A Century of Independence

American Legionnaires, representing every State in the Union, pilgrimage to Greece to honor Centenary of Independence

On the 15th of August of the Centennial year of Greek Independence 1930, I sailed for Phaleron as the guest of honor and “Honorary Chairman of the Excursion of the American Legion." Our departure from New York was a memorable one and an auspicious opening for the great adventure. I brought with me a letter from Governor Case of Rhode Island to President Venizelos together with the flag of my state.

I was met on my arrival in New York by Mr. George Kaptieu of Detroit and Mr. Harry Karakalis of New York.

My nephew, Captain Henry Marion Hall, was my companion on the voyage; he was the only grandson of my father, Samuel Gridley Howe, who was able to be present at the solemn and glorious celebration. We were most delightfully entertained at the Hotel Dixie [New York]. In the afternoon my friends, the two legionnaires, already mentioned, called for us and took us to the City Hall for the reception tendered to the Excursion by the City [of New York] and Mayor Walker. The scene was an impressive one. On the steps of the City Hall stood the Archbishop of the Greek church in America, in his picturesque robes. Before him were gathered the Legionnaires carrying the flags of the different states. The speech, with which Mayor Walker welcomed the Legion and wished us all godspeed, was a model of aptness and brevity. The Mayor presented our leader with a letter to the President of the Hellenic Republic.

We sailed at midnight on the Cosulich steamer Saturnia and during the perfect voyage it was my pleasure to make friends with many of the members of the Excursion, which included Dr. Callimachos and Mr. Demas the companion of Admiral Byrd on his Arctic and Antarctic voyages. Our arrival at Phaleron in the early morning was the second great event in the program. We were greeted by representatives of all the branches of the Government, of the American legion in Athens, of the Veterans Association of Greece, and by several ladies, who brought beautiful flowers to welcome us.

Our first greeting came from the air, where three military planes flew over and about us. At seven o'clock the committee came aboard to welcome us, the Mayor of Piraeus, representatives of church, state, army, navy and foreign affairs. My old hand was never so kissed before. There were several ladies bearing great sheaves of roses, gladioli and tuberoses – such splendid masses that I could not, myself, carry them.

As we landed from the special motor launch with the Captain of the Port of Piraeus a band played the Greek and American National anthems. The Mayor of Piraeus welcomed us with an eloquent speech and presented me with a superb bunch of dahlias. The square was crowded with people, who cheered and clapped as the Boys of the Legion and the rest of us entered the waiting motors and drove off to Athens. A charming young man, the representative of the Foreign Ministry, told my nephew and me, that we were the guests of the Greek Government, and that the fine motor, in which we had driven from Phaleron, was at our disposal during our entire stay.

I was much moved by this demonstration and the contrast to the landing, from the small sailing ship, of that young American boy, Samuel Howe, my father, more than one hundred years ago. All these honors we owe to him.

We found Athens splendidly decorated with Greek and American flags and welcoming signs for the Legion and their guests, ourselves, Demas and Callirnachos.

On the morning of August 30th we drove early to the Artillery Barracks on Kiphisia Street to take part in the ceremony of laying the foundation or corner stone for the new building of the American Legion in Athens. The Greek Government has given the land for the Legion’s future home, a very valuable plot of ground, perfectly suited to the promised building. A prettily decorated platform had been arranged with an altar, before which stood the Archbishop of Greece and two other priests in gorgeous vestments.

All the different branches of the Government were represented. The Minister of War, the Minister of Marine, the Vice President of the Chamber, the Mayor of Athens, and many other important dignitaries were there in person. The guard of honor was formed by the Evzones, the crack regiment of Greece, wearing the beautiful old uniform, the fustanella, embroidered jacket and fez, a sort of glorified example of the dress of the soldiers of the Greek Revolution, which my father wore for several years. The ceremonies began with religious exercises, the priests intoned the service and sprinkled the corner stone of glistening white Pentelic marble and the bystanders with holy water, distilled from rose leaves, using for the act of sprinkling, a bunch of fresh, green herbs, marjoram, basil and thyme. The stone was covered by the Greek and American flags. Some of the speeches were in Greek and some in English. The Minister of War spoke first and other Greek dignitaries, then our friend, Harry Mauricides, and after him, the companion of our voyage, Mr. John Sfakianos. In the absence of the American Minister, the Consul General Mr. Morris, made an excellent address. I was given, at the close of the beautiful ceremony, the bunch of herbs, with which we had been sprinkled. The day was so hot that the few drops that fell on my cheek were very welcome. I pressed the herbs carefully and placed them between the leaves of my journal. It is my hope to return to Athens for the dedication of the building, but they must not wait too long in raising the money and finishing the work, so well begun, or I cannot hope to be there to see it all.

The American Legion building will be used as an American centre in Athens, accessible to all Americans visiting Greece. Its large auditorium, which will have a seating capacity of about 4,000 will be available for conferences of a national and international character, for lectures and social gatherings. I understand that this building will be erected by contributions from Americans and Greek Americans.

Mr. Mauricides, who has been so active in the movement, is well fitted to carry out the details of the money raising for turning his great ideal into a living vital factor in the life of the new Greece, a country of ever growing importance in the world, and one very closely knit with our own land. Mr. Mauricides is the Adjutant of the Athens Post of the American Legion. He is a man of vision and of action, as all those who have knowledge of the history of the Monument to the American Philhellenes can testify.

As far as I have ever been able to learn Samuel Gridley Howe was the first American boy to cross the seas and volunteer to light for freedom in any European country. He was a pioneer in this as in many other things. During the World War, when I watched the troops of young soldiers and reservists drilling, marching, preparing for their share in the terrible world conflict, I always saw, with the eyes of the imagination, the picture of that handsome boy, my father, marching in the van of that great army of men, among whom were the sixty-five thousand American soldiers of Greek blood, who proved so important a factor in our victorious army.

On the 30th of August, I was present at the unveiling of the monument to the American Philhellenes of the War of Independence, erected in Athens, in one of the most conspicuous spots in the city, near the ancient Arch of Hadrian, at the junction of the Boulevard Amalia and the Boulevard Olga, between the monuments to Lord Byron and to Melas. The occasion was deeply moving. Poets and statesmen, generals and veterans of the Greek army, priests and men of the American Legion surrounded the monument, which bears the portrait of my father and the three other most famous American Philhellenes. Edward Everett, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.

The guard of honor was formed of the Evzones, picked men of fine appearance. At the given moment Harry Mauricides, the prime mover in the splendid movement, drew back the veil and displayed the monument, which but for his vision, enthusiasm and devotion would never have become an accomplished fact. Speeches were made by the Dean of the University, the President of the Greek Academy, Mr. Costi Palamas, the American charge d’affaires Mr. Carl A. Fisher, the Mayor of Athens, and Dr. D. Callimachos.

My nephew, Captain Henry Marion Hall, grandson of Samuel G. Howe and myself, his daughter, represented the descendants of all those American Philhellenes, whose names are written in gold upon the monument. It was one of the great moments of my life, and I am thankful that I have lived long enough to receive the great honors done me by the Greeks in Hellas and in America, which I only deserve as the representative of a man. who loved and worked for Greece all his long life.

On Sunday, August 31st, the third of the great functions was held at the Stadium. In the United States we build our stadiums of brick, mortar, or cement; in Athens they use the glittering white marble from Mt. Pentelicus. The scene that Sunday afternoon made an indelible impression on all who took part in it. The noble lines of the Stadium were broken against the perfect blue sky by a circle of tapering pine trees. The marble benches were filled with an enthusiastic throng of men and women. In the seat of honor, enriched by scarlet velvet cushions and draperies, sat the Minister of War, Themistocles Sophoulis; I was placed at his right hand.

On the drive to the Stadium I was much moved at seeing our boys, the Greek Americans or the American Greeks, marching in good form, my nephew, Henry Hall, in the front rank between two officers of the legion. At the end of the procession came the silken flags! They made a superb effect, as the boys marched through the streets of Athens.

On my arrival at the Stadium I was received like a royal personage, the dear Evzones presenting arms and the band playing the national airs. It all seemed like a glorious dream. The ceremonies began with several addresses, both in Greek and English. The art of oratory Is still at its height in Athens, and so expressive were the orators that, though I could only understand a few words here and there, I feel sure that I got the sense of what they were saying. But the real eloquence was in the rustling of the silken banners. Just below the Minister of War and his party our boys lined up, facing a row of the Evzones.

When all were in place, a man, with the voice of a clarion, called out the names of the states one by one. As those names of our great sovereign states rang out in the Stadium of Athens. I was moved to tears, and so were others. I can never think of that scene without emotion. Colorado, California, New York. Massachusetts, how noble they sounded! I never knew before how beautiful the names of our sister states are. As each name was called the Legionnaire who carried the flag of that state handed it to the Evzone standing opposite him, who took it and held it as if on parade. There were more speeches and then the Evzones marched away through the Stadium, the great flags fluttering above them. Rhode Island's flag. with the blue anchor of Hope on the white silken ground, was one of the handsomest.

While the flags were still close to us M. Sophoulis, the Minister of War, presented me with a beautiful gold medal, struck off for this occasion, and a handsome diploma, bearing my name engrossed under a spray of laurel. I have never in my life seen anything so beautiful in the way of pageantry as that dramatic presentation of the flags. I believe it to have been as original as it was thrilling. I have known of the exchange of flags between reconciled nations after a war, but have never heard of anything comparable to this moving occasion, when the American Greek soldiers, from every state in the Union, brought back to their mother country the banners of the commonwealths that now claim them as citizens. The flags were a gift from the several states to the President of the Hellenic Government, Venizelos, that great and renowned figure in the world of today, and they have now found their home in the presidential palace at Athens.

© Order of AHEPA

About Maude Howe Elliott

Maud Howe Elliott lived a very long life and certainly made the most of it.

She was born at the Perkins Institute for the Blind on November 9, 1854. Her father, Samuel Gridley Howe, a noted Philhellene, physician and social reformer, directed the institution. Her mother, Julia Ward Howe, wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic and later battled for the cause of women’s rights.

Maud Howe Elliott was a social and political activist. She was an American writer, most notable for her Pulitzer prize-winning collaboration with her sisters, Laura E. Richards and Florence Hall, on their mother's biography The Life of Julia Ward Howe (1916). Her other works included A Newport Aquarelle (1883); Phillida (1891); Mammon, later published as Honor: A Novel (1893); Roma Beata, Letters from the Eternal City (1903); The Eleventh Hour in the Life of Julia Ward Howe (1911); Three Generations (1923); Lord Byron's Helmet (1927); John Elliott, The Story of an Artist (1930); My Cousin, F. Marion Crawford (1934); and This Was My Newport (1944).

Maud Howe Elliott passed away March 19, 1948 in Newport, Rhode Island.

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