Memorial Day 2011, A Day to Remember

Today, Memorial Day is a time for us to remember the fallen – not only the military but also the 9/11 victims.

Memorial Day became a recognized holiday on May 30, 1868 with an official order by General John Logan, commander of the National Army.

On that day people placed flowers on Union and Confederate soldiers’ graves at Arlington Cemetery, but before then, women in the south had already been remembering their fallen fathers, brothers, husbands and sons with flowers and specific days for remembrance.

With this year marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, let’s remember the blue and gray by taking a look at two different coins.

The first is the obverse of the Battle of Gettysburg silver half dollar coin from 1936:

Battle of Gettysburg Silver Half Dollar 1936 Obverse

After the Civil War, the soldiers put down their weapons and respected each other in peace.

Note the inscription at the bottom of the coin, “Blue and Gray Reunion.” Just last week a travel piece on civil war sites noted, “That’s what community leaders in Manassas’ Prince William County have chosen to re-enact this summer: On July 21, Manassas will re-create the 1911 Jubilee, and celebrate peace and reconciliation.”

Though a terrible part of our past, the men wearing the blue and gray helped shape our country.

In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain spoke at the dedication of the Monument to the 20th Maine on October 3, 1889.

Part of his commentary can be seen on the reverse of the modern Civil War Battlefield commemorative silver dollar coin.Civil War Battlefield Silver Dollar Reverse

The longer version of his quote includes, “In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field to ponder and dream; And lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”

His comments were specific to the Civil War, but his sentiment can apply to all of the fallen whom we remember on this day – whether they fell on American or foreign soil.