Archive for May 27th, 2010

We Are Not Many: A Poem for Memorial Day

May 27, 2010

Forest Lawn Cemetery - Omaha, Nebraska


We are not many, we who stand
Beside our comrades’ graves today,
But remnants of a patriot band —
Ere long we too shall pass away;
Yet while we live, with reverent hearts
We’ll honor those who went before;
While as each brother, called, departs,
Is re-enlisted one name more.

We’re growing old, who’re left behind,
With children ’round our knees;
While still our stories, to their mind,
Are finer than the history’s.
We are to them as heroes true,
And love of country thrills each heart,
For we can tell of what we know,
Of battles where we bore our part.

We strew bright flowers o’er our dead,
And smiles are mingling with them there;
No longer o’er them tears are shed —
We know the uniform they wear.
The flag still saves that o’er them waves;
But, as the pilgrim years go by,
How few are left to deck their graves,
And fewer — till we with them lie.

We stand upon the river’s verge,
And see the Golden City shine
Where all earth’s warring discords merge
Into sweet harmonies divine —
Dividing River, bright and cool,
O’er which we all must take our way,
When to that Harbor Beautiful
We all shall sail some day, some day.

— George Birdseye.

Carroll Herald (Carroll, Iowa) May 27, 1914

Origin of Memorial Day

May 27, 2010

Click for larger image. From the Carroll Sentinel – May 28, 1903


Three Versions of the Genesis of Today’s Custom of Decorating Graves of Soldier Dead — Ceremony in Honor of Marines Past and Gone.

When, early in May, 1868, General John A. Logan, then Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued the order creating a Grand Army Memorial Day, — “and it was the proudest act of my life,” he wrote later, — he called into official being what had already had many a local habitation though no name. How had the custom grown up? What suggested his action to “Our Jack”?

General Chipman used to attribute it to a Cincinnati soldier, who wrote Logan a letter describing the decorating of the soldiers’ graves in Germany; and General John B. Murray has advanced the claim of a celebration held at Watertown, New York, in the May of 1866, as being the incentive for a national memorial day.

This latter story has it that the body of one of the soldier sons of the town had been brought up from the south for burial in the little churchyard at home. The grave had been dug beneath an apple tree, and just as the solemn rites were over and the last shovel of earth had been thrown upon the mound, from its low-hanging branches came floating down hundreds of the white petals of its blossoms, as if in honor of the boy who laid down his life for his country. Among the friends who had gathered there were several of those who had played their parts in that red flame of carnage that had swept Pickett’s Division from the field of Gettysburg, and one of these, according to General Murray, took the story to General Logan, who found in it the inspiration for his famous order.

A third story told of the origin of the day throws back the date to 1863, and whether by chance or design, to April 13, the anniversary of the fall of Fort Sumter. On that day it is declared, the two little daughters of Chaplain May, of the Second Michigan Infantry, then in camp near Mount Vernon, were gathering wild flowers, when in the course of their wanderings they came suddenly upon one of those rude and unmarked graves, which even in those early days of the great struggle were beginning to appear about Washington. Josephine, the elder of the two, at once suggested that they use their blossoms to cover the bare earth, and while little Ella, aged eight, pulled out the weeds that had begun to push up to the light through the fresh mound, violets and dandelions and daisies were laid here and there in grateful profusion.

Happy over their work, the children planned an excursion for the next day, when more flowers were to be found and more graves decorated, and that evening they told their mother of it. Mrs. May, moved by the significance of the act, as perhaps only a woman could have been moved, even then living in the very heart of the horror and suffering of war, joined them in their mission, a Mrs. Evans, a Red Cross nurse, forming a fourth, and within the week this little band had marked all the graves in walking distance of the camp.

When the next spring came ’round they repeated the custom begun at Mount Vernon, and so with each of the years which followed. And always they were noticed, always did others join in their labor of love, and going out into the world, spread the observance further, till at last, — so runs this version of the custom’s growth, — it had found followers all over the country, General Logan’s order merely giving official sanction to the observance.

But the “Decoration Day” of the northern states — May 30th — is not the day which is honored by the majority of the commonwealths which lie to the south of the old Mason and Dixon’s line. In Alabama and Florida and Georgia the earlier spring, with its earlier buds and blossoms, has caused the setting of April 26th for this ceremony of reminiscence and patriotism. In Tennessee it falls on May 8th and in the Carolinas two days later. On one date or another, however, every state in the now indivisible Union recalls the men who fell during “the great debate.”

Very recent years have added a new feature to Memorial Day — the honoring of the sailor dead, whose far-scattered graves must for all time remain unmarked. In 1900, at the suggestion of Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes, a California woman, the school children of Los Angeles gathered at Long Beach to throw upon the water laurel and flowers and tiny flags, while the burial service for those who had died at sea was read. Then the regulation salute of three volleys was fired, as the tribute was borne out to sea on the ebbing tide. — May Issue, American Boy.

The Carroll Times (Carroll, Iowa) May 28, 1908


This poem is credited by an exchange to “Women’s Works,” a paper published at Atlanta, Ga. It expresses beautiful sentiments appropriate to Memorial Day anywhere:

Life’s battle o’er, the hero sleeps!
Upon another shore he wakes;
His guardianship still o’er us keeps,
And in our weal deep interest takes.

The master mind lives on today,
The giant will retains its power;
Genius that carved so rare a way
Was not the glory of an hour.

Invisibly he walks our streets
Counsels his nearness thus to prove;
In sympathy his great heart beats,
This idol of our pride and love.

His monument, a tablet stands
Enshrined within each noble heart;
A treasured gift fresh from the hands
That bore so well life’s nobler part.

Dear friend, we honor thee today,
We pledge anew our faith and trust;
That thy name shall live alway
Foremost among the true and just.

To thee we drink the sacred wine
From chalice fashioned by they hand;
The purity of its design
Forever, crystal-clear shall stand.

And on thy brow we set the seal
Of virtue, honor, truth and love;
While passing years their debt shall feel
And nobler gratitude approve.

The Carroll Times (Carroll, Iowa) May 28, 1908

Click for larger image.

The Drums of ’61: A Memorial Day Poem  – By Joe Lincoln

From the Carroll Herald (Carroll, Iowa) May 29, 1901

Here Lies George W. Pike

May 27, 2010

“And Departing Leave Behind Them –“


Underneath this stone in eternal rest
Sleeps the wildest one of the wayward west.
He was a gambler and sport and cowboy too
And he led the pace in an outlaw crew.
He was sure on the trigger and staid to the end
But he never was known to quit on a friend.
In the relations of death all mankind is alike
But in life there was only one George W. Pike.

This image of George W. Pike is from a one-page biography which can be read at the Find-A-Grave website, where I also found the tombstone picture.

Perhaps it’s just as well that “there was only one George W. Pike” for Malcolm Campbell, a famous old time sheriff of Wyoming, is authority for the statement that Pike’s “remarkable record for horse-stealing extended over a period of 15 years during which time there were few terms of court that he was not down for at least two counts …but he was never convicted of a crime in his life.”!

(by Western Newspaper Union.)

Pinedale Roundup (Pinedale, Wyoming) Dec 8, 1932