The tribute paid to the memory of Lincoln was more than eulogistic. Gathered on the stage were veterans—some wearers of the blue and other wearers of the gray of the civil war. Gen. Nelson A. Miles and Gen. Joseph Wheeler sat in the same row.
The first part of the programme was devoted to music. The grand march from Meyerbeer’s “Le Prophete” was played by the Fifth United States Artillery Regiment Band. The next was the old Netherland “Hymn of Thanks,” rendered by the People’s Choral Union, conducted by Frank Damrosch. The Rev. Dwight Newell Hillis, pastor of Plymouth Church, delivered the prayer. One of the favorite hymns of Abraham Lincoln was then sung, the first line of which is “Father, whate’er of earthly bliss.” Then Mark Twain, who acted as Chairman, said:
“We will now listen to what I conceive to be the most beautiful and the most sublime battle hymn the world has ever known, ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.’ “
Following this came the “Hallelujah Chorus” from “The Messiah.”
Mark Twain then walked, with mincing steps and bent head, to the left wing of the stage, and brought forward Miss Tracey, a soprano, who smiled at the humorist and smiled at her audience. She sang several songs.
Chairman Twain read the following letter from President McKinley, addressed to Gen. O.O. Howard, who is a member of the Board of Directors of the Memorial University:
Dear Gen. Howard: I had hoped to be able to accept the kind invitation extended to me to attend the Lincoln’s Birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall, New York City, on Monday evening next, the 11th inst., but find, very much to my regret—that public duties will prevent my doing so. It would have afforded me much pleasure to be present on such an occasion and participate in honoring the memory of the great American who did so much to perpetuate the Union and insure the blessings of liberty to all his countrymen. Please extend my cordial greetings to those present at the celebration, and accept best wishes for its complete success. Very sincerely yours, WILLIAM MCKINLEY.
MARK TWAIN GAY AND GRAVE
The speaking part of the programme was begun by Mark Twain making a speech introducing Henry Watterson as the orator of the evening. Mark Twain said:
“There remains of my duties as presiding officer on this occasion two things to do—only two—one easy, the other difficult. It is easy to introduce to you the orator of the evening, and then to keep still and give him a chance is the difficult task. [Laughter.]
“To tell an American audience who Henry Watterson is is not at all necessary. Just to mention his name is enough. A name like his mentioned to an audience would be like one of those blazing sentiments on the Madison Square tower. Just the mention of his name touches the chords of your memory tenderly and lovingly. Distinguished soldier, journalist, orator, statesman, lecturer, politician, rebel. What is better, he is a reconstructed rebel. [Laughter and applause.] Always honest, always noble, always loyal to his confessions, right or wrong, he is not afraid to speak them out. And, last of all, whether on the wrong side or on the right side, he has stood firm and brave, because his heart has always been true. [Applause.]
“It is a curious circumstance, a peculiar circumstance—and it is odd that it should come about—that in the millions of inhabitants of this great city two Confederates, one-time rebels, should be chosen for the honorable privilege of coming here and bowing our heads in reverence and love to that honorable soul whom, forty years ago, we tried with all our hearts and all our strength to defeat and suppress—Abraham Lincoln. But are not the blue and the gray one today? By these signs we may answer here, ‘Yes.’ There was a rebellion, and we understand it is now closed. [Laughter and applause.]
“I was born in a slave state. My father was a slave-owner before the Civil War, and I was a second lieutenant in the confederate service—for a while. [Laughter.]
“Oh, I could have staid longer. There was plenty of time. The trouble was with the weather. I never saw such weather. I was there, and I have no apologies to offer. But I will say that if this second cousin of mine, Henry Watterson, the orator of the evening, who was born and reared in a slave state and was a Colonel in the Confederate service, had rendered me such assistance as he could and had taken my advice the Union armies would never have been victorious. I laid out the whole plan with remarkable foresight, and if Colonel Watterson had carried out my orders I should have succeeded in my vast enterprise. [Laughter.]
“It was my intention to drive General Grant into the Pacific Ocean. If I could have had the proper assistance from Colonel Watterson it would have been accomplished. I told Watterson to surround the
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.