The war is over – the rebels are our countrymen again.

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, 9 April 1865

In the United States, the last Monday in May is recognized as Memorial Day, a day to remember all who have lost their lives in the defence of the United States. It was once known as ‘Decoration Day’, a day to remember all those who had died during the American Civil War. One story claims that it began in the South when two ladies went to the cemetery to place flowers on the graves of the Confederate dead and noticed that there were also Union dead buried nearby. The graves were void of any flowers or other signs that they had been visited by loved ones. Aware that there were young men buried all over the reunited United States, too far from home to be visited by family, the ladies brought more flowers and saw to it that the Union dead were remembered as well as those of the Confederacy.

While feelings of animosity and anger lingered for years after the war’s end, an awareness grew that no matter what colour their uniform, all who had fought and died during the American Civil War had done so in defence of what they believed was right. A poem by Francis Miles French has become a Memorial Day staple. The last verse reflects the respect each side had for the other:

No more shall the war cry sever,

Or the winding rivers be red,

They banish our anger forever

When they laurel the graves of the dead!

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment day;

Love and tears for the Blue,

Tears and love for the Gray.


Minnesota Civil War memorial

Jacob Fjelde [CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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