A Busy Day for McKinley
When Wisconsin had swung past the
reviewing stand at Buffalo her file of governors, three exes—Hoard,
Peck and Upham—and Maj. Scofield, together with the two files of
past department commanders, they were directed to drop out and take
seats on the grand stand. My position was a few feet to the left
of President McKinley. With others I found much pleasure in noting
the effect the marchers, their salutes, greetings and cheers, as
well as their general conduct, had upon the modest soldier occupying
the highest official station the world can give a man.
Here comes a post moving like regulars.
Every man is looking to the front. Not a smile of recognition is
given in any direction. The commander brings his sword to a salute
any [sic] says: “Uncover!” Every hat is lifted by a left
hand and placed upon a right shoulder, and the colors gracefully
dip. So the rich city post passes the President. What does he do?
He lifts his beaver, bows dignifiedly, looks pleasant, does not
smile and makes no comment. The picture is an impressive one; the
lesson one to remember. The post from the large city was ambitious
to convince the commander-in-chief of the army and navy that its
members had not forgotten to be military in the strictest sense.
Now for another picture.
Here comes a village post, the most
of whose members are farmers. A few fifes and drums, rather unskillfully
operated, make its music. When within four or five rods of the President
the farmer commander called out in a most unmilitary way: “There
he is, boys, there’s McKinley; get 
ready to cheer when we pass him.” Every dim old eye is fixed upon
McKinley, the men march out of step and in zigzag lines, but they
are all getting a good square look at the man they most want to
see. When they reach the right point off come their hats and caps
of all colors and conditions, but they go in the air instead of
resting on right shoulders, a lusty cheer going higher than the
hats and then these old men bow and bow until several yards beyond
the President. What does he do? He faces to the left the minute
the post appears—faces with a beaming countenance. When he hears
the old commander tell the “boys” “there’s McKinley” he laughs aloud
and gradually settles to a smile that is as warm as a grate fire.
His bowing head and swinging arms are not made to order; they are
of natural growth; he can’t help it. Hearts are trumps with both
President and post, and thousands discovering the fact rise to their
feet and cheer. When the President’s eyes lift from the irregular
files of happy old men passing from view and he again faces to the
front the plain track of a rain drop shows on his cheek. But the
sky is cloudless. It is not the track of a raindrop. The march of
the old men of the village post, the warmth of their expressions
and their look of love and approval had done more than touch his
heart; they had tapped the fountain of his tears.
And what a picture it was. Who saw
it to forget it? And the lesson—who of the multitude present will
On two more occasions that day—yes,
three of them—I saw tear signs on Maj. McKinley’s face.
Most of the states have prohibited
the use of the old battleflags in parades, and I guess wisely, for
only a little breeze is needed to strip precious bits from them,
even when furled. Pennsylvania and New York permitted the use of
a few of the old flags. As far as possible they were in charge 
of the heroes who had carried the colors when the sight of them
helped men to bare their breasts to showers of lead and iron—in
the mighty crash of battle—when their beautiful folds waved and
sighed over winrows of slain and sleeping patriots. There is nothing
like these old flags from the battlefields to make veterans give
a backward glance—to stir them to their deepest depths. I find,
too, that the general public is affected by these furled and tattered
witnesses of the great struggle in very much the same manner as
Here comes a Pennsylvania band, one
of many glistening silver pieces in the hands of artists. A few
rods away they begin to play the “Star Spangled Banner,” and how
they did play it! Did it every [sic] sound more sweetly?
Did it ever set hearts to beating more quickly? After the band came
a score or more of men, some with an arm gone, some on a patent
leg, some otherwise scarred, all gray, very gray, and much bent,
each bearing a faded, riddled and furled flag from reddened fields
of war. The band before the flags were seen was cheered, but as
soon as the color-bearers swung into view there was silence that
was indeed golden. Slowly they approached the presidential party.
The President arose, removed his hat and signaled those close to
him to be standing. It was taken as a signal for all to stand up,
and up they stood, the men uncovering, and all, men, women and children,
imitated the President by bowing their heads while the old flags
were passing. When they had gone by and the people were seated there
was a shower of tears, and some of them fell on Maj. McKinley’s
cheeks. Was it an evidence of weakness? No! It was evidence of strength—strength
of the love he and the people have for the flag and that which it
A rule had been adopted that the
President should not shake hands with men in the procession. It
was a wise rule.  But for that
the way would have been blocked most of the time by men who wanted
to clasp hands with their distinguished comrade. In all of these
six hours of a most interesting pageant the rule was broken only
once. In a little post from a back county there was an old man who
swung his hat and cheered with all the strength he possessed, apparently.
He fairly danced for joy when he passed the President, who smiled
and bowed in return, seemingly as greatly pleased as the veteran.
The old fellow dodged out of the ranks and rushed up to the reviewing
stand, plainly showing his desire to shake hands. Those near the
President waved for the veteran to go on. Instead of going on he
extended a handless wrist, a wrist made handless at Chickamaugua
[sic]. The President, with a look of sorrow such as I have
seen on a mother’s face at an open grave, took the bruised, withered
wrist in his hand and gave it a warm handshake, and as he looked
at the old man hurrying to join his comrades tears bathed his eyes.
There comes a New York post. The colors
are borne by a maimed soldier, old and feeble. Each trembling arm,
one without a hand, is upheld by a daughter. Following the color-bearer,
and his handsome daughters is a file of eight one-armed men. It
was not a sight to laugh at. Tears came to many eyes, as the party
of mangled old patriots marched by, and the President’s were of
Four times for tears are not too many
for such a day of memories as a national encampment parade has become.
One old mother in Israel, who lost two sons and her husband in the
war, bathed her wrinkled cheeks in tears most of the time during
the long six hours she sat and watched the procession, and when
sympathized with, said: “Never mind me; they are only tears of gratitude.
I’m glad I had so many dears [sic] ones to help those brave
men uphold that flag and save our country.”