Memorial Day 1879


Fourteen swift years have passed since the flag of Rebellion was furled in defeat on the battle-field; since the Flag of our Union, as the emblem of National supremacy, was restored to its place of honor over every section of the Republic; since the loyal citizen-soldiers who had survived the terrible contest, returned to their peaceful homes, laying aside the sword and musket in the belief that the great principles for which they had fought were fully and finally established. Fourteen swift years — and how events have outrun even the haste of time! To-day it is for the loyal of the Nation to turn back the hands upon the dial, and in the presence of the Nation’s Dead to remember the full measure and purpose of that devotion which inspired the Grand Army of comrades, fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, who have laid even the costly sacrifice of their lives upon the altar of their country.

It is not merely to celebrate a military triumph of Greek over Greek, that the patriotic people of the land assemble amid the graves of heroes to-day. Such homage would mean little to the living and yield scant honor to the dead. The garlands and blossoms are brought as affectionate tribute to the champions of a righteous cause, to the upholders of the principles of Liberty and Justice; to the patriots who walked even into the valley of the shadow of death that the Republic might live, purified, regenerated and exalted among the nations.

The tender observances of this day are not simply expressions of personal remembrance and sorrow — they are the loving tribute of a People who have not yet forgotten the debt they owe to those who died “that government of the people by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

As the long, long Roll of Honor grows longer year by year, while the surviving veterans close up in thinner ranks around the monuments of their departed comrades, it is meet that there should be serious remembrance of the cause for which so many precious lives were given on the murderous field, in the weary hospital and amid the horrors of the prison pens of the South.

That cause is the legacy of the Nation’s Dead to the loyal living of to-day, and amid all the beautiful and appropriate exercises of Memorial Day let us remember that beyond the utterance of eulogy and the strewing of sweet flowers, we can best honor the memory of our heroes by firmly maintaining what they have bequeathed to us; by cherishing their comrades and aiding the widows and the fatherless, and by standing guard over the welfare of the Nation they redeemed, with that unceasing vigilance which is the price of Liberty.

Whig and Courier (Maine) May 30, 1879

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