Today, the Indiana State Quarter Coin remembers the cornerstone ceremony for the Army and Navy Monument at Indianapolis and President Harrison’s speech 127 years ago.
From the Speeches of Benjamin Harrison compiled by Charles Hedges and published in 1892:
A memorable event in the history of Indiana was the laying of the cornerstone of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument at Indianapolis on August 22, 1889.
The Board of Commissioners for the erection of the monument — under whose supervision the attendant exercises were conducted — comprised: George J. Langsdale, of Greencastle, President; Geo. W. Johnston, of Indianapolis, Secretary; T. W. Bennett, of Richmond; S. B. Voyles, of Salem; and D. C. McCollum, of La Porte.
President Harrison and his party were honored guests on the occasion; he was accompanied by Secretary Jeremiah M. Rusk, Attorney-General W. H. H. Miller, Private Secretary E. W. Halford, Capt. William M. Meredith, Marshal Daniel M. Ransdell, and General Thomas J. Morgan.
The march to the monument was one of the most imposing demonstrations ever witnessed in Indiana.
Fifteen thousand veterans and others formed the great column, commanded by Chief Marshal Charles A. Zollinger, of Fort Wayne; Chief of Staff, Major Irvin Robbins; Adjutant- General, Major Wilbur F. Hitt, assisted by a brilliant staff of 60 prominent citizens.
In addition to these officers of the day was a mounted honorary staff, representing the thirteen Congressional districts.
More than 100,000 people witnessed the pageant.
The monument is a majestic square embellished shaft of Indiana limestone, some 250 feet high, surmounted by a heroic figure of Victory, the pedestal resting upon a great circular stone terrace.
The architects were Bruno Schmitz, of Berlin, and Frederick Baumann, of Chicago.
The ceremony of laying the corner-stone was conducted by the following officials of the Grand Army of the Republic: Commander of the Department of Indiana Charles M. Travis, of Crawfordsville; Senior Vice Department Commander P. D. Harris, of Shelbyville; Junior Vice-Commander B. B. Campbell, of Anderson; Assistant Adjutant-General I. N. Walker, of Indianapolis; Officers of the Day Wm. H. Armstrong, of Indianapolis, and Lieut.-Gov. Ira J. Chase, of Danville.
Gov. Alvin P. Hovey, as presiding officer, delivered an eloquent opening address, which was followed by the singing of the hymn ” Dedication,” written for the occasion by Charles M. Walker, of Indianapolis.
The speakers of the day were Gen. Mahlon D. Manson, of Crawfordsville, and Gen. John Coburn, of Indianapolis.
Their masterly orations were followed by the reading of a poem, “What Shall It Teach?” written by Capt. Lee O. Harris, of Greenfield.
When Governor Hovey introduced the Chief Executive of the Nation the vast audience swayed with enthusiasm.
In a voice low, and with a slight tremble in it, President Harrison began his fine tribute to the men who responded to the country’s call.
As he proceeded his voice rose higher until it rang out clear as a bugle and drew from the multitude repeated and vociferous cheers. He spoke as follows:
Mr. President and Fellow-citizens — I did not expect to make any address on this occasion.
It would have been pleasant, if I could have found leisure to make suitable preparation, to have accepted the invitation of the committee having these exercises in charge to deliver an oration.
I would have felt it an honor to associate my name with an occasion so great as this.
Public duties, however, prevented the acceptance of the invitation, and I could only promise to be present with you today.
It seemed to me most appropriate that I should take part with my fellow-citizens of Indiana in this great ceremony.
There have been few occasions in the history of our State so full of interest, so magnificent, so inspiring, as that which we now witness.
The suggestion that a monument should be built to commemorate the valor and heroism of those soldiers of Indiana who gave their lives for the flag attracted my interest from the beginning.
Five years ago last January, when the people assembled in the opera-house yonder to unveil the statue which had been worthily set up to our great war Governor, I ventured to express the hope that nearby it, as a twin expression of one great sentiment, there might be built a noble shaft, not to any man, not to bear on any of its majestic faces the name of a man, but a monument about which the sons of veterans, the mothers of our dead, the widows that are yet with us, might gather, and, pointing to the stately shaft, say: “There is his monument.”
The hope expressed that day is realized now. [Cheers.]
I congratulate the people of Indiana that our Legislature has generously met the expectations of our patriotic people.
I congratulate the commission having this great work in charge that they have secured a design which will not suffer under the criticism of the best artists of the world.
I congratulate you that a monument so costly as to show that we value that which it commemorates, so artistic as to express the sentiment which evoked it, is to stand in the capital of Indiana.
Does anyone say there is wastefulness here? [Cries of “No, no!”]
My countrymen, $200,000 has never passed, and never will pass, from the treasury of Indiana that will give a better return than the expenditure for the erection of this monument.
As I have witnessed these ceremonies and listened to these patriotic hymns I have read in the faces of the men who stand about me that lifting up of the soul, that kindling of patriotic fire, that has made me realize that on such occasions the Nation is laying deep and strong its future security.
This is a monument by Indiana to Indiana soldiers.
But I beg you to remember that they were only soldiers of Indiana until the enlistment oath was taken; that from that hour until they came back to the generous State that had sent them forth they were soldiers of the Union.
So that it seemed to me not inappropriate that I should bring to you today the sympathy and cheer of the loyal people of all the States.
No American citizen need avoid it or pass it with unsympathetic eyes, for, my countrymen, it does not commemorate a war of subjugation.
There is not in the United States today a man who, if he realizes what has occurred since the war and has opened his soul to the sight of that which is to come, who will not feel that it is good for all our people that victory crowned the cause which this monument commemorates.
I do seriously believe that if we can measure among the States the benefits resulting from the preservation of the Union, the rebellious States have the larger share.
It destroyed an institution that was their destruction.
It opened the way for a commercial life that, if they will only embrace it and face the light, means to them a development that shall rival the best attainments of the greatest of our States.
And now let me thank you for your pleasant greeting. I have felt lifted up by this occasion.
It seems to me that our spirits have been borne up to meet those of the dead and glorified, and that from this place we shall go to our homes more resolutely set in our purpose as citizens to conserve the peace and welfare of our neighborhoods, to hold up the dignity and honor of our free institutions, and to see that no harm shall come to our country, whether from internal dissensions or from the aggressions of a foreign foe. [Great cheering.]
A campfire was held at night at Tomlinson Hall, presided over by Charles M. Travis, Commander of Indiana G. A. R., where an audience of over 5,000 assembled.
The orators of the occasion were Hon. Samuel B. Voyles, of Salem; Judge Daniel Waugh, of Tipton; General Jasper Packard, of New Albany; Col. I. N. Walker and Albert J. Beveridge, Indianapolis; Hon. Benj. S. Parker, New Castle, and Hon. Wm. R. Myers, Anderson.
President Harrison’s appearance was greeted by a prolonged demonstration, the audience rising with one impulse.
Commander Travis said: “I told you I would treat you to a surprise. Here is your President. He needs no introduction.”
President Harrison’s reply was:
Mr. Chairman, Comrades — I think I will treat you to another surprise.
My Indiana friends have been so much accustomed to have me talk on all occasions that I am sure nothing would gratify them more — nothing would be a greater surprise than for me to decline to talk tonight.
I am very grateful for this expression of your interest and respect.
That comradeship and good feeling which your cordial salutation has expressed to me I beg every comrade of the Grand Army here tonight to believe I feel for him.
Now, I am sure, in view of the labors of yesterday and today, that you will allow me to wish you prosperous, happy, useful lives, honorable and peaceful deaths, and that those who survive you may point to this shaft, which is being reared yonder, as a worthy tribute of your services in defense of your country. [Cheers.]
The Indiana State Quarter Coin shows with an image of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, circa 1904.