Another Memorial day.
IXTY years have passed since our nation's ‘foes of its own household’ lifted treasonable hands for its destruction.
Of the uprising for its defence we know.
Ere a week had passed Medford
men had rallied in response to the President
's call and were on their way to the capital.
They were in service first for three months, then ‘for three years or the war,’ and still others, for ‘rebellion widened into war on gigantic scale.’
Four years the contest raged; then came the day of Appomattox
The government of the people, by the people and for the people, though assured, was to experience the difficult and dangerous period of reconstruction.
After four years of absence, the national flag was restored to Sumter
's battlements; but two days later, the bullet of treason robbed the nation of its executive head and added to the gravity of the situation.
Placed in the chair of state by a terrible tragedy, the new executive betrayed his high trust and made ‘treason. . . a crime before which all other crimes sink into insignificance,’ only ‘a difference of political opinion.’
Bleeding and sorely tried, after a war exceeding those of history, a new danger confronted the nation, that of unsound reconstruction.
In such a time the Grand Army of the Republic came into being and soon became national in extent.
On August 21, 1868, the charter of the Medford Post
was issued by the Grand Commander
of the Department of Massachusetts.
Its wording is, ‘To all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting.
Know ye, That, reposing full confidence in the fidelity and patriotism of Comrades: Godfrey Ryder, Jr.
, Samuel C. Lawrence
, [p. 26] Alfred Stephens
, Henry H. D. Cushing
, Silas F. Wild
, Chris Plunkett
, Elbridge B. Hartshorn
, James A. Hervey
, Samuel G. Jepson
, John Hutchins
, Thomas H. Gillard
, J. H. Whitney
, Charles H. Prentiss
, Robert Ellis
, Alvin R. Reed
, they and their associates and successors are constituted a Post of the Grand Army of the Republic known as S. C. Lawrence
Post, Number 66, and authorized to perform all acts necessary to the ends of the organization.’
Primarily a soldiers' fraternity, it at once became an institution of loyalty to the government and a school of patriotism, a mighty reserve force.
Its name was well and fitly chosen, a Grand
For fifty-three years Post 66, numbering in all upwards of four hundred, have here maintained the patriotic purpose of the organization.
Fifty-two times their memorial services have been performed within the precincts of Oak Grove
and the older burial places, and the comrades have reverently placed their country's flag and floral tribute over the sleeping dust of an ever increasing number.
Retracing their steps through the shaded avenues and paths of the silent city, the last volley is fired.
Its echoes ceased, ‘Taps’ are sounded by the musicians, and as in benediction the cadences die away, the veterans resume the homeward march.
Who, that has ever witnessed the scene, can wonder that though first called ‘Decoration Day,’ May 30 soon came to be ‘Memorial Day’?
or that the veterans of the Civil War
, along with many thoughtful and patriotic citizens, object to its secularization and light esteem?
Though the language of their charter is conventional, none can say that the ‘confidence’ was misplaced.
Had occasion arisen, the Grand Army
men would, to call, have answered ‘Here
After reaching its high tide of membership, it was inevitable that its numbers must decrease.
It ‘has no recruiting office.’
During the past year , twelve—three in one recent week—have answered the last call, leaving but thirty-seven names on the roll.
But one of these [p. 27]
appears on the charter, by coincidence, the last.
Twenty-four, an equivalent of its resident membership, as follows,
Charles O. Burbank
John L. Brockway
James H. Burpee
John E. Barrows
A. D. Chickering
Nason B. Cunningham
G. A. Delesdernier
Thos. F. Dwyer
W. F. Elsbree
Willard B. Emery
Isaac H. Gardner
Edgar A. Hall
Benjamin P. Lewis
Charles W. Libby
Alvin R. Reed
Milton F. Roberts
George K. Russell
Albert A. Samson
Edward F. Smith
George L. Stokell
Albert G. Webb
were in the ranks and followed the colors this year to honor those gone before.
Though their ranks are thinning, their forms less erect and tread less firm, their loyalty to flag and country is true.
That about a dozen is the average attendance at the fortnightly meeting is evidence of their interest, and though the flesh may be weak the spirit is still willing.
Twenty-nine have served as commanders, and their enlarged portraits are arranged, in successive order, upon the wall of their assembly room, and a large collection of cabinet photos of members is there carefully arranged and preserved.
Much of interest to the patriotic citizen is there to be seen.
The national colors, the flag of the Commonwealth
, that of the Post have a conspicuous place.
Post 66 has the service flag of the World War
with one blue star, as one member has the distinction to have served in three wars.
In a brief visit we noticed the views of service in ‘61-5, and shuddered as we looked upon that of Andersonville
and blushed for America
's shame, for remember that
was of our misguided brethren of the South
, but still our brethren.
Nearby a group of five who died in prison or on the march, one a boyish-looking face—some mothers' boy
Behind the vice-commander
's chair is a typical picture [p. 28]
of the private soldier of ‘61-5, that cannot fail to attract attention and command respect, the ‘Boy in Blue’ in the long overcoat and small cap, with his musket at ‘Ready,’ and it bears this legend:
For what he did and dared, remember him today.
Two years ago the Register gave the names of those who participated in the memorial service.
It was their fiftieth and last march
. Last year and this year and in the future Memorial Days there will be those who will deem it a privilege to convey them and vie with each other for the honor of doing so. This year, for the first time the return was by the Playstead road and High
street, which was well.
The city needs the object lesson.
In former years the exercises of the day were closed by a public gathering and patriotic address in the largest available auditorium.
Who that heard it will ever forget that by Rev. E. C. Bridgham
The ‘comrades’ formerly attended the regular morning service on preceding Sunday in some church by invitation, but their disabilities increasing by advancing years, the present arrangement has obtained.
It speaks ill and looks badly for our boasted ‘civic pride,’ and worse for our patriotic spirit, that even reinforced by the affiliated organizations and the city government, the not overlarge Mystic church is far from being filled on the occasion.
It should be crowded.
We remember the influence of this great Grand Army, and how in ‘98, South as well as North rallied under the one
old flag for ‘Cuba
libre,’ and again overseas for the world's safety, which includes our own national life and preservation.
As reconstruction days followed our civil war, re-adjustment is following, all too slowly it may seem, the recent titanic struggle for world dominion.
The danger is not past.
What shall be the outcome?
As in ‘61 the foe was of our own household, so today America has need to beware lest ‘the government of the people, by the people and for the people’ be weakened and assailed by race prejudice, industrial unrest fostered [p. 29]
by selfish agitators, the oppressions of capital and hyphenated Americanisms of various names.
The Grand Army of the Republic has proved true