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“God Bless You, My Boys”

September 14, 2016

William McKinley was the last President to have served in the Union Army.  Despite more than four years of dangerous duty, he was never wounded and never became ill.  At Antietam, even now the bloodiest day in American history, he risked sniper fire delivering needed rations to troops at the front.  Although nowadays he is overshadowed by his immediate successor, McKinley saw far more action during the Civil War than did the illustrious Theodore Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War.

A few nights after the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor, when the Secretary of the Navy was out of town, the Assistant Secretary came to discuss the situation with the President.  McKinley sat quietly and thoughtfully as Assistant Secretary Roosevelt went from sitting to standing to walking back and forth as he made the case for war with Spain.

A few weeks later Colonel Roosevelt and General Wood visited the President to say good-bye.  They were headed west to recruit the men who became known as the Rough Riders.  McKinley consulted with the Colonel and the General in his office and then personally escorted them to the front door.  Realizing the terrors they would eventually face, he placed his hands on their shoulders, and holding back tears, strongly declaimed: “God bless you, my boys.”

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