Remarks on Col. John A. Davis, June, 25, 1907 (excerpts)


At the close of the General's remarks the bugle sounded Retreat, Tattoo and Taps. And Mr. Jones said:

If my gray hairs should ever entitle me to an associate pastor, Jane Addams is already such an one by divine appointment. She is always welcome to this platform in her own right, but today she is here in her representative capacity. The bugle has just sounded Tattoo and Taps; this is the touching ritual of the army when gathered around a comrade's grave. The organizer of the "Addams Guard" was a neighbor of John Davis, co-worker with him in all the civic and martial strain of their pioneer life. Mr. Addams has long since joined his neighbor on the other side. Today he speaks to us through his daughter, Jane.

Miss Addams spoke as follows:

One of my childish recollections, almost all of them, are connected more or less with the name of Colonel Davis, and when Mr. Jones asked me to come here this morning in his name it was quite impossible for me to refuse.

I suppose all of the children who were born about the time of the Civil War have recollections quite unlike those of children who are living now. The first thing I distinctly remember was one day I found on our gate-posts, the two white gate-posts, two flags -- one black and one red. Upon my eager inquiry as to what had happened, my father told me quite simply that the greatest man in the world had died, meaning, of course, Abraham Lincoln. I had never before seen my father cry; I had assumed, as all little children do, that men never cry, that only babies cry. The sight of the flags and the impressive statement stand out to me as my baptism, as it were, outside of the interest within that yard guarded by the white gate-posts.

I remember hanging in the hallway a roster of names headed by the words "Addams Guards," and we used to go over them again and again when we were children and could pile up enough dictionaries to reach the names, picking out those who had died in the war and those who had returned; those whose children were known, and those whose brothers and sisters still lived in the county. And when drives were planned we would say, drive this way or that, so that we might pass the farm where such and such a one lived or where his mother was still living. If there were any flowers to be taken we would always go to the mother of those names whom we knew from the Addams Guard. [page 2]

I could go on with a dozen reminiscences that center about these early names and the Civil War.

I remember on the occasions when we were allowed to take the family album (you know how it was always given to the children after their hands were washed and they were properly seated on a footstool) we would always open the first page of the album to the picture of Colonel Davis. The ceremony seemed to us very solemn, and we would tell each other about that great man, who stood to us for the heroic type, the local hero, the man who at the head of his regiment had suffered wounds unto death.

I remember again the little picture on the wall, the picture of Colonel Davis; and when a guest would come who was interested in the roster in the hallway, he was always led by the eager children to this picture, that he might see the Colonel of that regiment.

These may seem very simple and feeble reminiscences, and yet at a time like this is seems impossible to do more than to stand up as a type of the children of that generation who cared so much for the things that were happening then -- things which they did not understand, although they did understand the heroic side. They understood, perhaps better than their elders, in that simplicity which is given to the understanding of a child, the underlying heroism which was there.

General Atkins, I am sure, will pardon me for speaking of it -- how his coming to the house in those days, and that of "Uncle" Dick Oglesby, were always days when we were stirred into the same feeling; we were touching the heroic of the world, touching the great, touching the people who were outside of the village life which surrounded us through all the other days.

If this room which is dedicated to the name of this brave man may suggest to little children, to the growing youth who is ever so eager to make the world a theater for heroic things and deeds, if it may stir in some of the older people who are beginning to doubt that the world is such a place and to consider it only the place for ordinary things; if this room and this name shall accomplish on a larger and a more enduring scale that which the simple photographs, the simple types produced in the memory of a little group of children so long ago. I want to congratulate this building for embodying in itself one more noble memory, for standing out as it does in its public name for men who were great because they were good, and who followed their convictions whither they led them.