O, Flag of Our Country.
Title:O, Flag of Our Country.
Author:E. Norman Gunnison
Date:February 20th 1862
Written by a member of the Second Regiment of New Hampshire Volunteers, and published in The Farmers Cabinet, the poem offers a patriotic war cry for the Union cause. Rallying behind the symbolic imagery of the flag, the poem’s tone of belligerence is underpinned by the familiar Union narrative of liberty versus tyranny, presenting an idealised vision of a near future: ‘we watch for a brighter, a glorious morrow, | For the Spirit of God is abroad in our land.’ The poet makes a critical reference to England’s neutrality –though here interpreted here as evident favour towards the Confederate states - and exposes the hypocrisy behind its abolitionist sentiment, as its vast cotton industry rests on the foundations of chattel-slavery. Indeed, as the poet describes, despite their pride in the rejection of slavery, the English maintain an industrialised system in which wage-slavery is as pronounced. Jon Lawrence aptly summarises this belief held by some in the period, as both slaves in the South and cotton workers in Lancashire were the ‘twin victims of unscrupulous, profit-greedy Lancashire cotton magnates’*. Against these forces of sin and treachery, though, the poet suggests that the Union principles of liberty will prevail, and the flag shall eventually ‘illume every inch of Columbia’s land’. JC
* Lawrence, Jon, Speaking for the People: Party, Language and Popular Politics in England, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p.56.