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HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF, NINETEENTH
ARMY CORPS, Numbers 34.
Opelousas, April 25, 1863.
Sergeants Brady, Stapleton, McCormick, Reinhardt, Sheble, Neal, Harris, Darker, Brannan, and 269 men of the Eighth Infantry, Army of the United States, whose names are affixed,* having been exchanged by the rebel government whose prisoners they were, arrived at New Orleans on the 25th of February, 1863, and a portion of them, under command of Lieutenant Copley Amory, Fourth Cavalry, reached this point on the 23rd instant, to share with us the honors of this campaign. It has been deemed but an act of justice to these gallant men to relieve them from this service and to expedite their return to the North. They separate from the command this day. In honor of their departure the commanding general has ordered a national salute, and a similar honor will be paid them at their departure from New Orleans. Captain Bainbridge at Opelousas and Brigadier-General Sherman at New Orleans are charged with the execution of this order.
These troops were shamefully and unconditionally surrendered to the rebel authorities in Texas by their commanders on the 9th day of May, 1861. Separated from their officers, divided into squads, and removed to different posts on the frontiers of Texas, deprived of pay for more than two years, they were subjected to degrading labors, supplied with scanty food and clothing, and sometimes chained to the ground or made to suffer other serve military punishments. Recruiting officers visited them daily, offering them commissions and large bounties to desert their flag. Notwithstanding the false reports of the overthrow of their Government, which seduced so many man of higher pretensions and position, unsustained by counsel with each other, with few exceptions they repelled the bribes and avoided the treason. Those who chose a different course did it to escape their prison.
No government ever had more loyal supporters. Officers of the Army and Navy, to whom they had a right to turn for counsel and example, who had been educated by the Government, who never received a month's pay that was not drawn from its coffers, nor bore an honor that it did not confer, at the first suggestion of treason betrayed the mother that pursued them, and deserted the flag that protected them. With every branch of the Government within their control and the continent under their feet they yielded to the indecency and folly of the rebellion, and without a shadow of cause sought to blacken the name of America and Americans by fastening upon them the greatest crime of human history-that of destroying the best government ever framed, and annihilating the hopes of the human race in republican liberty. Thank God! the officers could not corrupt the men they commanded. Not soldier nor a sailor voluntarily abandoned his post. The poisonous subtleties of secession never touched the hearts of the people, nor led them to substitute the quality ambition of popular, vulgar, low-bred provincialism for the hallowed hopes of national patriotism.
Soldiers, let the gallant men that part from us to-day receive the honors they deserve. Let them hear the peal of cannon and the cheers of the line. Let them receive, wherever they go, the homage of the Army and Navy together. The Army and Navy forever!
By command of Major-General Banks:
RICHARD B. IRWIN,
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