February 4, 1885
Our greetings and welcome this evening are without alloy. During the past year no place at our Campfire has been made vacant. Our second annual banquet finds the Ohio Commandery of the Loyal Legion united, harmonious, and making rapid and gratifying progress. Since the last annual festival meetings have been regularly held every month in Cincinnati, except in June, when the hospitalities of our Cleveland brethren were showered upon us, without stint, in their beautiful city.
Besides the regular meetings, informal, social reunions have also been held at Akron, Cleveland, and Toledo, attended by the Companions of those cities with their wives and young people.
At our meetings war sketches have been read, which the Recorder has published and distributed. These papers have generally dealt with the experiences and scenes of the war from the stand-point of individual experience and observation. By these sketches very little may have been added to the sum total of that information about the war which falls within the scope of sober and dignified history, Still less, certainly, have these papers contributed to that controversial military literature of which important warlike events are apt to be so fruitful. We may confidently believe, however, that no considerable additions have been made to our Commandery to the materials, which must be familiar to the author, or the artist, who would furnish truthful and vivid pictures of the life of the soldier, and of army scenes on the march, or in the camp, during the siege, and in the battle.
In the last year the foundation has also been laid for a war library and museum, in which books, manuscripts, maps, engravings, photographs, relics, and curiosities relating to the great conflict will be gathered and preserved.
Our financial statement is not concerned with large sums of money, But we are out of debt, and our General Force, has prudently provided for our permanent fund, by investing our surplus in bonds of the United States. This fact, which speaks so much for our financial condition, would not, I suspect, be more impressive if I were to give the exact figures in the case.
Our Commandery consumes very little time in what is termed business, and none at all in mere formalities. The initiation of members is an affair of scarcely more ceremony than the presentations usual among gentlemen when strangers become acquainted with each other, and the initiation of officers is equally brief and simple.
The historical side of our organization, interesting as it is, must perhaps, yield the first place of attractiveness to the social gatherings around the dining-table, where conversation and off-hand speaking, narratives and anecdotes, songs and music--all remind us of those now golden days, when touching elbows with much-loved comrades, we kept step to the music of the Union, under the dear old flag, which to our minds and hearts was the glorious emblem of the best, the divinest cause for which men ever risked their lives in deadly warfare.
The doings of our Commandery in the year that has passed, thus briefly outlined, show the purpose and character of the Loyal Legion. It is social and historical, and has some features which give promise of unusual permanency. It is a society and a school of patriotism, based on associations and a sense of comradeship, which grew up in a military service, whose motives, objects and results are unmatched in merit and value in the secular annals of our race, The time has not yet come when the benefits and blessings conferred on our country, and on all mankind, in the victory of Union arms, can be weighed, counted, and adequately understood. With each revolving year the vista, already so wide, becomes still wider. The teachings of history, and passing events at home and abroad, daily spread before us, do not permit us to indulge the hope that the day is near when men will need to learn war no more. But we do see as the direct result of our great Civil War, that America is united and free, and has such prestige and power that, with virtue and wisdom guiding her conduct, that wide and bright continent may become the home of a contented and prosperous people, and indeed dedicated to perpetual peace. The war has made it at least possible for this New World to furnish to mankind an example which will be at once the type and perhaps the harbinger of that great final peace, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation.
Brought together as we are by associations and by fraternal sentiments, which had their origin in the terrible conflict which has conferred such tremendous advantages on our country, the felicitations we exchange with each other may well be deep and warm. I said, as I began to speak, that the ranks of our Commandery are unbroken. We cannot, however, forbear to recall the thousands of brave men who perished in the field. Time, it is true, has assuaged the sharpness of our grief at their fall. The tender pain with which we think of them is now mingled with a gratified sense of honorable pride. They were permitted to go before. To them has been given the reward and distinction so richly deserved. Their courage, patriotism, and heroic death have placed their names forever foremost on our country’s roll of honor. They are remembered of Companion Kemper’s lines:
“Vacant places at our Camp-fires mutely tell of comrades dead, Fallen in the line of duty, where the needs of battle led.”