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Memorial Day: Bitterness of Past Forgotten (1911-06-03)

100 Years Ago, Memorial Day (May 30) and Decoration Day (June 3), 1911: "bitterness of the past forgotten." Finally, the deep divisiveness of The Late Unpleasantness - the American Civil War, seemed to be laid to rest with back to back events, the Union Memorial Day and the Confederate Decoration Day, with leaders on both sides appealing to the better side of Adair Countians to forget the bitterness of the War and enjoy the rapid progress of the recovery of the South

By Jim
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on Life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents to spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.
(From "The Bivouac of the Dead," by Theodore O'Hara)
Articles about both Memorial Day and Decoration Day observances -- traditions started around the time of the Civil War -- appeared on the front page of the June 7, 1911 News.In regard to the former, the News related to readers that on Tuesday, May 30th, remembrances of the departed were "observed at a number of points in Adair County." For example, a large crowd assembled at Bear Wallow, and "the day was appropriately observed" in song and speech. At Mount Carmel, the speakers included Rev. B.M. Currie of Columbia and Rev. Wm. Black of Cane Valley. In addition to divers speeches and food in abundance, "There were many beautiful flowers which were placed upon the graves of departed heroes and departed civilians."

At the Columbia cemetery, with Gov. J.R. Hindman as Master of Ceremonies, decoration of the graves preceded a presentation by Rev. J.R. Crawford, pastor of the Columbia Presbyterian Church. The News stated that the good reverend

...cited many instances of the Civil War, the bitterness it engendered [at the time], and the culmination of peace. He referred to the joy brought about by the signing of the peace papers, and the rapid progress of the South since the hostilities ceased...

He took up Generals Jo Wheeler and Fitzhue Lee, Confederate Generals, who distinguished themselves upon many fields of battle, and the patriotism they showed for the stars and stripes when the war with Spain came.

Four days later, on Saturday, June 3rd -- Confederate Decoration Day -- what had started as a small gathering at "the monument near Green River Bridge" planned by former Confederate comrades-in-arms J.W. Thompson, Dr. J.H. Grady, and Dr. E.A. Waggener, mushroomed.

Early in the morning, people commenced to arrive, and by the noon hour it was estimated that fully four thousand persons were on the grounds. There is not a doubt but it was the most orderly assembly that ever gathered in all this country...

The organizers, Messrs. Thompson, Grady, and Waggener, had gone to great lengths to emphasize that all were welcome to attend the gathering, an unconditional inclusiveness reflected in the program announced in the May 24th edition:

The object of this meeting is to spend a purely social day, hence an invitation is extended to every body to be present, but particularly to the veterans who wore the Gray and the Blue in the Civil War, for in all probability many of us, this will be our last meeting.

After the crowd sang "America" as the opening activity, Rev. B.M. Currie led the invocation. He was followed by a stirring delivery from the main speaker, Campbellsville attorney W.M. Jackson, "a son of a gallant Confederate soldier." The June 7th News noted that "compliments on the address continue to be passed by residents of Columbia who had the pleasure of hearing it."

Immediately after Mr. Jackson's address, 19-year-old Pellyton native Miss Zella Pelly beautifully recited Kentuckian Theodore O'Hara's "Bivouac of the Dead." Accomplished elocutionist that she was, it's unlikely there was a dry eye in the crowd by the time she had finished the opening quatrains.

Following the recitation, the grave where sleeps twenty-four Confederate soldiers, whose lives were lost in the Battle of Green River Bridge The Battle of Tebb's Bend: 148 years (and one day) ago, today, was decorated by beautiful flowers, the ladies in charge.

The next order of business was dinner, "a magnificent affair, and there was an abundance for the thousands who gathered round the spreads."

In the afternoon, several of the sixty-odd old Federal and Confederate soldiers present gave brief talks, recounting their war experiences and declaring "in the most affectionate of terms that bitterness of the past had been forgotten, that peace reigned in a reunited nation."

These aging gentlemen were followed by two former Federal officers. Capt. Offet of Lebanon delivered a stemwinder of a speech, "convincing the audience that every Confederate soldier was now his friend." Capt. E.H. Tucker also made an excellent presentation.

After that, Columbia's own Miss Mabel Atkins, just days short of her 22nd birthday, continued the day's theme of unity by reciting "The Blue and the Gray," a poem the News stated was "the only impartial production of the soldiers of the Civil war that has ever come under our observation." Without a doubt, Miss Atkins, a "reader" of some local renown, captured and held the hushed attention of all until the tenderly worded closing lines: "Love and tears for the Blue / Tears and love for the Gray."

Rev Z.T. Williams made a speech, Dixie Wade, a wee lass of but five or six years, gave an impromptu presentation of a humorous poem, and the day was done.

In leaving for their respective homes, all were deeply impressed with what had occurred on Saturday, the 3rd day of June, 1911, and we are satisfied that many years will come before the recollection of the event will be blotted from memory.
By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the one, the Blue,
Under the other, the Gray...

No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day,
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.

(From "The Blue and the Gray," by Francis Miles Finch)
Those wishing to learn more about the Battle of Green River Bridge, also known as the Battle of Tebbs Bend and the Skirmish of July 4th (1863), can do no better than to read Betty Jane Gorin-Smith's Morgan is Coming: Confederate Raiders in the Heartland of Kentucky (Harmony House Publishers, 2006).

Compiled especially for Memorial Day 2011 by "Jim

This story was posted on 2011-05-30 15:48:49
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