Their eyes had seen the glory and today their ears head the plaudits of admiring throngs of a generation that is acquainted with their great adventure in Americanism only through history's textbooks.
There were 5 of them in Cleveland today, the only 5 of about a score of survivors of the Union forces of the Civil War who were able to take part in the parade of the 81st encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Once before, 46 years ago, they had marched down Euclid Ave. In that parade were some 30,000 to 50,000 comrades.
The five in open automobiles today and the places of the comrades of 46 years ago were taken by the younger comrades of WWI and II with a sprinkling of the United State War Veterans-the men who carried on in 1898.
It was blistering hot a Euclid Ave. At E. 9th St., but cool ripples ran along the spines of the massed onlookers as the Marines, representing "company front," stepped out precisely to the inspiring anthem, Battle Hymn of the Republic.
From crowded office windows came a shower of ticker tape and office stationary torn into confetti. Overhead, 9 Army planes roared in salute to the remnants of a great and victorious army that know overheard cover.
And in that connection, it should be noted that one member of the veterans' quintet rode the length of the parade without his hat. He was John R. Bennett, 103, of Waynesboro, Ohio, and he waved his hand in acknowledgment of the unbroken stream of applause from the crowd.
It was a spirited procession with plenty of waving banners and stirring marital music.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Cleveland motorcycle police and the department's Mounted Troops A headed the line of march with 81 men of the United State Marine Corps Band following close behind.
Members of the Sons of Union Veterans wee the official aides to the quintet of GAR survivors, the first of whom to appear in the parade was Commander-in-Chief John H. Grate of Atwater, Ohio.
Then came the other, comrades, honorary members and national officers.
Marching groups included the US Army, Navy Reserves, SSMC, Coast Guard, SwF, VFW, DAVE, AL, Polish Legion of American Veterans, JWV, ANU, MOPH, Catholic War Veterans and AMVETS.
I stood at from window of my office yesterday morning and watched what will probably be the last parade of the GAR. As jet planes roared overhead memory brought back vividly the parade of the then powerful GAR 46 years ago in Cleveland. I was one of the reporters who covered that parade, as well as the encampment, for the Plain Dealer.
It was the important gather of many years in the this city and the newspaper turned their editorial staff over to the job. There were fewer man to do the news gathering in that era and all the editorial workers were on duty from early morning till late at night.
I worked more than 18 hours that day and must have walked 10 miles while that parade was one. I had been detailed to write a feature story of human interest and the city editor did not provide me with any conveyance except my lets.
The parade of 1901 was made appealing to the onlooker because the President of the United States, William McKinley, an Ohio man a member of the GAR, was to have received it from the stand in Public Square. Instead, he was dying in buffalo from an assassin's bullet, shot down while his former buddies were holding their encampment. The tragedy affected the thousands of old soldiers who marched silently for hours down Euclid Ave.
For miles that thoroughfare and several others traversed by the marchers were packed with onlookers and Public Quare was a dense throng. Not only all of the Cleveland turned out, but thousand came from neighboring counties. Every office and store window along the line was filled with faces and numerous stand, erected at vantage points, had the seats taken for a price. It was sight no one wanted to miss for it was never gain to be seen in Cleveland.
The parade started around 10 in the morning and was nearing its end about 4 PM. In that line of march were many thousands of foot, squads of cavalry and batteries with men riding gun carriages which were drawn by sturdy horses bounced over the hard pavements. Only a few of he old fighters, crippled or fatigued, rod in the horse-drawn carriages that also bore the distinguished visitors and some of the city officials. There was no USMC sent on by an appreciative government to lead the parade.
Through more than 35 years had passed since these men faced death on southern battlefield they still walked erect, many carrying the fifes they used in the war some with drawn swords, held upright, others bearing the rifles they used in the war, some with drawn swords, held upright, others bearing along the flags they fought under. There were also many women in the parade, for the Woman's Relief Corps was a large and vital auxiliary of the GAR. There were also many of the Sons of Veterans, an organization then in its prime.
It was marching parade, a long parade and one far different from the witnessed yesterday over a short section of the line of march in 1901.
There was no auto with loud speakers that rode far ahead of the parade and informed the crowd what was doing all the time. There were no motorcycle police leading the line, just ahead of a small group of mounted police. In that first parade horse-mounted police rode ahead and along the line of several miles.
There were no sleek and gleaming motorcars in which the veterans could ride who yesterday, only a handful, sat, proudly bearing their advanced years, in front of the reviewing stand as the populace greeted them with cheers and handshakes.
These survivors of the soldiers body once so invincible in peace as well as war surely realized the great changes they have seem in their century of life, changes reflected in the parades of the years.
To me, yesterday's parade brought a note of sadness, for it told me that an organization which grew to great strength in peace after a war to preserve a Nation was nearing its end. The last parade was on. It marked the passing of an era in history.
Plain Dealer by Wallace R. Katz, Cleveland, Ohio
Plain Dealer by W.G. Corps, Cleveland, Ohio
Jerome Orton, PDC
Department of New York
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War