Discussion A Decoration Day Remembrance - 1875

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Memorial Day - Gettysburg Daily

In an address delivered by Captain W.S. Hubbell (Medal of Honor Winner from the 21st Connecticut Volunteer Regiment) on May 18, 1875, he delivers the following address at his regimental reunion in preparation and remembrance of Decoration Day. Below are sections of his speech - - -

“Some of us have memories of the hospital and of the dead, which no Decoration Day is needed to preserve, and which oft comes to us like a dreadful nightmare in sleep. For my own part, I can never smell the ether of a photographist's studio, without recalling the field hospitals, those sickening tents of mercy behind our contending hosts ; those terrible heaps of dismembered limbs, those mangled and lifeless forms, those men in blue overcoats sprinkled thickly over the green grass and the red sands around Richmond; those stretcher-bearers coming in silently with their bleeding freight ; the long files of ambulances jolting over rough roads, and the irrepressible groans ever and anon escaping from the sufferers within ; the surgeons with bared, red-stained arms, with set lips, and dreadful instruments, and in such haste that we could not wait even to pray, before they began their work of painful kindness upon our wounds.

These are part of the legacy which the soldier cannot alienate from memory, when he counts up the education of his three years at the south. Some of us, too, remember those angels of mercy, the Florence Nightingales of the war, who seemed to come out of another world, with heavenly sweetness and love to our relief. Their names were fragrant, like the violets of spring, as they brought peace and home to the bedside of many a poor boy in blue. God be thanked for such sweet ministry as the woman's soft hand and sympathic voice, which made it easier for many a hero to die, and rallied to recovery many a patient who through her ministries gained strength to live.

To a veteran of the war, the old flag signifies far more than it suggests to those of recent years. We have but to close our eyes, and straightway rushes o'er the mind in long procession the series of victory and defeat alternating in desperate turn from Bull Run to Appomattox Court House.

We see our stripes and stars on the crest of every battle wave, at the main of every gallant ship of war, on the ramparts of every fortress, carried unflinchingly by horseman and by footman, who knew they were the mark for death because of their standard, yet, who begged the honor of being color bearer with all its dangers ; we see the battle flags, many rent with missiles of death, their staff" splintered with bullets, their folds stained with patriot's blood, their fabric exposed to storm and shaking out defiant folds in many a tempest till worn to tattered shreds ; we see the wounded color-sergeant, to save his flag from capture, stripping it from its staff* and winding it around his own body beneath his blouse, where its silken layers receive his warm heart's blood as he falls in death and is buried with the colors of his shroud ; we see the whole rebellion a struggle to trample on the flag, and at Lee's surrender, we see the rival banners furled and our color once more the flag of our Union, the symbol of peace.

Year by year we cling the more fondly to the memories of our soldier-past. At intervals, we live o'er again those scenes, in our dreams at night, and when we wake, it is with a half regret that our spell was broken. So too, we cherish our dead with a like tender and holy regard for the years in which they fell. Many of us would delight to revisit those battle fields of the South, before time obliterates the record of those old campaigns. On that soil, we would gladly greet those sincere but mistaken men who stood so long and heroically in our path to Richmond. They were a band of heroes whom we never were able to despise, and at last were able only to overwhelm. At present no Americans fraternize more speedily or thoroughly than two veterans, one of whom wore the blue, and one of them the gray, during the great American conflict. Those who did the fighting were not those who did the hating. We know right well that the rebels were brave men and mostly honest in their mistaken loyalty — more brave and more honest than the pestilent demagogues behind them at South or North.

God help all the soldiers of our land to cultivate the art of peace as fully and fearlessly as they fought in war! We do not revive our martial memorial, nor decorate the graves of our dead in order to rekindle the feuds of the past Just the contrary should be our aim, for did not Federal and Rebel learn a lesson of mutual respect on the battle-field of the South? May we learn to know each other too well ever to quarrel again, and may we have" - - -

" A union of hearts, a union of hands,
A union that none can sever,
A union of lakes, a union of lands.
The American Union forever ! "


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Memorial Day - Arlington National Cemetery - New Jersey Star Ledger


Source
“The story of the Twenty-first regiment, Connecticut volunteer infantry, during the Civil War. 1861-1865”, by United States. Army. Connecticut Infantry Regiment, 21st; Hubbell, William Stone, 1837-1930; Brown, Delos D., 1838- [from old catalog]; Crane, A. M. (Alvin Millen), b. 1839
 

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