Devotion for the Week of Memorial Day, 2017 - MEMORIAL DAY WAS FIRST HELD…

MEMORIAL DAY WAS FIRST HELD…

History would have us believe that on May 5, 1868, Major General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (an organization made up of Union Veterans) set aside May 30th as Decoration Day to commemorate fallen soldiers by adorning their graves with flowers. General Logan’s order declared: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance….Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

However, the decoration of graves actually began before General Logan’s official order, and some two dozen locations claim to be the site of the first Memorial Day observance. The majority of these sites are in the South, where most of the casualties of the War Between the States are buried.

For example, both Macon and Columbus, Georgia, as well as Richmond, Virginia, each claim to have begun Memorial Day in 1866; and Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claims that it held the first observance in 1864.  However, one of the first documented sites to hold a tribute to the War Between the States dead took place in Columbus, Mississippi on April 25, 1866.  A group of women who were placing flowers on the graves of Confederate soldiers (casualties of the battle at Shiloh) noticed the destitute graves of the Union soldiers and also decorated their graves with flowers.  The first community-wide observance occurred in Waterloo, New York, on May 5, 1866, with a ceremony to honor local Civil War veterans. (A century later in 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Congress declared Waterloo to be the “birthplace” of Memorial Day because of that earlier observance.)

The Blue And The Gray
Francis Miles Finch (1827-1907)
Inspired by this event in Columbus, MS.

By the flow of the inland river,
    Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
    Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
      Under the sod and the dew,
        Waiting the judgment-day;
      Under the one, the Blue,
        Under the other, the Gray

These in the robings of glory,
    Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
    In the dusk of eternity meet:
      Under the sod and the dew,
        Waiting the judgement-day
      Under the laurel, the Blue,
        Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
    The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
    Alike for the friend and the foe;
      Under the sod and the dew,
        Waiting the judgement-day;
      Under the roses, the Blue,
        Under the lilies, the Gray.

So with an equal splendor,
    The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
    On the blossoms blooming for all:
      Under the sod and the dew,
        Waiting the judgment-day;
      Broidered with gold, the Blue,
        Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
    The cooling drip of the rain:
      Under the sod and the dew,
        Waiting the judgment -day,
      Wet with the rain, the Blue
        Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
    The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
    No braver battle was won:
      Under the sod and the dew,
        Waiting the judgment-day;
      Under the blossoms, the Blue,
        Under the garlands, the Gray

No more shall the war cry sever,
    Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
    When they laurel the graves of our dead!
      Under the sod and the dew,
        Waiting the judgment-day,
      Love and tears for the Blue,
        Tears and love for the Gray.

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