Let us return to Columbus, Mississippi, in the spring of 1866. The Civil War has been over for a year, yet Union soldiers still occupy the town. The fires of passion and prejudice that had consumed over 500,000 American lives between 1861 and 1865 still smolder in bitterness behind closed doors.
Just outside of Columbus is a cemetery where both Confederate and Union soldiers killed at the Battle of Shiloh are buried. On April 25, 1866 four young women pay a visit to the cemetery to tend the graves of lost loved ones and decorate them with memorial garlands of flowers.
After decorating the Confederate graves, the women walk over to a small plot where forty Union soldiers are buried. Gently they scatter Southern magnolia blossoms on the Northern graves. The news of this unselfish, compassionate gesture spreads quickly and touches everyone. Newspaper editorials praise this act of reconciliation and urge the nation to come together to mourn both "the Blue and the Gray".
Soon in many small towns all over the country people were gathering at Civil War cemeteries and holding commemorative or "memorial day" services. Afterwards, there would be parades led by a brass band, the volunteer fire brigade and a review to honor America's veterans. Following the parade and patriotic orations, there would be a community picnic on the town common.
During the late nineteenth century, Decoration Day was a major American holiday and was celebrated with even more fanfare than Independence Day. This was because the Civil War had touched or altered nearly everyone's life.
Ironically, however, even though the country came together in spirit to honor America's war dead, the North and South still managed to commemorate independently. In 1868, General John A. Logan commander in chief of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic, a union veterans' organization), designated May 30 as "Memorial Day", while the daughters of the Confederacy held firm with the term "Decoration Day" and the date of April 26. Today, Memorial Day is recognized as a day honoring all of those who have fought America's wars and is legally observed on the last Monday of May.
(The above information was copied from the book "Victorian Family Celebrations" by Sarah Ban Breathnach. The postcards are from my collection.)
Below is a calling card that I have of the above mentioned General John Alexander Logan.
About 10 years ago I took ownership of a box of old photos/postcards, family Bible and letters that had been passed down and had belonged to my paternal great, great, great Grandmother, Ellen Boardman Davis. So because of the contents in that box I decided to research them and find out all I could. In the box was a letter, and it took several months for me to finally figure out who the author of the letter was and the importance of it, why it was kept for all of these years. You see, it was dated January the 10th 1862. It turns out that the letter was written by this 3rd great Grandma's brother, Hiram Boardman, and it was to be the last letter that they would ever receive from him.
Hiram had joined the 47th Illinois infantry on Sept. 6, 1861 in Peoria, IL. for a period of 3 years and a little over one year later, Sept. 19, 1862, at the young age of 23 was killed in battle.
I can't place a flag or flowers on his grave because he has none. We were told he most likely was buried in a trench or shallow grave where he fell.
Here is a photo of his letter.
And then, you wouldn't believe what I found while searching the internet one day?!
Okay, I know you will never guess, so here is what I found!!!!
(The photo is of Sgt. Dixon, not of Hiram. Unfortunately I do not have any of him, that I know of.)
PATRICIA MCWHORTOR MULLENIX
Come Sisters of a Soldier Boy
Hear What I'm going to tell
About a seen that did occur
Whare Hiram Boardman fell
The evening of the 19th day
Of September '62
He marched with furmness to the fite
That raged within our view
He doublequicked for one half mile
Formed quickly in the place
To take an active part with those
That fought with face to face
The cannons roared the smoke curled up
The dead lay scattered round
The wounded was conveyed away
From off this bloody ground
Then with the darkness of night
The firing died away
But all our lines of battle strong
We held till the next day
With guns in hand we prostrate lay
Till twelve o'clock at night
A line of Rebels then appeared
In frunt full in our sight
We halted them and ordered them
To come in one by one
One did obey and is this day
A prisoner of war
But all the others did disperse
And fired into our lines
A volly to we gave them quick
Which sooted to our minds
This was the final fatal hour for us
Now Sisters, all we tell
That when the Rebels fired at us
Young Hiram Boardman fell
We feel our loss a braver boy
Was not within our ranks
But on the field strong men must yeild
And brave all things with thanks
Cheer up now Sisters do not mourn
For Hiram is at rest
He fought his fight his victorys won
He now lies with the blest
Sgt. Elisha Dixon
PATRICIA MCWHORTOR MULLENIX
THE LADIES' PARLOR
Not only were my ancestors lives altered but the lives of my husbands ancestors were to be altered as well. Hiram would lose his life so that my husband's ancestors could experience life, a life of freedom.
Thankyou so much for visiting. Let us remember a war veteran today, if they are still living amongst us let us be sure to thank them today. See you next week!