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History Of Madame Tussaud's

( Originally Published 1920 )

The story of Colour-Sergeant Bates's march through England to prove Anglo-American goodwill—Start from Gretna—The dove of peace.

AN ephemeral celebrity of a bygone day, who fittingly comes into the picture at the present time —for we are still dealing with events that happened in the seventies—was Colour-Sergeant Gilbert H. Bates, of the 24th Massachusetts (U. S. Artillery) Regiment.

This gallant soldier of the Federal Army, after carrying the Star-spangled Banner through the Southern States of America to prove that the war had not killed the respect felt for the national flag, crossed the Atlantic, in fulfilment of a wager, and bore the Stars and Stripes from Gretna Green to London, amid most enthusiastic scenes, demonstrating that Bates was right when he insisted that John Bull and Uncle Sam were the best of friends at heart.

Mr. Joseph Tussaud modelled a portrait of the sergeant, who had an honoured place in the Exhibition for several years.

Bates was a patriotic American who had a firm belief in the friendship of the English people for their American brethren.

For 1,500 miles through States whose streets had been Stained with the blood of civil carnage he had marched with the national flag to the strains of patriotic music, an eloquent tribute to his countrymen's deep-rooted love of peace. His passage was a triumphant success, and the exploit is handed down to posterity, in Captain Mayne Reid's stirring poem "From Vicksburg to the Sea," the first of its five verses being:

Bear on the banner, soldier bold !
How Southern hearts must thrill
To see the flag, so loved of all,
Waving above them still !
What chords 'twill touch,
what echoes wake,
Of that far truer time !
Who knows but it the spell may break
That maddened them to crime.

This was remotely the origin of Bates's English expedition. Calumny was rife in the States. No theme had been so often discussed for the two years then past as that of the feeling of John Bull towards Uncle Sam. The malicious craft of certain politicians had led them to foster elements of hatred towards the Old Country, and a corrupt section of the Press had lent itself to the unworthy task of exaggerating trifles and distorting facts to suit the fancies of gullible readers.

It was in the course of one such discussion as to the feeling of the English towards Americans that this lover of concord was led to make a wager of 100 dollars against 1,000 dollars that the people of England would not insult the flag of America, but would welcome it heartily wherever it should be borne by an American soldier. Not a few of his compatriots were incredulous of his success, and they predicted that he would miserably fail; while one said, "I bet he don't travel twelve miles before he sets face homeward and leaves his bean-pole in the custody of some parish beadle."

The gallant sergeant was determined and confident, however, and, taking passage in the Anchor liner Europa, he crossed the Atlantic.

Bates was a small but well-built man, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches in height, square-shouldered and square-headed, clean shaven, with clear grey eyes, dark hair, and swarthy skin. His age was thirty-four, and he wore the uniform of a sergeant of the Federal Army. He is described as modest, intelligent, well-informed, and a very good specimen of the unassuming, matter-of-fact, and practical Yankee.

The flag he carried was from a piece of army bunting from the headquarters of General Sheridan. It was of regulation size, 6 feet by 6 1/2 feet, and the hickory staff measured 9 feet. Before he left he was assured by a Member of Parliament in Chicago that as the Americans had honoured the English Prince when he visited that country, the English people, in return, would honour the American "prince"— which was their flag. And so it turned out.

On the 5th of November, 1872—Guy Fawkes Day and the anniversary of the Battle of Inkerman—Sergeant Bates left Edinburgh for Gretna Green, that romantic spot at the southern extremity of Scotland.

It was with difficulty that he managed to leave the northern city without unfurling the flag, as his Scottish friends felt that they should have an opportunity of testifying their good feelings to the banner which waved over so many of their kindred in homes beyond the Atlantic. But his mission had been planned, and he had decided to begin his march from the border of England itself.

With no quiver of fear and with a heart full of gladness, he stood upon Sark Bridge and, uncovering his head, gave the Star-spangled Banner to the breeze. A few merry rustics greeted him with cheers, and the historic march was begun. The country before him was England, the mother-country, the home of the English language, the freest and most peaceful country in Europe.

He reached Carlisle that evening without anything more important happening than a rigid cross-examination by an excited old woman as to whether he was heralding a Fenian invasion, and an anxious inquiry from a little boy as to when the circus would arrive.

At the Bush Hotel at Carlisle a party of commercial travellers gave him a right hearty British welcome, and this henceforth became the order of the day at whatever town or village he put in an appearance. News of his coming preceded him, and his progress was one continuous ovation, culminating in a veritable furore when he reached his journey's end.

Through Penrith and Shap, where he was cheered by the miners, who had sent men from the quarries to watch for his approach, he made his way to Kendal, where, at a dinner given in his honour, he announced that he had written to cancel the wager he had made. He did this in token of the purity of his motives, and to prove that he was not actuated by mercenary considerations.

From Kendal he proceeded to Lancaster, which city he entered followed by an enormous crowd, a similar concourse escorting him to the outskirts on his departure.

Garstang, between Lancaster and Preston, at that time enjoyed the peculiar distinction of having a Mayor and capital burgesses without its having been constituted a borough. Here he was entertained at a sumptuous repast, and the streets were full of people, the church scholars, drawn up in line, cheering the flag and its bearer as they passed.

The streets of Preston were lined with spectators; at Chorley cheers were given for the Queen and President Grant; and at Bolton the flag-bearer was presented with a pair of clogs, and given a live turtle-dove to take back with him to the American President.

He was almost carried by an eager, applauding crowd along Bradshawgate on his way to Manchester, and the Bolton Evening News of the 14th of November, 1872, records that "there was more handshaking than we have ever seen bestowed on any person. Far from insult, every respect was shown to the flag of the great Republic, and," the newspaper facetiously adds, "if the bearer is rewarded all along his journey as he was at Farnworth, his pockets will be filled with the metal that makes the mare to go."

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