Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day: A History

I found these two excerpts in an old book that I have on my shelf; it’s my “go to” book for wonderful thoughts on Memorial Day.

As I ponder the great and ultimate sacrifice of so many, I feel the only thing I can do is pray for our beloved Republic, and say God Bless the United States of America. May she endure the assault from within, and remain the shining light on the hill.
Memorial Day is a creation growing out of the sentiment of the times in which it originated. It has been the custom in several countries of the Old World to decorate the graves of soldiers, but in no other country is it made a day of national observance as it is no known in the north and south of the United States. Its observance at first grew spontaneously from the tender rememberance of the relatives and others who survived the war for the Union. The practice of fixing a day for visiting the graves of the fallen soldiers and strewing them with flowers commenced in the early years of the Civil War of 1861-1865. But different days for some time were observed in different localities. It is a well ascertained fact that on April 13, 1862, just one year after the fall of Fort Sumter, Mrs. Sarah Nicholas Evans, with the wife and two daughters of Chaplain May of the Second Regiment, Michigan Volunteers, decorated the graves of a number of soldiers buried on Arlington Heights, VA. In May of the next year, these ladies again performed the same loving service. In May of the following year, they also rendered the same sadly pleasant attention to the graves of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg, Va. The custom gradually became more general…and at length President U.S. Grant and several Governors were led to unite in recommending the observance of the same day, and in 1874 by Congressional enactment, a ceremonial so significant of the nation’s obligation to the dead, they decided upon May 30th as a legal holiday--now known as Decoration Day in nearly every State of the Union.
“Thoughts for the Occasion; Patriotic and Secular”
E.B. Treat; Chicago 1894

The Nobility of Patriotism

It is appropriate and just that we should commemorate the services of those who fought during this long struggle. All nations, ancient and modern, Christian and heathen, have religiously cherished the memories of those who have fallen in the military service of their country. The reason is obvious: to peril life in the national defense is the severest test of patriotism, and the spirit which prompts that sacrifice deserves enduring honor; while the homage which it receives educates and develops that noble sentiment which is the only security for the continuous life of nations. So long as its sons are willing to die for their motherland, so long will it endure to shelter and bless them and their children. At the hour when a people shall be unwilling to abide this test, they will find that they have no longer a country worth saving, and those lives they will have deemed more valuable than honor and freedom transmitted undimmed through centuries of glorious national life, may prove to be an intolerable burden of humiliation, misery and disgrace.
 ibid pp. 119-120