Login   |  Register
 Related History

One of the most interesting relics which I saw during my tour is carefully preserved in the library of the society – the crimson banner of the Count Pulaski, beautifully wrought by the Moravian sisters, at Bethlehem, in Pennsylvania. Count Pulaski (whose portrait and biography will be hereafter given) was appointed a brigadier in the Continental army on the 15th of September, 1777, just after the battle on the Brandywine, in which he participated, and was honored with the command of the cavalry. He resigned this honor within a few months, and asked and obtained permission from Congress to raise and command an independent corps, to consist of sixty-eight horse and two hundred foot. The mode of raising these was left to the direction of General Washington. 4 This corps was chiefly raised, and fully organized in Baltimore in 1778. Pulaski visited La Fayette while that wounded officer was a recipient of the pious care and hospitality of the Moravians at Bethlehem. His presence, and eventful history, made a deep impression upon the minds of that community. When it was known that the brave Pole was organizing a corps of cavalry in Baltimore, the nuns, 5 or single women of Bethlehem, prepared a banner of crimson silk, with designs beautifully wrought with the needle by their own hands, and sent it to Pulaski, with their blessing.


The memory of this event is embalmed in verse by Longfellow, in the following beautiful


"When the dying flame of day
Through the chancel shot its ray,
Far the glimmering tapers shed
Faint light on the cowled head,
And the censer burning swung,
When before the altar hung
That proud banner, which, with pray’r,
Had been consecrated there;
And the nuns’ sweet hymn was heard the while,
Sung low in the dim mysterious aisle.

"‘Take thy banner. May it wave
Proudly o’er the good and brave,
When the battle’s distant wail
Breaks the Sabbath of our vale;
When the clarions music thrills
To the hearts of these lone hills;
When the spear in conflict shakes,
And the strong lance, shivering, breaks.
" ‘Take thy banner; and, beneath
The war-cloud’s encircling wreath,
Guard it – till our homes are free –
Guard it – God will prosper thee!
In the dark and trying hour,
In the breaking forth of pow’r,
In the rush of steeds and men,
His right hand will shield thee then.

" ‘Take thy banner. But, when night
Closes round the ghastly fight,
If the vanquish’d warrior bow,
Spare him – by our holy vow;
By our prayers and many tears;
By the mercy that endears;
Spare him – he our love hath shared;
Spare him – as thou wouldst be spared.

" ‘Take thy banner; and, if e’er
Thou should’st press the soldier’s bier,
And the muffled drum should beat
To the tread of mournful feet,
Then this crimson flag shall be
Martial cloak and shroud for thee.’
And the warrior took that banner proud,
And it was his martial cloak and shroud."

Pulaski received the banner with grateful acknowledgments, and bore it gallantly through many a martial scene, until he fell in conflict at Savannah in the autumn of 1779. His banner was saved by his first lieutenant (who received fourteen wounds), and delivered to Captain Bentalon, who, on retiring from the army, took the banner home with him to Baltimore. 7

Copyright 2009 by MissionPoland