Monday, May 30, 2011

Remembering Memorial Day, in 1868 and Today

Monday, May 30, 2011
Susan reporting:

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. For most Americans, it's the unofficial first day of summer, the day to head to the pool or fire up the grill. Somewhere in the middle of all that fun, we hope you'll pause to recall the original purpose of the holiday as a day of remembrance for all of those who died in our nation's service.

Memorial Day (or Decoration Day) was first observed on 30 May 1868 as one of the tortuous attempts towards healing the country after the Civil War, and flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederates soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. This excerpt is from the General Order No. 11 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.  The words still resonate today.

"We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose... "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or 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....

"Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."

Above: Unidentified girl in mourning dress holding framed photograph of her father as a cavalryman (from her dress, jewelry, & mourning ribbons, it is assumed her father died in the Civil War), photographer unknown, taken between 1861-1870. Collection, Library of Congress
Click here for more from this extraordinary collection of Civil War-related photographs.

7 comments:

Pauline said...

It's funny - in an ironic way - because my family always treated Memorial Day as a day to go to the cemetery and kind of clean up after winter while getting together for a little picnic. Move leaves, twigs and rocks off graves, have a glass of wine, generally settle down among the dead and commune. It was about remembering, but not about war necessarily.

I wish, now, that I was not so far away from the grave sites that mean the most to me. And yet, I'm happy to go downtown and clean up an unknown grave while celebrating their life. I'm rambling, but that's what Memorial Day means to me and my family.

Make Money For Free said...

What a wonderful tribute to all our fallen and serving military. Have a wonderful Memorial Day as we all stop to honor the men and women who protect us.

Perfect Poker Profit Pointers said...

The entire Veterans Administration office should be over hauled and new policies put in place with the funds to match. These new policies would create an absolute priority for treating our veterans and their families with respect, honor, dignity and the admiration that they deserve. These people gave their lives, mind and limbs in the service of our country, defending our cherished freedoms. The current VA programs are an egregious affront to these individuals and an abysmal travesty.

nightsmusic said...

My family too traditionally used the Memorial Day weekend to do a general cleanup on the graves of our family members and would extend it to any within the immediate area that looked forlorn.

Those photos are amazing and so easy to get lost in. Alas, my family on both sides came to this country after so I cannot help, but I can spend hours looking just the same.

Jason's Mom said...

That picture breaks my heart. How many little girls wave their brave daddies off to war and never have them come back?

Everyone,PLEASE take time to remember the ultimate sacrifices that so many men and women have made for this country!

Mme.Tresbeau said...

God bless America and all her veterans, living and deceased!

Anonymous said...

THIS is what this holiday's all about, Soldiers and their Families. Wish the polliticians on both sides would shut up for once and stop thinking about themselves. God Bless America, yes!

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