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and young manhood. McKinley was a real boy, full of fun, loving athletic sports, fond of horses, hunting and fishing, and all outdoor exercises, and yet at sixteen we find him taking upon himself a serious view of life.
In times of war, young men are filled with a spirit of patriotism, and will leave father, mother, home-yes, all, and follow the "fife and drum," inspired with love of freedom for our beloved country. Such an one was William McKinley.
The little town of Poland was not to be outstripped in sending men and boys to help the cause of "freedom.”
In the old inn a generation ago, could be heard the mutterings and murmurings of the mustering hosts. Here young men and boys stood ready and eager to “shoulder arms” and march forth as quickly as the Government would take them. Poland prides herself to this day that she never stood the draft. As the murmurings of war were floating over the country, this little village was not asleep. One day, as they were gathered in the old tavern, the speaker pointed to the stars and stripes, and exclaimed with much feeling: “Our country's flag has been shot at. It has been trailed in the dust by those who should defend it, dishonored by those who should have cherished and
loved it. And for what? That this free government may keep a race in the bondage of slavery. Who will be the first to defend it?" The hush which fell upon them was overpowering. Did it last long? Behold them now as they step forth one by one, among them a sliglit boyish figure, with gray eyes filled with the fire of patriotism. Who was this youth? William McKinley, scarcely eighteen years old.
Let us now see the religious side of his life. The church records show that in 1858, when he was hardly sixteen, young McKinley united with the Methodist Episcopal church of Poland. He had a deep religious nature and was ever alive to the questions asked in the
Bible class. The pastor, Rev. W. Day, D. D., was a man of great influence and subsequently became eminent in his profession.
Young McKinley's record in the church was that of an earnest, persevering Christian, who discharged all duties faithfully. He studied the Bible with as much zeal and energy as he did law, and later on the great questions of state, leaving no stone unturned so as to reach the bottom of the subject. Thus, in his youth, this American statesman, the beloved and martyred President, must have worked very hard. A close student, he was always up to the standard in the academy. The midnight oil was burned by him in a course of law reading.
Thus, as leader of the village debating sociiety, assisting the postmaster, teaching school, doing odd jobs, a constant attendant at church, asking and answering questions in the Bible class; all summed up, these were indeed busy days for William. His constitution was good, his disposition cheerful, and with a hopeful heart, he was enabled to go through all this.
When the guns of Sumter sounded the call to arms, he dropped his books, shouldered a musket and marched off into Virginia with the Twenty-third Ohio. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes was the commander. A few incidents tell better the kind of soldier he was than would an extended account of his service. When the battle of Antietam oc
curred he was a sergeant in the commissary department. That battle began at daylight. Before daylight men were in the ranks and preparing for it. Without breakfast, without coffee, they went into the fight, and it continued until after the sun had set. Early in the afternoon, naturally enough, with the exertion required of the men, they were famished and thirsty, and to some extent broken in spirit. The commissary department of that brigade was under Sergeant McKinley's administration and personal supervision. From his hands every man in the regiment was served at the front with hot coffee and warm meals, a thing that had never occurred under similar circumstances in any other army in the world. He passed under fire and delivered, with his own hands, these things so essential for the men for whom he was laboring.
Governor R. B. Hayes, in writing reminiscences of Major McKinley, said of this incident:
"Coming to Ohio and recovering from wounds, I called upon Governor Tod and told him this incident. With the emphasis that distinguished that great war governor, he said: 'Let McKinley be promoted from sergeant to lieutenant,' and that I might not forget, ine requested me to put it upon the roster of the regiment, which I did,
and McKinley was promoted. As was the case, perhaps, with very many soldiers, I did not keep a diary regularly from day to day, but I kept notes of what was transpiring. When I knew that I was to come here, it occurred to me to open the old note-book of that period and see what it contained, and I found this entry:
“ 'Saturday, 13th December, 1862.–Our new Second Lieutenani, McKinley, returned today—an exceedingly bright, intelligent and gentlemanly young officer. He promises to be one of the best.”
"He has kept the promise in every sense of the word.” Another incident, and one which closed his active career as a soldier, occurred at the battle of Cedar Creek. It showed that, young though he was, no personal consideration deterred him from doing his duty. His commander had but to give him orders, and with all the dash of a veteran warrior, he rode through a hail of shot and shell to deliver them. General Russell Hastings, then a iieutenant in McKisiley's regiment, and his warm friend, afterwards told the story of that gallant deed. It appears that General Crook's corps, some 6,000 strong,
found itself opposed to the whole of General Early's army. Some sharp fighting ensued. General R. B. Hayes, who was in command of his brigade, seeing that he could accomplish nothing without reinforcements, fell back towards Winchester. General Hastings said of the event:
"Just at that moment it was discovered that one of the regiments was still in an orchard where it had been posted at the beginning of the battle. General Hayes, turning to Lieutenant McKinley, directed