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Memorial Day 1879

May 31, 1879 at Forest Home Cemetery and at the National Home

They Slumber In Death
But in the nation’s memory they can never die.

The heroes who gave their lives for the nation; Their resting places were tenderly remembered yesterday and their graves strewn with flowers and watered with tears. The ceremonies at the Forest Home cemetery and the National Home—They were impressive, solemn and sad observance of the day throughout the State and Nation.
In Milwaukee—Yesterday a grateful nation again paid tribute to the memory of her noble sons who died that she might live. It is now fourteen years since the beautiful custom of strewing with flowers, the graves of the patriot dead was inaugurated and there can be no doubt but that the same sacred offices of love will continue to be performed for generations to come. Of late years the observances of the day had been of a very different nature, but a quarter of a century hence will witness a similar spirit to that manifested in the outset. At one time the Day of Independence was almost entirely neglected but it commemorated too great an event in the proud history of the republic to sink into oblivion. Today the anniversary was never more enthusiastically celebrated. Decoration Day remembrances (is) an event of equal significance with that day of Independence. One is to the war of the Rebellion and the other to that of the revolution. Both will ever live green in the heart of every loyal citizen.

In Milwaukee the day was crowned with fitting ceremonies. Whether it was a dispensation of Divine Providence or not, the weather was perfect, as it invariably is on Decoration day. The bright sun’s rays ushered in the morning and an invigorating breeze blew steadily from the west. While it is pleasant to decorate soldiers’ graves, it is nevertheless attended with manual labor, hence a day like yesterday does not lack for appreciation. There have been more imposing street parades and the business blocks have been more patriotically dressed but it is doubtful if there was ever more earnest or thorough observances of the day, literally speaking. The time usually given to the display of uniformed disciplined soldiers was given to a more complete decoration of the graves. There was not a single oversight, and the floral offerings were of rarer beauty and more liberal quantities than is usual. Private decorations were more numerous and in many instances, who families with ponderous dinner baskets, spent the day in different cemeteries, drinking in the fresh air, fragrant with the breath of May flowers. In the city, the federal and municipal offices were closed to business, while many of the business houses adopted a similar course. The board of Trade adjourned at noon. Flags were hung at half mast at a number if private and public establishments. In spite of the hundreds who repaired to rural haunts, there was no absence of the every-day life and activity on the streets, Disorderly commemorators were at a premium the police reported.
At Forest Home Cemetery,
that beautiful city of the dead, hundreds came and went during the day. As early as eight o’clock people began to arrive, and from that on, the human tide flowed without interruption. Many and beautiful were the offerings and sad and impressive were the scenes. Here a wife, there a mother or father, covered the ground that had hid their dear ones, with flowers, and anon a little child, in simple sorrow, kneeled beside the weather-beaten tombstone almost lost to sight amid the trees. There were opposite pictures too; of young men and women who improved the day of respite to romp on the green turf and have a ‘good time” generally with not a care to intrude.

It was after nine o’clock, nearly after the hour set, before members of the Robert Chivas Post and the other Military organizations of the city were formed in line on east Water street, under the command of Marshall George Staff and Assistant Louis Holzhauer. The carriages of the committee led in the procession, followed by that of rev. W H Throop and Past commanders, Ferguson, Rogers and Hammonds, then the flower wagon covered with flags, the band and the militia. The line of march was taken up through the principle streets of the business center, thence to Railroad street and to Forest Home cemetery. Arriving at the tomb of Lt. Robert Chivas, a hollow square was formed, in the presence of about 500 people.

Capt. Ferguson read the following general order, issued over the signature of department Commander Griff, J. Thomas, of Berlin:

In accordance with the Rules and regulations, Friday, the 30th will be observed as memorial day by the Comrades of this department.

The Wisconsin Legislature of 1879. having by law declared the 30th day of May a legal Holiday, it is to be hoped that the day will be more generally observed by all classes of our citizens than ever before.

Let it be remembered that the brave soldiers whose deeds we commemorate, whose deeds we cherish, and whose patriotism we should ever emulate, give their lives a willing sacrifice upon the alter of their country, not for any one class or condition but for all the people that equal rights and universal liberty might be secured for them and their posterity. Then let all join with us, their comrades in paying our annual tribute of love and affection to those who fell in the cause of freedom.

And in decorating the graves of those who were permitted to die among their kindred and friends, and who rest in the many beautiful cemeteries throughout our noble commonwealth do not forget those equally dear and as sincerely mourned, who sleep in unknown graves on every battlefield of the war, whose resting place, if marked at all, bears the simple solemn word ‘unknown’ but let us set apart some pleasant spot and dedicate it to their memories by raising a mausoleum of the choicest flowers interspersed with evergreen emblematic of our love for them; for thought their resting place is not known to us, yet we will in our hearts keep their memories green and their record of heroic deeds untarnished.
At the National Home
The memorial services at the national home were more imposing than for years past. The past week the veterans of the Home have been actively engaged in making the preparations, and a survey of the grounds show that they had not labored in vain, the natural beauties of the spot developing into artistic taste. The arrangements for the ceremonies at the cemetery in the southwestern portion of the grounds were complete as they always are. At 10 o’clock, the precession was formed, according to the order heretofore announced in front of the main building and moved to the cemetery. Arriving there, Sumner’s Funeral march was played by the Home band and Rev A. A. Hoskin offered a brief prayer. The Arion Club then sang with fine effect, “Our Braves,” a hymn adapted by Col. Chas. H. Clarke, of this city, to the day from Keller’s American Hymn which was originally dedicated to the Grand Army.

General Hincks, addressing the comrades and citizens, said “According to the sacred custom of the survivors of the Civil war, we have met today to commemorate the comrades who have passed away into the shadowy valley, beneath the rays of the life-giving sun. The music of the winds shall join with the anthems of heaven. Soldiers, let us commemorate the sacrifice of our comrades whose blood constitutes the cement of our Union. Which no ruthless hand shall again touch. In inaugurating the exercises of the day, we should evoke the blessing and guidance of heaven.

G. W. Hazelton then delivered the annual address. In the whirl of events, he said, it was well to look back occasionally and see to whom we are indebted for the blessings we enjoy, and endeavor to kindle anew, those sentiments of pride and patriotism which give the citizens of the great republic the right to glory in their history. It is a duty and a privilege we owe to the dead, to cast upon these mounds, our garlands of flowers. But the occasion has failed of the full measure of its object if it does not leave a higher conception of the value of the blessings we enjoy as a people and a stronger purpose to hand them down intact to those who come after us. Nor may we forget that the institutions which are worth dying for, are worth living for, and if these heroes could go on bravely down to the dust of death that the Republic might not be torn asunder and left in dissevered and dishonored fragments, we, who are permitted to survive them, are bound to do our utmost to give that republic stability and glory. It has been said republics are ungrateful.. There are some things in the current history of our country which confirm the theory. Still republics are more likely to be forgetful than ungrateful. It is a duty therefore to remember and help other remembers how the friends of this great, grand government sprang to its defense in the dark hour of its first peril.

The speaker then passed in review the events from 1861 onward to the close of the war—the quick springing of arms, the victory and the wonderful peaceful disbanding of the great armies.

It only remains to be said, he continued, that such a people as ours, living under such institutions as ours, with such opportunities as we possess for enlightened discussion of all matters of public concern have little occasion to apprehend danger from military power of military ambition. We belittle ourselves when we give utterance to such apprehensions. If there is one sentiment more thoroughly imbedded in the hearts and minds of our people than any other, it is the conviction that our form of government s better than any other on the globe; that while it may have its imperfections, it is, on the whole, the best and most beneficent government God has vouchsafed to the human family, and when one hears some silly demagogue talking about fifty millions of people, such as occupy the expanse between these two great oceans, surrendering these institutions to an army of 20,000 soldiers, one feels like taking him by the ear and sitting him on the dunce block for children to point their fingers at. The statesman who is afraid to favor an army large enough to protect the property, guard the rights enforce respect for the laws and authority of the nation, for fear such an army may wrest from him his liberties, dishonors the good sense of the American people. Against such an attempt the people would instantly become a united power like a devouring flame upon the foe.

The band gave Hardwood’s anthem and chorus, “The Vital Spark.” Mr. Boden of the Arion Club sang a solo, “Holy peace,” when the veterans formed a hollow square and conducted the memorial services after the ritual of the Grand army. The decorating of the graves which were marked by bannerets, occupied the next half hour.
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