Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Order, 1868: To Strew With Flowers The Graves Of Comrades Who Died In Defense Of Their Country.

Memorial Day was established in 1868 to honor and remember those military people who died in defense of the nation against the "rebellion." So the guys who fought for the North were to have their graves strewn with springtime flowers. For all the dead guys who fought for the South, nothing.

It's time we stopped filling our cemeteries with young dead men who have died needlessly in war. Putting flowers on somebody's grave doesn't bring them back to their families, and doesn't give the dead guy back the 60 or so years of his life which was stolen because his nation went to war.

If we absolutely must go to war, let's make it a rare occurrence rather than something we do routinely. Let's stop resource wars -- wars of aggression we wage against other countries to protect the claims of corporations that they are entitled to steal resources. We need to get out of the war business. Our nation is broke, and one reason is because we just keep starting wars, and stealing all the money of our citizens and giving it to the war industry. Our nation is also morally bankrupt. We cannot have a democracy when we continue to wage wars against the poorest people in the world to steal their resources, lie about why we're invading them and murdering their people, kidnapping, torturing, murdering generations of young men to prevent them from defending their own countries. We are on the wrong side of history. Most of our politicians take bribes and kick-backs to support these resource wars, while the citizens of this nation are going broke. End the Wars, stop the killing.

"Harvest of Death," by Timothy H. O'Sullivan (photographer) 1863.
Slowly, over the misty fields of Gettysburg--as all reluctant to expose their
ghastly horrors to the light--came the sunless morn, after the retreat by
[General Robert. E.] Lee's broken army. Through the shadowy vapors, it was,
indeed, a "harvest of death" that was presented; hundreds and thousands of torn
Union and rebel soldiers--although many of the former were already
interred--strewed the now quiet fighting ground, soaked by the rain, which for
two days had drenched the country with its fitful showers."

(Photographic Sketch Book of the War. Alexander Gardner wrote these words to describe the now-famous photo above, taken by Timothy H. Sullivan, and commonly referred to as "Harvest of Death." This was a picture taken of the dead in the U.S. Civil War after the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 - July 3, 1863).

Memorial Day Order

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit

We are organized, Comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers sailors and Marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan
II. It is the purpose of the Commander in Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this Order effective.

—General Orders No. 11 Grand Army of the Republic Headquarters

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