O, Flag of Our Country.

O, Flag of our country, though traitors would shroud thee,
Beneath the dark folds of secession’s black pall,
Not a shade from its lowering sky ever shall cloud thee,
Not a star from thine orbits of glory shall fall.
Though the doors of old England ope’ wide to our traitors,
And she give to each Arnold a home on her shore,
Let our slave-drivers go amongst slavery’s haters,
We give her our scorn, and our outcasts no more.
For we know that in England, the white, Southern cotton,
Like charity, covers full many black sins;
Though she boasts on her soil that slave fetters fall Rotten,
Yet we know ‘midst her paupers true slavery begins.
Though the civilized world gazes on us with horror,
And the South vaves aloft her red parricide hand;
Yet we watch for a brighter, a glorious morrow,
For the Spirit of God is abroad in our land.
And we shrink not when gleameth the red eye of battle,
‘Midst the sulphurous smoke and the battery’s glare;
We turn from the din of the musketry’s rattle,
And gaze upward with pride, for our flag still is there.
O, Flag of our Country! a Washington bore thee,
When carnage and slaughter encircled thy way;
And the God of our fathers still journeys before thee,
A pillar by night, cloud of safety by day.
The heart of the northland beats wild to the thunder,
Which belched on our Sumter from liberty’s foes,
And when rent by their shot, by their snell torn asunder,
It fell, —in that moment the great north arose.
O flag of our country, thy folds still are flying,
Thy stars still are gleaming through liberty’s air,
And we swear by our altars that, living or dying,
Undimmed and unsullied, they still shall be there.
Then on, whilst our banner waves proudly before us,
We’ll sheath not the sword and restore not the brand,
Till the stars, which so brightly are glittering o’er us,
Shall illume every inch of Columbia’s land.
Second Reg’t N. H. V., Feb. 1st, 1862.

Title:O, Flag of Our Country.

Author:E. Norman Gunnison

Publication:Farmer's Cabinet

Published in:

Date:February 20th 1862

Keywords:politics, war


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.