I had a curious incident happen over the past week, one that ended with some good news. Late last week I was compiling my paperwork for my annual self evaluation and noted a “work in progress” that had been laying there dormant for some time. I emailed the editor to inquire if there was any news, and his response was “Oh, I never told you? We published that last year.” When I answered in the negative he told me to email the address and that he’d drop a few copies in the mail. The other day when I opened the box, there they were. The piece is about The Military Service Institution of the United States, a museum and professional organization founded by Winfield Scott Hancock on Governors Island in 1878. Leonard Wood ran the Military Service Institution when he himself commanded on the island just before and during the Great War.
The Journal of America’s Military Past was the ideal vehicle for an article about the Military Service Institution and it meant a lot to me to write the piece. Hancock, Wood, Mark Twain, William Tecumseh Sherman, Dan Sickles, Frederick Dent Grant. These are just a few people who regularly attended events there. Twain of course had published Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs in 1886 and in these decades he was a regular on the Civil War reunion circuit. He was a renowned raconteur and ideal after dinner speaker. He once read early chapters of the yet-to-be-published A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to a gathering of officers in the MSI library. The MSI was such an important part of American Army life for decades and has been virtually forgotten since it closed for good in the early 1920s after the First World War. Most the materials held within, including Phil Sheridan’s horse Winchester, went to the Smithsonian in Washington.