Press enter after choosing selection

Old Time Patriotism

Old Time Patriotism image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

ALK about your brass bands and railroad excursionson Independence day, your wonderful modern fireworksand displays of veterans - what are they to the good old fashioned Fourth of July celebrations which prevailed in the '40s and '50s, especiaLly in the Mississippi Valley states? Of course there is more style now, and as the late war was a big one, there are ruany more veterans to show; but for genuine fun, wholesouled good fellowship and upright and downright patriotism, they cannot come up to the old timers in the villages and county seats of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and other states which then had few railroads or none. We have in mind one such village in what was then the comparatively new west - a county town of perhaps 800 people- so let its Fourth of July represent all the rest. First thing on the programme was the big anvils. They served in place of cannon. They had been well loaded the night before, one on the other, the upper reversed, so as to bring the two square recesses together and mate a box, which was filled with powder. When the appointed sentinels saw the first blush of dawn they applied the "match;" there was an explosión that threw the upper anvil in the air and a concussion that rattled every window. Then every church bell and the court house bell were turned loose and rung joyously and long, while at intervals, as fast as the "gunners" could load their anvils, carne the stunning boom, till the number of shots was that of the states then in the Union. About half past 10 the "marshal of the day" appeared, on the biggest and sbiniest horse he could borrow, and three or four aids around him- all wearing some patriotic regalia- and the procession was formed, generally starting at the court house door or thereabouts. First were the "survivors," if any could be got. They were veterans of the war of 1812-15; but the people cut the title dowa to one word. The Mexican war soldiers were not often called out as a squad; but the "survivors" had the best carriage and rode in front. Then the "orator of the day," in an open buggy, with the most distinguished citizen. Next a few vehicles full of old settlers, and after them all sorts of companies, with any sort of likeness to military order. It was very common for a "light horse company" to organizo early in the spring and drill two or three times per week till the Fourth, by which time they could actually keep their horses in line and go through some simple maneuvers. But as a rule, when the salute was fired, every horse "jumped on his own hook" for a few minutes: and if, as often happened, some bold cavalryman took a tumble, leaving his warlike steed to gallop for home, the delight of the boys was unbounded. Behind the companies came the masses, in ranks of four; and geneiially in this part of the procession was the "long bedded wagon" with misses dressed in white, each wearing a broad blue ribbon, marked in red or yellow with the name of the state she represented. The Jehu who could drive three span of horses to this wagon and make all the turns right was the hero of the hour. This patriotic procession moved to General or Colonel Soinebody's grove; the "survi vors," marshals and committee took the stand; the militia were ranked around it; the rest of the multitude seated themselves, and the "Exercises of the Day" began. First was a roaring blast from all the fifes and drums that could be mustered; and the old fellow who had "fifed in the war" was always called on to show what he could do. As he generally had no teeth, and barely wind enough to walk slowly, his performance was a trifle weak; but it was uproariously applauded all the same. Then the selected young ladies sang a patriotic song; and if, as sometimes happened, there was one who really could sing the "Star Spangled Banner," the popular enthusiasm reached its highest pitch. Then "Our young fellow citizen, Mr. ," was troduced to read the Declarationof Independence; and the young lawyer, or school teacher, or ambitious politician who could do this effectively scored an important point. Then a little more music, and then the orator of the day. About 1 o'clock the trumpet blew and then the people feil on the barbecue. "Six sheep and an ox" had been roasted the day before in a vast log fire- sometimes they were not taken from the "jacks" till the meeting began- and as for bread and butter, cheese and pickles, there was a general contribution and more than enough. After dinner the ambitious local speakers were successively called and made short speeches if the humor seized them; but the people wandered at will, and the last speaker often quit short for want of an audience. Sometimos there was a dance in the grove; often er a grand foot race, wrestling matches or an improptu horse race. By this time the town drunkard - every town had one - was pretty far gone, and there was at least one "real good fight." If it was anything like a fair fight, no one was arrested or fined. At night there was a big bonflre on the square. And so the people went to bed skin full of patriotisni, and wondering how British and Frenchmen could live without freedom and a Fourth of Julv.


Old News
Ann Arbor Register