Military heroes of all wars were honored this week during patriotic ceremonies on Memorial Day, 1989. The deceased veterans were remembered throughout this area, and in many other states.
The holiday was known for many decades as "Decoration Day," the name given it in 1868 when General H. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, designated May 30 as a day for decorating the graves of the fallen heroes; many were sons of South Lake County pioneers.
The Old Timer was fortunate to receive a copy of the 1891 Decoration Day program here in Lowell, showing the Burnham Post No. 163 G.A.R. in charge of the program.
Listed were the soldiers from the War of 1812 and the Civil War who were buried in the Lowell Cemetery: For those of 1812, last names were written: Irwin, Allen, Jones, Lafler, Cottrill, and Stowell. Civil War -- C.S. Nehemiah, A.S. Robbins, S.A. Robbins, John Harrison, Wm. Honie, C.E. Chaffee, A.A. Bockus, B.S. Durkee, C.A. Fairman, Geo. H. Patrick, L.W. Vandercar, M.W. Clark, Wm. Cross, Levi Smith, A.B. Clark, T.V. Frank, G.G. Frank, R.W. Fuller, E.W. Fuller, I.W. Fuller, W.H. Mudge, A. Fuller, Ed Van Slyke, J.W. Richmond, and Wm. Young.
Rev. George Streeter, a veteran of the Civil War, gave a half-hour address and dedicated his oration to the friends of the deceased soldiers. His talk, in part:
"Commander of the post, comrades and friends. With exceeding pleasure I stand before you as a former companion in arms -- one of the nation's defenders -- and now a participant with you in these exercises on the Flower Day of the Nation. First of all let us observe with a deep sense of gratitude to Almighty God that such a day is possible!
"This day declares as nothing else could that well-moulded energies of patriotism and wisely directed efforts of loyal men and women were potent in the hour of National Peril. The wager of battle to decide that Secession was eternally wrong and Unionism was essentially and to be forever right.
"We have met today to renew in the minds of men the memory of a great occasion. A mighty day. Not to renew because we are likely to forget; but reburnish the tablet that the fuller brightness may blaze from its face. Peace, white-winged and robed, resting in the paradise of National Unity and Sovereignity undisturbed by the conspirator.
"We have been there and are living witnesses. The hell of Stone River yet blazes on our vision. We yet hear the roar of Kenesaw mountains. Memory and high wrought nerve forbid our retreat from the Bloody Angle. Malvern Hill with its continuous roll of musketry and awful crash of artillery refuses a truce to our solitude. Little Round Top of Gettysburg moves along the path of all our years."
Rev. Streeter vividly narrated the story of one of the battles: "Look, a line of blue. On they come, like a 'grand majestic sea.' They have emerged from the woods. The entire line for half a mile or more in length is in full view. The men grip their muskets with tightened nerves. Cheeks a little blanched. Their eyes are steady to the front.
"They have lost the tremor the soldier feels on first going into battle. They can do and dare anything now. But all this time the fort is blazing and thundering. Solid shot and shells have rent the line mercilessly. The ground is dotted with blue. Now solid shot is succeeded with grape and cannister.
"The enemy in the breast works rises to view, and the attacking column is baptized in a torrent of fire as they receive and return volley after volley. Those not dead and rolled into the moat rush up the steep. The earth fairly trembles. The sounds are fearful now. Steel clashes with steel. Muskets are clubbed.
Imprecations, orders, groans, maddened shouts and dying moans are mingled into one continuous roar. The battle was won. -- Such was the action in which we learned the lot of a soldier and knew the fortunes of war.
"The war is ended, the boys come marching home.
"But what of the brave fellows who never returned? Of those who sleep on the Old Camp Ground. What of him we used to sing in mournful cadence. The minor chord vibrates still on the heart strings."
For those, Streeter recited a lengthy poem, "All Quiet Along the Potomac."
"Yet again the question trembles from the lip. What of the soldier that sleeps in the nameless grave? The soldier is only one of 300,000 who wore the blue and were buried in the soil where they yielded their lives for the Cause of the Union. Nearly 150,000 sleep in graves marked unknown. They may be found in 29 states and territories.
"To these shrines of American patriotism and to thousands of others in out home cemeteries, we make our yearly pilgrimage. At the head of the column are veterans Grey. Some wear empty sleeves. Others might show how fields were won by the crutch they carry. Comrades are heard to say, 'Boys, we do grow old.'"
Streeter continued: "Thus again on this memorial day is piled higher the floral monument that will outlast the granite. Because flowers will bloom when the marble turns to dust. We are looking into the face of an imperishable history. A history that will be repeated in the ear of rising generations for centuries. Time will enlarge and beautify rather than diminish the scenes through which we passed. I take pleasure in reading of the reunions in which mingle the blue and the gray.
" I take up the list and read the names of those whose graves will be decorated today. To their vision past years will return with their lights and shadows and cheery voices will be heard."
In closing, he talked about the flag: "We have one. Worthy the praises that have adorned it and poetic wreaths that have hung upon it. The hands that bore it on the field have long since turned to dust. Our flag speaks the glory of a past burdened with the bringing to successful issue the rise of the common people. That flag is a requisition upon the future to bequeath a richer estate to the coming millions. You have no better, brighter decorations. Lay it reverently across the bosom of your warrior dead."
Among the other participants and spectators at that memorial gathering were the members of G.A.R. Post 163, the Women's Relief Corps (G.A.R. Aux.), the Sons of Veterans, and the Daughters of the Regiment.
The 1891 Decoration Day program booklet was furnished by Larry Thwing, formerly of Lowell.
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