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Union or Secession
  • "The Hancock Union Guards"
On May 20, 1861, Sarah Grafton, on behalf of the ladies of New Cumberland, in Hancock County, presented a United States flag to the Hancock Union Guards when it "mustered into the service of our country."
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"The Hancock Union Guards"

Wellsburg Herald, 31 May 1861.

On May 20, 1861, Sarah Grafton, on behalf of the ladies of the northern Ohio River town of New Cumberland, in Hancock County, presented a United States flag to the Hancock Union Guards when its men "mustered into the service of our country." She hailed them as "our countrymen and they are Virginians!" when they left to fight "for the defence of that which is dearer than life to us, our country's honor and the cause of right." She commended them "most earnestly to God, who rules the destinies of the children of man and who cares for you. May He protect and bless you always and give you a safe return to your homes in a free, happy and united country." The same issue of the Wellsburg Herald that printed Grafton's speech reported that when the men remaining in Hancock County, the northernmost county in the state, voted in the May 23 referendum on secession, 23 men voted for secession and 744 voted against.

Wellsburg Herald, 31 May 1861.

A Great Day in Hancock County—
Departure of the Union Guards.

[For the Herald.]
Monday, May the 20th, 1861, will be a day long held in remembrance by the people of Hancock, as that on which we bid farewell to the first military company mustered into the service of our country since the formation of our government.
The day was wet and disagreeable, but when the hour of two o'clock arrived, the town of New Cumberland was crowded with relatives and friends of the soldiers to witness the presentation of a beautiful flag to them by the ladies of our county.
Miss Sarah Grafton presented the banner on behalf of the ladies, in a neat address as follows:
Gentlemen of the Hancock Union Guards: In behalf of the ladies of New Cumberland, I have the honor to present to you this token of our regard and our confidence in you as true and loyal sons of our beloved native land. It is a beautiful flag—"The flag of our Union." For nearly a century, the best affections of this mighty people have clustered around it as a thing most sacred—as the representative of all that is noble and true in our nation's history. The floating of its silken folds has always inspired the heart of the American with patriotic enthusiasm. Washington and our forefathers loved it as the symbol of their country's liberty, and exerted every power of their great minds and greater hearts to protect and defend it. The greatest and noblest men of our own and every other nation have always honored it. Said one, "In my travels in foreign lands—in the palaces of Kings and Emperors, I have always been proud to point to the 'Star Spangled Banner' and say it is our flag!" It is such a flag we present you to-day—one that has been honored by every civilized nation on earth, and has only been dishonored by those over whom it has ever waved in security of their dearest interests.
To your strong hands and brave hearts we commit the keeping of this sacred trust, believing that in such keeping it will be safe from the polluting touch of cowardice or treason.— Yes, gentlemen, in time to come we expect to be able to point to you proudly and say, they are our countrymen and they are Virginians! Bear with you the assurance that we will ever gratefully remember those brave men who peril their lives for the defence of that which is dearer than life to us, our country's honor and the cause of right, and now we can only commend you most earnestly to God, who rules the destinies of the children of man and who cares for you. May He protect and bless you always and give you a safe return to your homes in a free, happy and united country.