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The New York Times, February 12, 1901


Celebration at Carnegie Hall in Aid of Memorial University.
Humorist Moves His Audience to Laughter, Then to Seriousness - Co. Watterson's Eulogy of the Great War President.

Two self-confessed Confederates - Samuel L. Clemens and Henry Watterson paid a high tribute to Abraham Lincoln last evening. Incidentally the humorist told how both of them saved the Union when Col. Watterson failed to follow the advice of Second Lieut. Twain and drive Gen. Grant across the country into the Pacific Ocean.

It was the celebration of the ninety-second anniversary of the birthday of Lincoln, and was for the benefit of the Lincoln Memorial University at Cumberland Gap, Tenn. The boxes were crowded. High in the family circle were grouped over 500 singers, under the command of Frank Damrosch, and they sang the great war songs so that the audience at each burst of a new melody rose and faced the singers.

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.


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 stayed 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 eastern armies and wait until I came up. [Laughter.] But he stood upon the punctilio of military etiquette and refused to take orders from a Second Lieutenant of the Confederate army, and so the Union was saved. Now, this is the first time that this secret has ever been revealed. No one outside of the family has known these facts, but they're the truth of how Watterson saved the Union, and to think that up to this very hour that man gets no pension! That's the way we treat people who save Unions for us. There ought to be some blush on the cheek of those present this evening, but, to tell the truth, we are out of practice. [Laughter and applause.]

Mark Twain then began to talk in a serious vein. His tone and manner changed. The audience soon stopped laughing and took the speaker seriously. He said:

"The hearts of this whole nation, North and South, were in the war. We of the South were not ashamed of the part we took. We believed in those days we were fighting for the right - and it was a noble fight, for we were fighting for our sweethearts, our homes, and our lives. Today we no longer regret the result, today we are glad that it came out as it did, but we of the South are not ashamed that we made an endeavor. And you, too, are proud of the record we made.

"We are here to honor the noblest and the best man after Washington that this land, or any other land, has yet produced. When the great conflict began the soldiers from the North and South swung into line to the tune of that same old melody, 'We are coming. Father Abraham, three hundred thousand strong.' The choicest of the young and brave went forth to fight and shed their blood under the flag and for what they thought was right. They endured hardships equivalent to circumnavigating the globe four or five times in the olden days. They suffered untold hardships and fought battles night and day.

"The old wounds are healed, and you of the North and we of the South are brothers yet. We consider it to be an honor to be of the soldiers who fought for the Lost Cause, and now we consider it a high privilege to be here tonight and assist in laying our humble homage at the feet of Abraham Lincoln. And we do not forget that you of the North and we of the South, one-time enemies, can now unite in singing that great hymn, 'America.' "

[The article continues with the text of Col. Henry Watterson's speech.]

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