The Remembrance Ceremony

The last Christmas party at our home was that of 1916. Then in 1917 Walker was training at Camp Dix and we all went out with his mother and spent Christmas Day at an inn near by to which he could come. There was rumor everywhere that his regiment was to embark for overseas in a few days, although he really did not sail until May. We all did our best to make it gay in that hotel dining-room, the rain falling dismally. We were so proud of our young khaki-uniformed lieutenant! My Polly played and played, rags, anything and everything, on the old hotel piano. We did not know it was to be our last happy Christmas together, but war had already given to joy a kind of yearning anguish.

My nephew was killed on the 18th of the following September, 1918, at Saint-Mihiel. Reconnoitring to assure the safety of his men, he leaped a fence to join three fellow officers. A shell tore them to pieces. This was in the early afternoon. Walker was taken to a field hospital and died at eleven that night.

—Walter Damrosch, My Musical Life (1923)

Damrosch’s nephew was Walker Blaine Beale, grandson of former Secretary of State James G. Blaine. Damrosch spent the summer of 1918 in France as a war worker under the auspices of the YMCA, conducting orchestral concerts as an outgrowth of his presidency of the American Friends of Musicians in France, and, at the instigation of General Charles Dawes, advising General Pershing on the development of Army bands.

One comment

  1. Damrosch could probably use a sympathetic biographer, on the order of recent bios of Deems Taylor, John Alden Carpenter, and Amy Cheney Beach. (I have, someplace, a cassette of his opera “Man Without a Country” … more a monodrama than an opera.) He’s been trashed by Ives biographers and just about everyone else, not excluding Virgil Thomson.

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