May 19, 1870

Dayton, Ohio


I never attempt to speak, even for a few minutes, on the topics suggested by an occasion like this without realizing the truth of a remark made by the Chief Justice where speaking of the appalling calamity of Richmond a few weeks ago. He said “human courage is poorly fitted to express the emotions.”


We all feel that the brave men who were broken and shattered in health, and body, and limb, in serving their country ought to be gratefully and affectionately cared for. We all rejoice sincerely and heartily at such evidences as we have seen today that the sacred pledges made by Mr. Lincoln to the soldiers who bore the battle on behalf of the patriotic people of the nation are to be faithfully fulfilled. And yet we all know how inadequate mere words and mere speech are to express our feelings in the presence of these sear covered veterans, these heroic sufferers in their country’s service.


Music and painting, processions and waving banners, flowers and the sympathizing forces of youth and beauty far more fitly express the emotions which properly belong to such a scene. What courage can truly tell the admiration and gratitude due to noble deeds and patriotic sacrifices? Even silence here seems more expressive than speech.


An incident is related in the poems of a gallant naval officer, Lieut. Brownell (?), which many of you have probably heard, but which is worthy of repetition as an illustration of the sentiment which animated our volunteer soldiers. At one of the many assaults on Vicksburg which preceded its fall the starving party was driven back with great slaughter. The color bearer of one of the Regiments, William Trogden (?) of Co. B 8th Missouri, refused to retrace a single step. Within twenty yards of the enemy’s look; he dug a hole in the ground with his bayonet, planted his flag staff in it, and sat down by the side of his banner. Strange to say he remained there the rest of the day and at night returned safely to our own lives.


While he was sitting there the poet thus reads for us his thoughts.