Memorial Day

Weeping Angel/Friendship Cemetery

On April 25, 1866 the ladies of Columbus, Mississippi decided to decorate both Confederate and Union soldiers’ graves buried in Friendship Cemetery with garlands and bouquets of beautiful flowers.

A poem, entitled “The Blue and The Gray” by Frances Miles Finch appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1867 as a direct result of this gesture of healing and compassion. Columbus is now thought of as a place, “where flowers healed a nation”.

Although, Waterloo, NY is considered the official birthplace of Memorial Day, and a proclamation declaring the holiday did not happen until 1868, nor a National Holiday declared until 1966, I still consider my small hometown of Columbus as the true origin of the holiday.

But the origin, while in dispute, is not important. It is the feeling behind the origin. It is a feeling of respect for the individuals that gave freely and bravely for their cause. Whether, they emerged victorious or defeated as an army, they should be remembered as individuals.

And while the “Blue” and the “Gray” are once again “united” as a nation; wars and battles still rage on. Armies win, and Armies lose; but individuals lie in the graves.

The Blue and the Gray
by Frances Miles Finch

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep on 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 judgment 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 judgment 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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