A dying army marched up Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday. It was the Grand Army of the Republic-all that was left of it. It saluted once more the head of the Nation, smiled proudly in response to the plaudits of a quarter of million people, and proceeded westward-toward the region of sunset and shadows.
There were deathless songs on their lips and undying light in three eyes as the soldiers of the dying army marched into history with banners flying and the camp fires of the past blazing brightly about them. Those who saw the thin blue line knew that its was the last large gathering of the Grand Army of the Republic. For the dying army is vanishing rapidly.
They sang Maryland, My Maryland, Dixie, Yankee Doodle, My County 'Tis of Thee and Auld Lang Syne as they marched with mist in their eyes and husk in their throats. And to help them forget that its was the last great holiday of the army that was, the soldiers two-stepped to the tune of the rolling drums and flung flirtatious kisses at the girls of the younger generation in the grand stands.
There were 20,000 in the thin blue line, a paltry remnant of the 200,000 who marched in review before President Johnson a half century ago.
President Wilson, a son of the South, whose relatives fought in the Confederate ranks, had tears in his eyes as he reviewed the Union veterans. The President stood in the court of honor in the same spot where President Andrew Johnson stood 50 years ago and watched many of the same soldiers, members of a victorious come-coming army, march in grand review.
The nation, represented by its highest officials, and other nations, represented by their diplomatic agents, including the British, French, Italian and Argentine ambassadors, the Chinese minister, and the minister of Norway, paid hearty tribute to the boys in blue and the pathetic inspiration of their age.
The throngs along the route of the parade were of the proportions of inauguration crowds. Thousands of visitors had come to the city for this event of a lifetime. More than 25,000 persons came from Baltimore alone. Pennsylvania Avenue was roped off before 9 o'clock and the crowd was managed without the slightest difficulty by the immense force of policemen and Boy Scouts.
At 10 o'clock a canon in the Botanical Garden boomed. It was the signal announcing the beginning of the pageant. Along the line of march the word was passed-the word the made thousands crane their neck-They are coming!
And when they came, a glint of faded old blue against the sharp autumnal sunlight, a queer hush fell over the crowed in the gorgeously decorated stands.
Shortly after 10 o'clock President Wilson entered the stand in front of the White House, the crowds cheering his arrival. He was accompanied by Col. W.W. Harts, of the Engineer Corps, and Dr. Cary T. Grayson, USN, both in full-dress uniform. The President, who was dressed in conventional flock coat and silk hat, was greeted y William F. Gude, chairman of the citizen's committee.
Grouped on the stand about the President were members of the Cabinet, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Justices of the US Supreme Court, Government officials, Army and Navy officers and Washington society people. Upon his arrival President Wilson took a seat and chatted while waiting for the parade.
It was just 10:40 O'clock when the advance of the procession turned the corner from 15th St. into Pennsylvania. The crowds in the grand stand rose. President Wilson stood with them.
Fifty years and a few months ago 200,000 of the survivors of Gen. Grant's great army marched up Pennsylvania Ave. from the Capitol to the White House, where they passed in review before President Johnson. The men wore the tattered and dusty raiment of a score of battlefields, but they had been victorious and the fire of youth was there. They comprised the Nation's young manhood and the Nation's hope of the future. One-tenth of that army of vigorous young Americans, all of them old and gray, yesterday reenacted in a setting of peace the celebration of the end of the four years of struggle.
In the reviewing stand sat in this exclusive section an elderly woman with snow white ringlets and lace camp. She was Miss C. Hancock, of Atlantic City, New Jersey. From her hand fluttered a silken flag and on her breast was a badge which showed that during the Civil War she served as a nurse in the Second Field Hospital Corps. Just 50 years ago, she said, as the long line of veterans marched by, I sat where I am now, while President Johnson reviewed the same boys in blue.
The indomitable spirit of the old soldier was exemplified in the case of David W. McGlure of Baldwin, Pennsylvania, of Company K, 148th Pennsylvania Infantry. He could go not further when he had reached the East entrance to the White House grounds, less than a square from where the President stood. He had tried hard to make his strength hold out.
I will go by the President if I have to crawl, he informed the kindly persons who helped him to his seat.
In accordance with tradition, Illinois led the way, to be followed by the veterans of Pennsylvania, New York, and the other departments in regular order.
The Washington Herald, September 30, 1915.
Jerome Orton, PDC
Department of New York
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War