Remembering The Sacrifices

Posted on May 24, 2017.

This coming Monday will be Memorial Day. While many see this as a festive signal to the start of Summer, it has not always been so. In 1865, Henry Welles, a druggist in the village of Waterloo, NY, mentioned at a social gathering that honor should be shown to the patriotic dead of the Civil War by decorating their graves. In the Spring of 1866, he again mentioned this subject to General John Murray, Seneca County Clerk. General Murray embraced the idea and a committee was formulated to plan a day devoted to honoring the dead. Townspeople adopted the idea wholeheartedly. Wreaths, crosses and bouquets were made for each veteran's grave. The village was decorated with flags at half-mast and draped with evergreen boughs and mourning black streamers.

On May 5, 1866, civic societies joined the procession to the three existing cemeteries and were led by veterans marching to martial music. At each cemetery there were impressive and lengthy services including speeches by General Murray and a local clergyman. The ceremonies were repeated on May 5, 1867.

While General Murray and New York gets the credit, we in the South know that Memorial Day sprang from the tradition of Southern ladies decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers. When one such lady was told she was decorating a Yankee grave, she responded that somewhere there was a mother weeping over this poor boy. So the ladies decorated all the graves regardless of the side upon which the dead had fought.

The first official recognition of Memorial Day as such was issued by General John Logan, first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. This was General Order #11 establishing "Decoration Day" as it was then known. The date of the order was May 5, 1868, exactly two years after Waterloo's first observance. That year Waterloo joined other communities in the nation by having their ceremony on May 30. Since May 5th, 1866, America has set aside a day of remembrance for her war dead. There has been over 655,000 Battle Deaths in all wars since the War Between the States. It is not merely about the dead … but those who were left behind … wives who lost husbands … sons and daughters who lost parents … It is about remembering the tremendous sacrifices paid by all! Sacrifices paid so we might be free. Sacrifices which remind us of Jesus and His death on the cross.

Remembering the sacrifices,
Bro. Jerry