Monday, May 26, 2008

In Memoriam

Today is Memorial Day. It hasn't been a National Holiday for quiet a while.
I've researched the history of Memorial Day & this is what Wikipedia (I'm addicted to Wiki!) has to say:
Following the end of the Civil War many communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war or as a memorial to those who had died. Some of the places creating an early memorial day include Charleston South Carolina; Boalsburg Pennsylvania; Richmond Virginia; Carbondale Illinois; Columbus Mississippi; many communities in Vermont; and some two dozen other cities and towns. These observances eventually coalesced around Decoration Day (What Memorial Day was originally called), honoring the Union dead, and the several Confederate Memorial Days.
Since I'm a Mississippian, I will give special place to the Columbus story
Many of the states of the U.S. South refused to celebrate Decoration Day, due to lingering hostility towards the Union Army and also because there were very few veterans of the Union Army who lived in the South. A notable exception was Columbus Mississippi, which on April 25, 1866 at its Decoration Day commemorated both the Union and Confederate casualties buried in its cemetery.
Now, also since I'm a Mississippian I can add more to the above lines. Columbus began to commemorate Union & Confederate soldiers because church ladies started decorating all the graves, not just the Confederate ones as they said "The Union mothers are missing their sons too, & we'd want them to honor our boys so we'll honor theirs." Bravo ladies! But it's so true. Even to this day, there's resentment against the "Yanks" here. I know it might sound crazy to some of you, but it's true. The pain from the Civil War ran so deep here in the South. Plus, we Southerners are notorious for holding long set grudges & bad traditions.
Now that you know this, perhaps you'll see Memorial Day in a new way?
But isn't it tragic that it took the deaths of so many (over 600,000!) to bring us back together?

2 comments:

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e1e2t3 said...

"The Union mothers are missing their sons too.." A wonderful, touching bit of thinking beyond one's personal grief. I am reminded of Maine's Joshua Chamberlain who was given the command to accept the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. It was his inspiration to call his victorious troops to a "marching salute" to honor their former foes as they laid down their arms. As far as I can tell, it is the only instance of a victorious army saluting a surrendering army. Chamberlain writes in his book "The Passing of the Armies" that he looked into the eyes of the Confederate soldiers as they marched by, wondering if any one of them could be one of the men who had shot him (he was wounded seven times). Instead, he wrote, he could only see brother men. It is a beautiful, sad passage and reading it to my wife, some years back, I had trouble not getting choked up.
Van Reid