1865 August 5: A Memorable Day in Pierce County as Her Soldiers Are Welcomed Home
The following reports appears front-and-center on page one of the August 5, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal. Unfortunately, someone cut out a potion of the article (or the backside of the article). But lucky for us, The Polk County Press reprinted the article in their August 12, 1865, issue.
THE WELCOME HOME.
S o l d i e r s’ R e c e p t i o n. !
A MEMORABLE DAY !
Yesterday, Friday, August 4th, was a memorable day in Pierce county.
On that day the people assembled in this city to do honor to the brave, and give formal expression to their warm welcome home. Never has this county seen such an occasion before. We have had meetings for political purposes—meetings to promote our business interests; we have had conventions in the interest of temperance, and other moral reforms, and religious anniversaries and gatherings of various kinds, but never before was there a public meeting in this county to welcome home the men who have vindicated the honor and mantained [sic] the authority of the Government on the battle field.
The return of our soldiers has brought the terrible realities of war more vividly to our minds than their departure did.—They left us with full ranks, flushed with confidence and buoyant with hope; they return with their work done, but with with [sic] wasted, decimated ranks, while the very many who are maimed, give saddening evidence of the terrible ordeal through which they have passed.
The demonstration was flattering to the soldiers and creditable to the citizens.
In point of numbers, it surpassed any previous gathering made up from Pierce county; in character it was composed of our best citizens; and in warmth of feeling we never saw it equalled [sic]. WELCOME HOME, was on every lip, and beamed from every eye.
About 11 o’clock, the procession of soldiers was formed under the direction of Marshall HOSEA B. BATES,¹ and his assistants, led by the Hudson Brass Band and escorted by a gay cavalcade of ladies with their escorts, on horseback. On the public square they were fitly received by the citizens, and an hour was spent in display. There was scarcely one, if a single one, of those two hundred soldiers who has not proved himself a hero.—They have all listened to
The scream of shot and burst of shell,
And bellowing of the mortars.²
[This is where the cut-out portion is on the microfilm version of The Prescott Journal. We fill it in using The Polk County Press:
Here were bronzed men and boys hardly bearded, who were at Vicksburg and Port Hudson and Atlanta, who swooped with Sherman in his magnificent march to the sea, and then bore his conquering banners Northward, till their starry splendors gleamed like the sunrise of a better day on the eyes of rejoicing thousands in the Nation’s Capitol. Here were heroes from the indomitable army of the Potomac, who had shared in the disaster of the first Bull Run, who had fought on the bloody field of Chancellorville [sic], who had routed the rebels at Antietam, and won the splendid victory at Gettysburg ; men who went with Grant into the Wilderness, “fought it out on that line” till “that line” took Lee’s army, and the great shout of rejoicing went up that Victory was won—the Nation saved.]
Where all are so worthy, it would be invidious to particularize, but HANK FIFIELD [Henry O. Fifield], the first volunteer from Pierce county, played his drum as if the thunders of Gettysburg were reverberating in his memory, and BILL WINCHESTER [William H. Winchester], the first married volunteer from this county, looked as if he was thinking of when he first played Yankee Doodle on the balcony of the St. Charles Hotel, in New Orleans.
About 12, the procession marhed [sic: marched] to the Fair Grounds, where a sumptuous dinner was provided. The tables were richly and profusely spread, and a vast amount of creature comforts were very soon bestowed in the proper place.
After dinner, the assembly was called to order by PAINE CONVERSE Esq., and brief and appropriate speeches were made by J. C. BUTTON Esq., HON. J. W. BEARDSLEY, Capt. P. V. WISE, Capt. O. T. MAXSON, Rev. W. C. DENNISOF, LUTE A. TAYLOR, and HOSEA B. BATES. The afternoon was then pleasantly passed in social enjoyment.
In the evening, dancing was the order and so large a social party never assembled in Prescott before, 186 tickets being issued, 142 to soldiers. Many more citizens wished to be present, but stayed away that the soldiers might be better accommodated.
As we looked on the merry throng we thought of the sterner music to which they had listened—and answered the call to a very different sort of arms from those they bore just then. We thought of BAYARD TAYLOR’S line—
“Dear girl, her name he dared not speak,”²
but last night he dared speak it, and did, and attested the truth that
“The bravest are the tenderest,
The loving are the daring.”²
Nothing occurred during the day or night to cast any reproach on the proceedings. As a soldier said to us, as the party broke up, “citizens have shown they can be good soldiers, and to day soldiers have shown they can be good citizens.”
The boys are welcome home. Right nobly has their work been done.
For four long years the Lord has veiled
His face behind the battle-cloud,
From hill to hill across the land
Has pealed the battle-anthem loud.
Our fields have drunk the precious blood
That free as water has been shed,
The streams that lave the battle-plains
With blood of heroes have run red.
But now at last, in distance drowned,
The cannon’s thunders fail and cease,
And borne upon the summer wind
We hear the sweet-toned bells of peace.
The sulphurous cloud of battle lifts,
From off the face of God withdrawn,
And in the East our eyes behold
The broad light of a purer Dawn.³
1. Hosea B. Bates (1803-1891) moved to River Falls with his family in 1854. Prior to moving here, he had been captain of a military company in his native Vermont.
2. From the poem “The Song of the Camp,” by Bayard Taylor (1825-1878), published in 1863. The poem is actually about the Crimean War, but this small part of it was used frequently by those writing about the American Civil War.
3. From the poem “A Hymn to Peace,” which had just appeared in the July 22, 1865, issue of Harper’s Weekly.