Getting pretty hungry to see you. I had an idea that this was your shortest way home, but like as not my geography is crippled again--it usually is. Yrs ever MARK.
The "Reunion of the Great Commanders," mentioned in the foregoing, was a welcome to General Grant after his journey around the world. Grant's trip had been one continuous ovation--a triumphal march. In '79 most of his old commanders were still alive, and they had planned to assemble in Chicago to do him honor. A Presidential year was coming on, but if there was anything political in the project there were no surface indications. Mark Twain, once a Confederate soldier, had long since been completely "desouthernized"--at least to the point where he felt that the sight of old comrades paying tribute to the Union commander would stir his blood as perhaps it had not been stirred, even in that earlier time, when that same commander had chased him through the Missouri swamps. Grant, indeed, had long since become a hero to Mark Twain, though it is highly unlikely that Clemens favored the idea of a third term. Some days following the preceding letter an invitation came for him to be present at the Chicago reunion; but by this time he had decided not to go. The letter he wrote has been preserved.
To Gen. William E. Strong, in Chicago:
FARMINGTON AVENUE, HARTFORD. Oct. 28, 1879. GEN. WM. E. STRONG, CH'M, AND GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMITTEE:
I have been hoping during several weeks that it might be my good fortune to receive an invitation to be present on that great occasion in Chicago; but now that my desire is accomplished my business matters have so shaped themselves as to bar me from being so far from home in the first half of November. It is with supreme regret that I lost this chance, for I have not had a thorough stirring up for some years, and I judged that if I could be in the banqueting hall and see and hear the veterans of the Army of the Tennessee at the moment that their old commander entered the room, or rose in his place to speak, my system would get the kind of upheaval it needs. General Grant's progress across the continent is of the marvelous nature of the returning Napoleon's progress from Grenoble to Paris; and as the crowning spectacle in the one case was the meeting with the Old Guard, so, likewise, the crowning spectacle in the other will be our great captain's meeting with his Old Guard--and that is the very climax which I wanted to witness.
Besides, I wanted to see the General again, any way, and renew the acquaintance. He would remember me, because I was the person who did not ask him for an office. However, I consume your time, and also wander from the point--which is, to thank you for the courtesy of your invitation, and yield up my seat at the table to some other guest who may possibly grace it better, but will certainly not appreciate its privileges more, than I should. With great respect, I am, Gentlemen, Very truly yours, S. L. CLEMENS.
Private:--I beg to apologize for my delay, gentlemen, but the card of invitation went to Elmira, N. Y. and hence has only just now reached me.
This letter was not sent. He reconsidered and sent an acceptance, agreeing to speak, as the committee had requested. Certainly there was something picturesque in the idea of the Missouri private who had been chased for a rainy fortnight through the swamps of Ralls County being selected now to join in welcome to his ancient enemy.
The great reunion was to be something more than a mere banquet. It would continue for several days, with processions, great assemblages, and much oratory.