3 on the Road: Memorial Day
COLUMBUS, MS (Mississippi News Now) - A visit to place flowers on graves at a cemetery in Mississippi over 150 years ago has expanded into the holiday we will be celebrating this weekend all over the nation.
In quiet Friendship Cemetery in Columbus, better than a thousand young Confederates had been buried who died after being wounded in the Battle of Shiloh and then evacuated to Columbus for treatment. And now that the war was over the ladies of the town decided that the anniversary of its ending should be marked by placing flowers on the graves of those fallen soldiers so far away from their own homes and their own families, the people who would normally do things like care for their graves.
Decoration Day, they called it. Early on April 25th of 1866 the ladies came with fresh cut flowers and covered the resting places of the fallen Southern soldiers who had been buried in their town.
But then the attention of one of the ladies, Augustus Sykes, was drawn to another section of the cemetery, to where about 40 Union soldiers had been laid to rest.
"Let us remember them all alike. The men in Blue and the men in Gray," said Sykes to the other ladies.
So flowers were placed on the graves of the former enemy to the same degree that they were placed on the graves of the Sons of the South.
Word began to spread of the act of the Columbus ladies. Even a line or two was carried about it in Horace Greely's newspaper, The New York Tribune.
Francis Miles Finch read the article in Greely's paper and was so moved by it that he immortalized the act in his poem, "The Blue and the Gray," which was published in the Atlantic Monthly.
Well then pretty soon everybody was having Decoration Days and after time as more and more of the country got involved, the date was moved to later in the spring when flowers would be in bloom everywhere in the nation. And as the decades passed and more wars were fought and more of this nation's soldiers were brought home to rest, the name of Decoration Day was changed to something more inclusive. To the name we know it by and celebrate it as today, Memorial Day.
Started a year after the end of the Civil War when a caring mourner thought it only proper to places flowers on the graves of every soldier who had fought and died in battle, and in so doing started healing a nation.
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