Amazing articles on just about every subject...

History Of Madame Tussaud's

( Originally Published 1920 )

Sergeant Bates's journey finishes in London amid a remarkable demonstration—His gift to Madame Tussaud's.

IN this chapter we conclude the story of the gallant sergeant's historic march with the American flag from Gretna Green to London.

At Bolton he was presented with a piece of silver-plate, and a pedestrian gave him a pocket-knife; but this gift was followed immediately afterwards by a letter in which the writer said that as the giving of a sharp instrument was regarded as a bad omen and portended to cut friendship, he asked Sergeant Bates to forward a penny stamp in the enclosed envelope in order that the knife might be sold and not given. The penny stamp was sent.

Five miles from Cottonopolis Bates was met by a man who had been a lieutenant in the 24th Massachusetts Volunteers during the Civil War, who took off his hat and said, "God bless our flag." Manchester was reached on the 14th of November, and here the flag had an immense reception, the crowd in Market Street being so dense that the open carriage which the sergeant was obliged to enter could scarcely make headway.

Lodged at the Royal Hotel, he was presented with a Union Jack, and was pestered by several enterprising showmen, one of whom offered him as much as £6o a night for five weeks if he would only consent to lend himself and the flag; but this he resolutely declined to do.

From Manchester to Macclesfield he met with a repetition of the same hearty ovations. The crowd kept slapping him on the shoulders, shaking hands, slipping money into his pockets, hurrahing, singing, and even dancing with joy before the glorious old flag.

At Macclesfield he was treated like a prince, royally entertained, and presented with a gold breast-pin by the Mayor. Through Congleton, Burslem, Stafford, Wolverhampton, and so on to Birmingham, the march was like that of a triumphant warrior, the crowds at Bates's heels, marshalled in military order, tramping along singing the national melodies of the two countries, "Rule Britannia" and "Yankee Doodle" being the favourite airs.

At West Bromwich, where the flag-bearer stood for a moment to salute the Union Jack, a man rushed out and crowned his flagstaff with laurel. He entered Birmingham escorted by a crowd of all classes, both sexes and all ages, and the proprietor of the "Hen and Chickens" Hotel placed the house, the wine-cellar, and even his cash-drawer at his guest's disposal.

The crowd from Birmingham followed him for some miles out of the town. There was a vast amount of hand-shaking, and several women insisted on embracing him, one old lady hugging him so unmercifully that she, he, and the flag were nearly sent sprawling in the mud.

One workman, bareheaded and without his coat, headed the procession in a perfect frenzy of excitement, and shook hand with Bates about every five minutes. It appeared that he had served on the Alabama, and seemed to think that he was atoning for past transgression and ridding himself of the stigma of having fought against the Union.

Warwick was visited, and the castle inspected. The sergeant was shown over Shakespeare's birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon by a Mrs. Hathaway and a lady aptly quoted to him the line :

Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace.

At Leamington he was presented with an address and a silver Maltese Cross. Southam and Banbury were passed through, and then he came to Oxford, where, it had been predicted, his mission would fail ignominiously.

But he was met by students from New College, who treated him with great gentlemanliness, one observing:

"Sergeant, you surely never expected that the people of England would fall upon one man, did you?"

"No," replied Bates drawing himself up. "I have come through England not only believing that my flag would not be insulted, but feeling sure that English-men would show it such respect everywhere that my countrymen would hail my coming as a step full of joyful hope for the future."

"Bravo!" exclaimed the undergraduate.

Invitations poured in upon the happy soldier. He supped in University College and breakfasted in Trinity.

At a levee in the reception-room at the "Roebuck" the toast was given, "May the stars never shine with less lustre, nor the bars ever grow shorter," which was received with musical honours:

It's a way they have in the Army,
It's a way they have in the Navy,
It's a way we have in the 'Varsity
To drive dull care away.

On through High Wycombe and Uxbridge passed the soldier with his flag, and the crowd was great as he set out for Shepherd's Bush, whence he was to proceed through London.

There were incidents humorous and pathetic.

At one place an aged woman tottered up to him from a wayside house and, leaning on her stick, said :

"Let me touch the flag and give my blessing to the bearer. My youngest boy fought for that flag and died for it in your country. He fell with that flag in his hand."

Her son, an Englishman, had given his life fighting for the Union.

At another place a grimy sweep, fresh from a job, embraced the American most affectionately.

Bates's quarters at Shepherd's Bush were at the "Telegraph," and during the Friday evening the hotel was in a state of siege. Sir John Bennett, an ex-Sheriff of the City of London, had offered to lend the soldier a carriage; but it was ultimately decided to use an open equipage drawn by a pair of greys, one of them mounted by a postilion.

The daily papers of the 2nd of December, 1872, give a full account of the proceedings. Seated in the carriage was Sergeant Bates, holding his beloved flag, while two other flags, the Union Jack and the Star-spangled Banner, trailed behind, the horses' trappings being decorated with international symbols.

Up Notting Hill, along Bayswater Road, and through Oxford Street passed the carriage, surrounded and followed by a huge and demonstrative crowd.

In Bond Street the horses were taken out, and the carriage was dragged by some twenty-five persons along St. James's Street, Pall Mall, by Charing Cross, and through the Strand and Fleet Street, up Ludgate Hill, and along Cheapside, to the Guildhall.

A dense mass of people had congregated in the Guild-hall yard, where a British sergeant was carrying the English standard. The scene beggared description. The Guildhall itself was full to overflowing, and having alighted, Bates had perforce to be lifted on shoulders and hoisted, flag and all, back into the carriage, from which place of vantage he made a speech before refurling his banner.

He was delighted with his reception in the heart of the great Metropolis, and never forgot the sea of faces, the endless crowds, the fluttering flags, the waving handkerchiefs, the cheers, and the kindly greeting of that memorable day. His hand seemed to have been wrung into pulp, and he was struck with the phrasing of the oft-repeated salutation, "Give us your hand, old pal."

Cabmen had little American flags mounted on their vehicles or pinned to their horses' heads, ladies had the Stars and Stripes for carriage-aprons, and children waved toy flags.

Sergeant Bates was somewhat annoyed by relic hunters, who, could they have had their way, would soon have whittled his flagstaff into imperceptible pieces and riven the banner into a thousand shreds.

He gave a piece of flag and his boots to Madame Tussaud's Exhibition as a small offering to those of the British public "who," as he quaintly remarked, "worship such things, and who find at Madame Tussaud's perhaps the best field for the satisfaction of their curiosity."

Writing from the Langham Hotel, where he was staying, he observed that Madame Tussaud's had previously voted him a niche among the immortal heroes who adorned their Exhibition, a mark of honour for which he was told he ought to feel no small pride.

And what had Sergeant Bates accomplished? He claimed to have succeeded in bringing the two great nations' hearts near to each other, till they seemed to beat in unison, and the pulsation of the one was for a while that of the other.

"God grant," he said, "that work so begun may not willingly be laid down."

Although he was called at one and the same time "a hare-brained visionary," "a patriot," "a fool," "a man of courage," and "a remarkably shrewd, thoughtful individual," there can be no doubt that he did at least something to promote international amity, and to cement the feeling of warm friendship which was found to exist in this country towards her daughter America.

The continuation of that tie has been, and is still being, abundantly manifested ever since the United States joined the Allies in their recent determined fight for freedom; and there are thousands who echo Sergeant Bates's words :

"May the flags of both countries ever wave in freedom and peace till that `far truer time' when there shall be but one flag, because but one people on the face of the earth !"

Home | More Articles | Email: