“They call me a traitor now”

Posted on April 23, 2011 by


This poem (and, no, not written by the same author, whose poem I posted on April 21… and not to fret, I’ll be telling you more about the author of that poem, soon) comes from the Memphis Bulletin (as reprinted in the Staunton Spectator. You remember… the Unionist paper in that town…) April 23, 1861. Note, this was printed on the 23rd… 6 days after Virginia’s secession.

The following lines were suggested by seeing an old man intently gazing at the American flag as it floated from the dome of one of the hotels in Memphis – “I live,” he said, “in Mississippi, where they won’t let that flag be raised, but I love that flag. I bore it through the Indian wars, and at New Orleans, under General Jackson. I am sixty-nine years of age. I was born and raised in this State. My father, an old Revolutionary soldier, was one of the earliest settlers. My country had been very good to me, and gave me the land I love. My country I love. I love Tennessee. I am sorry I ever left her. I want to live where that flag waves. I don’t like the people of Mississippi; THEY CALL ME A TRAITOR, NOW.

I have borne that flag in early years,
To conquer a savage foe,
Whose ravaging deeds on our then frontier
Brought terror, death and woe.
And now we suffered toil and pain,
Tis the history will tell you how;
Yet those, whose peace, whose wars did gain,
Can call me a traitor now.

I bore that flag at New Orleans,
Which city’s doom was thought.
Beyond the power of patriot means
Ere the glorious Eighth was fought;
But when I saw to the stripes and stars
The British lion bow,
I little thought, in my grateful prayers,
To be called a traitor now.

No pelican flag was heard of then;
No moon’s lone star was found;
No palmetto bush, with its shaggy stem,
And the serpent coiled around;
But the stars and stripes alone remained,
And pray – – – you tell me how
That he, who bore that flag unstained
Can be called a traitor now?

Oh, had I remained in my native State,
Where my chieftain’s grave is made,
Or had I been doomed to a similar fate,
And my bones near his been laid;
Or had he been spared for his country’s good,
Those friends who in arms by him had stood,
Should be branded traitors now.

But why, in my age, am I this assailed?
To my name why apply this stain?
Have I to my country ever failed,
Or to society proved a bane?
No! No such change or kindred crime,
Can be stamped on my furrowed brow.
But because rebellion I must decline,
They call me a traitor now,

But yet, in my heart, I can’t despair –
My country, so free and pure,
Whose toils and triumphs I helped to share,
For ages will yet endure.
When madmen cease, and calm react
And reason their minds endow,
They’ll then these cruel words retract
That make me a traitor now.

Moving, no?

The irony… considering today, how, to some, treason is an unacceptable tag in regard to Southerners who opted for secession, and yet, Southern secessionists who formed the Confederacy had no problem calling this fellow a traitor, then. By the way, if you aren’t aware, this is where division within Southern families often occurred; fathers who were sons of American Revolution vets, and perhaps vets themselves of the War of 1812… and who felt strongly against secession. Many sons who eagerly embraced the “new flag” of the Confederacy, did so to the dismay of many a Southern father.

Yet another layer of Southern Unionism about which some may be unaware.