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Memorial day.

May 23 and 24, 1865. Imagine yourself in Washington. A column of soldiers thirty miles in length is passing by. Can you see those regiments from the east and west, those men from the Potomac, from the Cumberland, from the Wilderness, from Chattanooga, as they march down Pennsylvania avenue from the Capitol with their bayonets flashing and battle flags flying? You are witnessing one of the greatest spectacles ever seen in America—a grand review of the Union armies before the troops are mustered out of service.

Bonds of comradeship such as these veterans had formed by their four years of service and sacrifice are not easily broken however, and soon local organizations sprang up for the purpose of fostering these friendships and of honoring the memory of those who had given their lives to preserve the Union. This movement soon became nation-wide, and in 1866 a great national organization was founded under the name of the ‘Grand Army of the Republic,’ with state departments and local posts. The first post was organized at Decatur, Ill., April 6, 1866.

The organization was a fraternal, charitable, and patriotic association, composed exclusively of soldiers and sailors of the United States army, navy, and marine corps who served during the Civil War and had been honorably discharged. The underlying idea of the founder, Dr. B. F. Stevenson, was to have a grand organization [p. 54] of veterans so united by feelings of loyalty and duty that it would be a powerful factor against treason to our government.

On the fifth of May, 1868, Commander-in-Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army issued a general order designating the thirtieth of May, 1868, ‘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.’ He did this with the hope that it would be kept up from year to year. Already in some of the southern states the women had laid their flowers on the graves of the Confederate dead to show their devotion to the ‘Lost Cause,’ but in the north there was no fixed date till 1868. In 1882 the Grand Army urged that May thirtieth be ‘Memorial Day,’ not ‘Decoration Day,’ as it had commonly been called. Since 1910 it has been a legal holiday in most of the states and territories.

‘Memorial Day’ is something more than a decoration day. Every national day is a memorial day. Such days should teach us to feel more strongly our duty to our country. They should fill us with enthusiasm and love for our native land; they should bring home to us more vividly the sacrifices of our fathers, and should make us realize that upon us devolves the task of carrying on the work which they began.

It has been said that the declaiming of Webster's patriotic sentiments by the school boys of the north prepared them to take up arms to defend the Union in ‘61. May we not with equal truth say that the splendid patriotic work of the Grand Army of the Republic prepared our boys for ‘98, and for the late World War?

But fifty years is a long period in a man's life, and comparatively few of those who marched with the ‘Boys of 1861’ are with us today. There is no recruiting office in the Grand Army, and when the last member joins his comrades in the Grand Reunion will ‘Memorial Day’ become obsolete? No, the ‘Spanish War Veterans,’ the [p. 55] new ‘American Legion,’ and other affiliated organizations are making themselves such a vital force that Memorial Day will continue to be a day of veneration, of faith, of triumph. Its future is secure.


Memorial day in Medford.

May 30, 1919, was an ideal day. The memorial exercises for the day were in charge of Samuel C. Lawrence Post, 66, G. A. R.

This Post, with other affiliated organizations, formed at Grand Army hall, and joined by members of the city government, marched to Oak Grove cemetery, where the usual Memorial Day services were held. This year they were particularly impressive. From Oak Grove the march was resumed, and the Cross street and Salem street cemeteries were visited and the graves of comrades decorated. Returning to Grand Army hall, a dinner was served by the Women's Relief Corps and the Daughters of Veterans to the members of the Grand Army and the Sons of Veterans.

Year by year the thinning ranks of the Grand Army remind us that half a century has passed since the close of the Civil War; but on this ‘Memorial Day’ years seem to have vanished, for the ranks are filled again with young men—men of the ‘American Legion’— who march proudly side by side with the veterans of ‘61 and ‘98.

Our Medford Post, 66, has now fifty-two names on its roll; of these, thirty-two comrades took part in the exercises of the day.

George L. Stokell, Commander.

Albert W. Patch, Senior Vice-Commander.

Charles O. Burbank, Junior Vice-Commander.

George D. Kellam, Adjutant.

Albert A. Samson, Quartermaster.

Milton F. Roberts, Surgeon.

Joseph A. Chapin, Chaplain.

Albert G. Webb, Officer of the Day. [p. 56]

Edward F. Smith, Officer of the Guard.

Isaac H. Gardner, Quartermaster Sergeant.

Oscar A. Allen, Patriotic Instructor.

William H. Alden

John F. Barrows

John L. Brockway

James H. Burpee

Royal F. Carr

Arthur D. Chickering

Nason B. Cunningham

William H. Dunbar

Charles W. Ellis

Willard B. Emery

Edgar A. Hall

Winslow Joyce

Thomas B. Kelley

Fred. A. Kent

Joseph F. King

Daniel W. Lawrence

Charles W. Libby

J. Everett Pierce

Alvin R. Reed

George R. Russell

James W. Smith

The exercises of this year mark a transition period in the observance of Memorial Day. It is unlikely that the veterans will march on future occasions as before. They invited the young veterans now home from oversea, and who are forming the new American Legion, to participate with them in the duties of the day. So to the Legion comes the heritage of the Grand Army of the Republic, which will continue its organization and maintain its principles to the last. These younger veterans will take up the patriotic duty, and year by year, though old comrades fail to appear, will be manifest the enduring principles of American citizenship and loyalty. Just what form the details of the annual observance under the newer organization will take, we may not say, but the Grand Army of the Republic has set a worthy example.

On this memorial day of Peace fulfilled,
When to the God of battles praise is said
For warfare done and the long clamor stilled,
Forget not then the dead.

Yet will we keep, who cannot else repay
The dearest gift that Love has power to give,
For them the first place in our thoughts today—
Our dead, through whom we live.

L. B. A.

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