On February 24, 1905, Congress passed a bill authorizing the War Department to return its stockpile of captured Confederate battle flags to their original owners. This poem was written by A former Union soldier at the height of the debate over the issue, which was considered quite controversial.
Should the Rebel Flag Fly?
Here's how one Union soldier viewed the subject.
THOSE REBEL FLAGS by John Howard Jewett (1843-1925)
Shall we send back the Johnnies their bunting,
In token, from Blue to the Gray,
That "Brothers-in-blood" and "Good Hunting"
Shall be our new watchword to-day?
In olden times knights held it knightly
To return to brave foemen the sword;
Will the Stars and the Stripes gleam less brightly
If the old Rebel flags are restored?
Call it sentiment, call it misguided
To fight to the death for "a rag";
Yet, trailed in the dust, derided,
The true soldier still loves his flag!
Does love die, and must honor perish
When colors and causes are lost?
Lives the soldier who ceases to cherish
The blood-stains and valor they cost?
Our battle-fields, safe in the keeping
Of Nature's kind, fostering care,
Are blooming,--our heroes are sleeping,--
And peace broods perennial there.
All over our land rings the story
Of loyalty, fervent and true;
"One flag," and that flag is "Old Glory,"
Alike for the Gray and the Blue.
Why cling to those moth-eaten banners?
What glory or honor to gain
While the nation is shouting hosannas,
Uniting her sons to fight Spain?
Time is ripe, and the harvest worth reaping,
Send the Johnnies their flags f.o.b.,
Address to the care and safe keeping
Of that loyal "old Reb," Fitzhugh Lee!
Yes, send back the Johnnies their bunting,
With greetings from Blue to the Gray;
We are "Brothers-in-blood," and "Good Hunting"
Is America's watchword to-day.