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May 6, 2011

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Lewis Montgomery Hosea was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1842. He was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio where his father had established a successful grocery business, entering Antioch College in 1858. He was still a student in the Spring of 1861 when the American Civil War began. He left school to enlist as did so many Antiochians, joining the 6th Ohio Volunteer Regiment known as the “Guthrie Grays.” Hosea saw action in some of the most famous and terrible battles of the Western Theater, including Shiloh, Stone’s River, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga. He finished the war as a Major, attended law school at the University of Cincinnati, and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1868. He founded a law firm in Cincinnati, served as a Superior Court Judge 1903-1909, and was a member of the Ohio Senate in the 75th General Assembly. He was a Director of the long gone Ohio Mechanical Institute there and was a founder of the School of Technology, which became the School of Engineering at UC. If that isn’t enough, he was also a trustee of Antioch College (1913-1924), during which time the College adopted the UC Engineering program’s “Schneider Plan” of cooperative education. If Hosea was an influence on then president Arthur Morgan to go with Herman Schneider’s plan, no documentation proves it, but he would have served as the most direct connection between the two schools.

His brief remarks at the Antioch College Reunion Banquet in 1915, reprinted below, recall in somewhat dreamy fashion his time as a student, the Neff House Hotel then situated near the Yellow Spring, the coming of war, and two of his two fallen classmates: Henry Hall, who died from wounds suffered at the Battle of Resaca, GA during Sherman’s March to the Sea, and Marion Ross, executed for espionage as a member of the Andrews Raid/Chattanooga Railway Expedition/Great Locomotive Chase, for which he earned the Medal of Honor.


At the Alumni Banquet, June 8th, 1915, at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio.
(Printed by Request.)

The task assigned me by your Banquet Committee was limited in the performance to ten minutes, but I count this as generosity on their part. If I had been asked what I should talk about, I should have said “About one minute”;—for the thronging impressions of this time and place to me really lie too deep for utterance. Besides, our honored president in his kindly-intended reference to me has placed me under a handicap, in associating me with the Civil War—which gives away my age completely and thwarts all my efforts to appear among you as young as I really feel. It forces me to be reminiscent, also, as becomes my age; and therefore it may be, like the old patriarchs who sometimes insist in joining in to help out the choir, I may have the prayers of the congregation, not in thankfulness for what I have done, but to emphasize the hope that I won't do so any more.

Instead of a speech then, let me paint you a picture,—or rather let me retouch, as far as I may be able, a faded picture or two of years and years ago; and if there should lack something in spirit, bear with me, for there are only water-colors at hand; and remember, too, that the “best in this kind are but shadows if the imagination do not mend them.” Indeed. I feel that nothing I shall be able to say can do justice to this monumental occasion.*

First, then, let me project upon the screen a picture of a little boy, wandering by the side of his father hand in hand through the gloomy atmosphere of a deep glen, whose mysterious silence under the dense shade of great forest trees, were peopled with imaginary forms. Nature had done her best to make it a scene of beauty, but she had also shut out the light of the sun in great part, so that in after years, I had come to associate it in my mind with that gloomy outer limbo of Hades described by Dante; inhabited by the shades of Homer and Socrates and Plato, and others whose misfortune it was to be born a trifle too soon. The little animals,—even the denizens of the little brook that went purling on through these gloomy silences,—seemed the inhabitants of a supernatural world; and the little crawfish that seized upon the tender toes of the little boy, were great monsters.

The scene fades, and another takes its place. Back to the same spot there comes a youth to attend as a scholar a great institution of learning established near by,—the western branch of Harvard University, having Harvard professors and the same curriculum of studies. Meantime this locality had become a famous watering-place for summer visitors from Louisville and the South as far as New Orleans; and the scene that is before us now is that of a little hotel with rows of cottages stretching away under the trees—a very Elysium of beauty. Nature vied with the resources of art, dress and music to make it a scene of entrancing loveliness by night and day.

The scene merges into another nearby hotel, then glowing in all the vividness of color and form of a newly created thing. There is a group of young men from the nearby college,—one of whom stands most distinct in the picture; a very Apollo of youthful, manly beauty; tall, dark in feature and hair, with compelling hazel eyes, and with the graces of polite convention in his bearing and action; and the attraction of the moment is quite apparent—two beautiful young ladies and a complaisant and admiring uncle. The family are from New Orleans. One of these girls, dark as Erebus,—a brunette with deep blue eyes,—that rare and beautiful combination in womanhood;—the other, a sister, blonde, fair and rosy as a June morning,—both of them exquisite in dress as in bearing. I see the group upon the balcony of this hotel, looking down into this sylvan glen. There are walks in the moonlight; there are talks in all kinds of light,—the less the better.

But this vision fades and in its place comes another; but before it takes shape, I hear the rumblings of discordant sentiment echoing from the Halls of Congress, from the stump, from the blatant press. Great questions are impending; vital questions are looming up on the horizon. The whole people are becoming excited. Dear old "Doc" Wilson—subsequently for many years, I believe, the United States minister or consul at Bremen,—Doc Wilson and another drive over the miry, February roads to Xenia to see a newly elected president pass by to Washington, and hang with bated breath upon his words delivered from the car platform—almost a prayer to the Almighty that the bitter cup of War might pass his lips untouched! Threats of disunion rend the air. A state withdraws from the Union, followed by others; and finally, comes the “shot heard round the world.” Fort Moultrie in Charlestown Harbor [it’s garrison soon moved to the more defensible Fort Sumter] is hemmed in by the shore batteries, and that first gun is the declaration of war by those who would destroy the government of our fathers.

And now there comes upon our screen this grand old college building, dedicated to peace and to the higher ethics of human existence. Popular excitement has invaded even these precincts. There is a hubbub of talk and interchange of sentiment among the students. The ordinary decorum of college life is interrupted. Change of some sort seems imminent,—but what? We hear the notes of the drum and fife in the college grounds,—a recruiting detail from a nearby town calling for volunteers under the President’s proclamation asking for 75,000 soldiers. War is on! Like the touch upon the chemist’s glass, that note of war crystalized everything into the sentiment of patriotic readiness to stand for one’s country. The Nation’s appeal to its young men sweeps over the country like the breath of the Almighty, and all over the land the very schoolboys rally under “Old Glory” in defense of the government and the Constitution; and Antioch gives practically its all and closes its doors.

The scene fades. In its place comes the, panorama of war. Within three or four months from the call to arms, one, at least, of that group has experienced the baptism of fire as one of the army of soldiers moving through Kentucky into the heart of the South and to the great battle of Shiloh, where ten thousand are killed or wounded on each of the opposing sides. Teachers and students of old Antioch,—sometimes associated in the same regiment or scattered among different regiments,—occasionally meet, with the interchange of friendly remembrances. Then come the bloody conflicts with the smoke of battle ever rising; the reverberations of artillery and musketry never ceasing,—through four years of deadly struggle. But that is familiar history to you.

The young collegian, so admiring and admired by the beautiful southern girls, fills a soldier’s grave. He was the Apollo of our youthful group, Henry W. Hall. Another met his fate at the hands of the Southern troops upon the gallows at Atlanta,—none the less dying a soldier’s death, the more to be commended because of the atrocity of the execution, for he was but doing a soldier’s duty,—Marion Ross;—and so of others, whose names you find inscribed on the marble tablet in the college ante-room, who met their fate, as gallant soldiers of the Union.

To me it was reserved to pass practically unscathed through all those troublous times, and to bring home a capture of war. Let me say, however, in that connection that I speak with bated breath,—for I must admit that the question has not yet passed from the area of debate which was the capture of war; but then, you know, you can never argue with a woman.

Now, let me close (for I hope I am still within the ten minutes), by expressing, so far as I may, with a full heart, the pleasure so tempered with sad reflections, of meeting you as the alumni of this dear old college, and finding the old spirit of loyalty in such full vigor today.

I have been honored by a seat with the trustees of this institution. It shall be my pleasure always to labor for its good. The conditions demand the active support of everyone of you, but from the spirit which I have seen here and elsewhere displayed, I feel sure that its present financial troubles are near their ending, and that the future is brighter perhaps, in its promises, than they have been for many past years.

*The banquet was headed by a picture of a monument covering the remains of Horace Mann, first President of Antioch College.