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the deadly rifle-ball whistled through the foliage, the robin or the thrush pipes its tremulous note; and where the menacing shell described its curve through the air, a harmless crow flies in circles. Season after season the gentle work goes on, healing the wounds and rents made by the merciless enginery of war, until at last the once hotly contested battle-ground differs from none of its quiet surroundings, except, perhaps, that here the flowers take a richer tint and the grasses a deeper emerald.
It is thus the battle lines may be obliterated by Time, but there are left other and more lasting relics of the struggle. That dinted army saber, with a bit of
. faded crêpe knotted at its hilt, which hangs over the mantelpiece of the “best room ” of many a town and country house in these States, is one; and the graven headstone of the fallen hero is another. The old swords will be treasured and handed down from generation to generation as priceless heirlooms, and with them, let us trust, will be cherished the custom of dressing with annual flowers the resting-place of those who fell during the Civil War.
The impulse which led us to set apart a day for decorating the graves of our soldiers sprang from the grieved heart of the Nation, and in our time there is little chance of the rite being neglected. But the generations that come after us should not allow the observance to fall into disuse. What with us is an expression of fresh love and sorrow should be with them an acknowledgment of an incalculable debt.
Decoration Day is the most beautiful of our national holidays. How different from those sullen batteries which used to go rumbling through our streets are the crowds of light carriages, laden with flowers and greenery, wending their way to the neighboring cemeteries! The grim cannon have turned into palm branches, and the shell and shrapnel into peach blooms. There is no hint of war in these gay baggage trains, except the presence of men in undress uniforms, and perhaps here and there an empty sleeve to remind one of what has been. Year by year that empty sleeve is less in evidence.
The observance of Decoration Day is unmarked by that disorder and confusion common enough with our people in their holiday moods. The earlier sorrow has faded out of the hour, leaving a softened solemnity. It quickly ceased to be simply a local commemoration. While the sequestered country churchyards and burial-places near our great Northern cities were being hung with May garlands, the thought could not but come to us that there were graves lying southward above which bent a grief as tender and sacred as our own. Invisibly we dropped unseen flowers upon these mounds. There is a beautiful significance in the fact that, two years after the close of the war, the women of Columbus, Mississippi, laid their offerings alike on
Northern and Southern graves. When all is said, the great Nation has but one heart.
DECORATION DAY ADDRESS
Blessed are the dead whose memory is perpetuated by the flower service of a grateful people. How truly immortal are those who give their lives for liberty. To have lived long, purposeless, neutral years, is nothing—to have lived a few glorious hours, to have bravely faced the infinite, to have calmly met the Master in humanity's cause, is sublime. Why mourn these dead of ours? They sleep in the bosom of the land they loved. Here where the ground once shook beneath the tramp of contending hosts they are at rest. The sentinels no longer patrol the banks of the Potomac. Grant and Lee both lived to attest the goodness of a God who preserved the Union. And over the river, on the beauteous dome of the nation's Capitol, serenely uplifted toward the ethereal blue, kissed by the sun of day, wooed by the stars of night, tranquilly floats the unconquered flag of the greatest nation of the earth.
Why mourn for those who slumber here? Their epitaphs are written in the grandest history of the ages. Before them will reverently pass the procession of the centuries. And every headstone roundabout, even those without a name, will be given honorable place in the mighty monument that is to commemorate the ennobling and uplifting of the human
It is a day of memories, a day when we meet in the hallowed past and hold communion with our holy dead. A day when we recall the glorious aspirations which thrilled men's souls in that heroic time, when to love one's country was to lay down one's life; a day filled with that same spirit of freedom, patriotism, and devotion which breathed into the common dust of ordinary humanity the sublime inspiration of heroic deeds; a day when we rekindle the fires of patriotism on the altar of our liberties and once again renew the loyal vows that these our noble dead in the years gone by consecrated with their hearts' blood.
Glorious are the dead who die for liberty. Blessed are they whose blood is shed for the welfare of their fellowmen. The great conflict in which our dead fought was, in the beginning, a contest between men, between sections. It was the Union against the confederacy. But it is evident that over and above the purposes of men was God's purpose. He would not permit the government of the United States to remain under a Constitution that sanctioned human slavery. He would not give victory to the Union arms until with it would come liberty to a race in chains. The careful student of the war of the rebellion has no difficulty in seeing that up to the time of the emancipation proclamation the doubtful tide of battle set most strongly against the Union shore. Disaster had followed disaster until Lincoln himself almost despaired of ultimate victory; until it seemed as if the exulting Southern hosts were about to make good their boast of proclaiming the confederate government from the steps of the nation's Capitol. But from the hour of emancipation, from the hour in which the cause of the Union became the cause of liberty, from the hour in which the flag of the republic became the flag of humanity, from the hour in which its stars and stripes no longer floated over a slave; yea, from the sacred hour of the nation's new birth that dear old banner never faded from the sky, and the brave boys who bore it never wavered in their onward march to victory. With the single exception of Chancellorsville, and that stubborn doubtful day at Chickamauga, no decisive field of battle was ever lost by the men who sang with redoubled enthusiasm “ John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave, but his soul goes marching on." Gettysburg at the east, Vicksburg at the west, ratified the President's action and woke the morning of our national holiday with a grand jubilee of joy. From Chattanooga to Appomattox, from Atlanta to the sea, the hearts of the war-worn, battlescarred veterans took new courage; all along the line they touched elbows with a steadier purpose, saw in each other's eyes a holier fire, joined with a new inspiration in that glorious anthem, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
I believe our service should be a love service of prayer and praise and song, that out of the heroic memories of the past we should draw new inspirations of patriotism and find new ardor for the preservation of the free institutions which came to us through the baptism of fire and blood. But, for the first time in