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Where their brave souls, promoted
At God's right hand.
From out the mighty distance
I seemed to see them gaze
Of war's dread days.
“ The flowers shall fade and perish,"
In larger faith spake I,
And cannot die.”
THE NATION'S DEAD
BY HENRY WATTERSON
From an Address delivered at the National Cemetery,
Nashville, Tenn., Decoration Day, 1877
We are assembled, my countrymen, to commemorate the patriotism and valor of the brave men who died to save the Union. The season brings its tribute to the scene; pays its homage to the dead; inspires the living. There are images of tranquillity all about us; in the calm sunshine upon the ridges; in the tender shadows that creep along the streams; in the waving grass and grain that mark God's love and bounty; in the flowers that bloom over the many many graves. There is peace everywhere in this land to-day.
Peace on the open seas,
And peace in every breeze."
The war is over. It is for us to bury its passions with its dead; to bury them beneath a monument raised by the American people to American manhood and the American system, in order that “the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
The Union is indeed restored, when the hands that pulled that flag down come willingly and lovingly to put it up again. I come with a full heart and a steady hand to salute the flag that floats above me—my flag and your flag—the flag of the Union—the flag of the free heart's hope and home—the star-spangled banner of our fathers—the flag that, uplifted triumphantly over a few brave men, has never been obscured, destined by the God of the universe to waft on its ample folds the eternal song of freedom to all mankind, emblem of the power on earth which is to exceed that on which it was said the sun never went down.
The hundred of thousands who fell on both sides did not die in vain. The power, the divine power, which made for us a garden of swords, sowing the land broadcast with sorrow, will reap thence for us, and for the ages, a nation truly divine; a nation of freedom and of free men; where tolerance shall walk hand in hand with religion, while civilization points out to patriotism the many open highways to human right and glory.
THE GRAVES OF OUR DEAD
BY ROBERT G. INGERSOLL
As we cover the graves of the heroic dead with flowers, the past rises before us like a dream. Again we are in the great struggle. We hear the sounds of preparation—the music of the boisterous drums— the silver voices of heroic bugles. We hear the appeals of orators; we see the pale cheeks of women, and the flushed faces of men; we see all the dead whose dust we have covered with flowers. We lose sight of them no more. We are with them when they enlist in the great army of freedom. We see them apart from those they love.
We see them as they march proudly away, under the flaunting flags, keeping time to the wild music of war-marching down the streets of the great cities, through the towns, and across the prairies, to do and to die for the eternal right. We go with them, one and all. We are by their side on all the gory fields, in all the hospitals of pain, on all the weary marches. We stand guard with them in the wild storm and under the quiet stars. We see them pierced with balls and torn with shells, in the trenches by the forts, and in the whirlwind of the charge, where men become iron with nerves of steel. We are at home when the news reaches us that they are dead. We see the maiden in the shadow of her first sorrow. We see the silvered head of the old man bowed with the last grief.
Those heroes are dead. They sleep under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless place of rest. Earth may run red with other wars—they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of the conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment for the soldiers, living and dead-cheers for the living, tears for the dead.
From Decoration Day Address, New York, May
It is related of General Scott that when asked, in 1861, the probable length of the then Civil War, he answered, “The conflict of arms will last five years; but will be followed by twenty years of angry strife, by the ' belligerent non-combatants.
Wars are usually made by civilians, bold and defiant in the forum; but when the storm comes, they
go below, and leave their innocent comrades to catch the "peltings of the pitiless storm.” Of the halfmillion of brave fellows whose graves have this day been strewn with flowers, not one in a thousand had the remotest connection with the causes of the war which led to their untimely death. I now hope and beg that all good men, North and South, will unite in real earnest to repair the mistakes and wrongs of the past; will
persevere in the common effort to make this great land of ours to blossom as the garden of Eden!
I invoke all to heed well the lessons of this “ Decoration Day," to weave each year a fresh garland for the grave of some beloved comrade or hero, and to rebuke any and all who talk of civil war, save as the “last dread tribunal of kings and peoples."
How quickly Nature takes possession of a deserted battlefield and goes to work repairing the ravages of man! With invisible magic hand she smooths the rough earthworks, fills the riflepits with delicate flowers, and wraps the splintered tree-trunks with her fluent drapery of tendrils. Soon the whole sharp outline of the spot is lost in unremembering grass. Where
By permission of the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin & Co.