July 1, 1875

In this Decoration Day poem from 1875, James A. Winslow calls for reconciliation with former Confederates.

Decoration Day—May, 1875

By James Ancrum Winslow

Ay, deck our heroes’ graves with flowers,
The fairest of the Spring;
But, in the feelings of your hearts,
A nobler tribute bring;
Remember those who gave their lives
To save the nation’s life,
Nor reeked of hardships, or fatigue,
Or peril in the strife.

They rest in peace—‘tis well to strew
Flowers o’er each hallowed spot
Where now they sleep, though years have passed,
We still forget them not.
“Men live in deeds, not years,” their deeds
Are on the roll of fame,
And naught that comes with length of days
Could honor more their name.

But when we strew our flowers today
Above our Union dead,
Forget we not the foes who late
In strife against us bled.
Their graves, with ours, today are decked;
Their graves with flowers are spread;
The living foes are reconciled;
Then, peace be to the dead.

Our brothers once, our brothers now,
If erring, true and brave,
Our kinsmen, children of the land
Our soldiers fought to save.
Unreckoned blood, uncounted gold,
Hateful fraternal strife,
It cost to bring our brothers back
And save the nation’s life.

Forget we not the charnels vast
‘Neath each great battle plain,
Where, undistinguished, rests the dust,
Commingled, of the slain;
Forget we not the thousand graves
Whose tale no tongue can tell,
Where by a chance or ambushed shot
Some lonely picket fell

The unnamed graves no loving hand
Can strew today with flowers,
The missing ones whom loving hearts
Have mourned through weary hours;
The graves no monument adorns
In thicket and in glade,
Where shrouded in the Autumn leaves
So many a corpse is laid.

Now, as Verona’s hostile clans
Joined hands above the grave
Where, clasped in death, their children lay,
And mutual wrongs forgave,
Their long feud quenched, let North and South
Forgive and bury deep
All hate within the common graves
Where now their heroes sleep.

Then shall the dearest blood of both
Our country fertilize,
And from their ashes, joined in death,
A grander nation rise;
A stronger union than the old,
Fast bound by wrongs forgiven;
And all the stars unclouded gild
Our banner’s azure heaven.



The Troy Messenger, 1 July 1875.