Thursday, July 4, 1861, was celebrated by the people of Benton county at Vinton, and the occasion was one of those memorable incidents of county history that may not be overlooked. The great rebellion had just raised the rattlesnake flag. The first installment of Benton county volunteers were preparing to leave for the seat of war. The patriotic heart of Benton county was all ablaze with patriotism and determination to maintain the honor of the Stars and Stripes at all hazards. An immense concourse gathered from all directions. Men, women and children came in carriages, carts, on horseback and on foot. Never before had Vinton seen such a crowd. Every township in the county was represented, and Vinton was literally packed with human beings, horses and carriages.
The officers of the day were as follows: President, S. P. Vanatta; vice presidents, H. D. Gay, S. H. Watson, R. Gilchrist, Vinton; James Rea, Benton; H. S. Bailey, Big Grove; W. 0. Smith, Homer; David Robb, Canton; Geo. McCoy, Harrison; Isaac N. Chenoweth, Eden; J. C. Kinsell, Polk; George Fawcett, Fremont; G. W. Durand, Cedar; S. Miskimin, Monroe; William Helm, Jackson; chief marshal, A. H. Severn; assistant marshals, W. C. Gaston, J. H. Shields; Chaplain, Rev. A. Chapin. The procession, which extended about a mile, was formed in front of the public square and marched to the grove, where the exercises of the day commenced with singing by the choir and prayer by the chaplain, followed by an address by the president of the day, and reading of the Declaration of Independence by Buren R. Sherman. A feature of the occasion was the administration of the oath of allegiance to the assembled multitude by James Chapin, each person repeating his or her own name and repeating after him the oath, which was as follows:
“I do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will true faith and loyalty bear to the government of the United States and the constitution thereof,”
The day and the time rendered this ceremony peculiarly solemn and impressive. Rebels were in arms to destroy the nation, the birthday of which they were met to celebrate. Two companies of volunteers—the Benton County Volunteers, Captain J. S. Hunt, and the Harrison Rangers, Captain Geddes—were present in uniform and were soon to march to the defense of the Union; and as the united voices of the assembled multitude repeated the solemn oath, every heart was thrilled with patriotic pride and devotion.
After the picnic dinner, an able and eloquent patriotic oration was delivered by Hon. T. W. Jackson, of Toledo. After reviewing the terrible situation and the efforts of rebel hands to destroy the government, the orator uttered the following prophetic words:
“But this Union will live. The old Ship of State will outride the billows. God‘s hand is at the helm; his breath is in the storm. When I survey my country today, I confess I would despair did I not know that we are under the guidance of Him who doeth all things well. Behind the dark clouds now hovering so ominously over us, I can detect the smiling face of Him who has ever been the director of nations and of men. The signs of the times are redolent with promise. Feel the beating pulse of the nation of freemen today hear the nineteen million throbbing hearts beating in unison ‘to the music of the union.’ See with what alacrity three hundred thousand men have flown to arms; view the chaffing eagerness of a million more to rally at their country’s call. Preeminently honored stands today every soldier in the grand army of of the Union. I envy their happy lot. Future generations will call them blessed. Those who come after us pointing to their posterity, will say, ‘Behold, their graudsires fought in the battles of the Union.’ Their’s is a higher title than patents of nobility. History will write them down the defenders of this God- given Union. I would rather wear that badge than all the stars which shine upon the nobles of the earth. But as that boon hath been denied to you and to me, let us give the heroes our means and prayers.”
At the close of the oration, toasts were read by the president, among which were the following:
“The Twenty Million Freemen of the North—With one accord they rush to the defense of our constitution and the maintenance of our laws. With such citizen soldiers, the cause of liberty and justice is ever secure.”
Eloquent response by J. H. Shulls.
“Our Flag—Foremost ensign in the vanguard of the great army of human progress, beneath whose glittering stars and flaunting stripes are gathered the embattled hosts of law, order and constitutional government on this continent, and to which are hopefully directed the straining eyes of the oppressed nationalities of Europe.”
Response by W. C. Gaston, Esq.Among the incidents of the day was the appearance of the venerable James Dowd, of Shellsburg, upward of eighty years old, dressed in the military costume of the American Revolution.
“The Press—The strongest bulwark of American liberty.”
Response by Frederick Lyman.
“The Ladies—Without their assistance the world stands still.”
Response by James Chapin, as follows:
“Woman! the finishing work of creation,
Exerts a wide influence over the nation;
In fact, such a mission she's made to fulfill,
‘Tis said that without her the world would stand still!
But should such a calamity ever befall,
Instead of a still world, we’d have none at all,
And the dried-up old specimens of human, depravity,
Like Egyptian mummies, would fill up the cavity.
In all ages, if history gives faithful relations,
Woman has more or less governed the nations;
And disloyal mothers are more to be feared
Than all the proud Xerxes that ever appeared;
For those who in childhood are under her drill,
In manhood will cherish her sentiments still.
But if she is loyal, her sons will prove true—
‘Gainst the ranks of rebellion will fight their way through.
And likewise the daughters—God bless them today!
Of our beautiful Home Guards, I‘ve something to say,
Who carry such weapons as arrows and lances,
And never miss fire when they shoot with their glances.
When the soldiers at night on their arms have reclined,
And dream of their homes and the girls left behind,
These chivalric daughters, in all their bright charms,
At home dream of union, and sleep on their arms.”
The exercises of the day were closed by a grand ball at the Fremont House, attended by fifty or sixty couples.