is of silk, of the most elegant workmanship, and is fringed with gold. It bears upon its folds the words, ‘American Guard, 71st Regiment, N. Y. State.’ It was suspended from a beautiful oak staff beautifully mounted in gold, and crowned with a spread eagle, directly under which hung gold cord and tassels.

“The flag having been received, and placed side by side with the war-worn flag of the regiment, the command marched direct to the church of Rev. Mr. Wiley, Chaplain of the regiment, on Fifth Avenue.

The order of exercises here were as follows: Music by the Band. Prayer by Rev. Mr. Wiley. Reading of Washington’s Farewell Address. Music. Benediction.

The regiment again formed line, and marched down Madison Avenue, and from thence to the armory, where dismissed.

71st Regiment in Washington 1861-65

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