Showing respect for those who fought, even when they fought and killed those on your side is hard – and necessary.
When a women’s memorial association in Columbus, Mississippi, decorated the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers on April 25, 1866, this act of generosity and reconciliation prompted an editorial piece, published by Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, and a poem by Francis Miles Finch, “The Blue and the Grey,” published in the September 1867 Atlantic Monthly. The practice of strewing flowers on soldiers’ graves soon became popular throughout our reunited nation.
During the first national commemoration on May 30, 1868, former Union General and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
In honoring the memory of all those who sacrificed their lives and limbs in the Civil War, and in all the wars since, let us remember the spirit of mutual respect shown by the women’s memorial association in Columbus, Mississippi.
Our republic, built upon representative democracy as it is, will thrive only so long as we are willing to conduct our fights fairly, upholding each other’s rights, and treating each other with mutual respect. United we stand, divided we fall.
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Photo credit: Senior Airman Robert Dantzler, USAF.