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Invitation to Procession for Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, 1879


We do not yet know whether the Masonic Fraternity was represented at this auspicious event, but as one of the prominent civic organizations in Chicago, Oriental Lodge No. 33 received an invitation to participate in the public procession prior to a private reception in November 1879 for former President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia, after they returned to the United States from their goodwill trip around the world. 

On September 20, 1879, they disembarked at San Francisco, touring the western part of the country before they returned to Galena, Illinois, where they had a home that was given to them by the citizens of their proud community. In November 1879, General Grant attended a reception in his honor in conjunction with a reunion of the Army of the Tennessee, which he had led to victory in several key battles. Among the 500 dignitaries which included many of Grant's former soldiers was master of ceremonies Mark Twain (aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens), who jumped on a table at 2:00 a.m. and gave a humorous and rousing speech that brought the dining hall to its feet, entitled: "The Babies -- As they comfort us in our sorrows, let us not forget them in our festivities." 

The irony of this is that Twain (a Mason) was a Confederate veteran who had been considered a deserter by Grant (not a Mason) and the Union Army, spending weeks early in the Civil War avoiding capture by Grant's men who were on patrol in his native Missouri. Twain memorialized this experience in a short story: "The Private History of a Campaign that Failed."

Philip Schwartz