Military men and women who died while in service to our country will be honored in various ways throughout Maryland and the nation this weekend.
One of the oldest is the Memorial Day parade in Sharpsburg (Washington County), which started after the Civil War to honor returning veterans, according to the Hagerstown/Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).
The Herald and Torch Light outlined the 1881 commemoration, once known as Decoration Day, that took place at Antietam National Cemetery:
“Monday last, decoration day, opened up bright and beautiful, with a balmy air, all nature seeming to smile approvingly upon the acts of those who were honoring the silent heroes by strewing flowers upon their graves in that beautiful resting place of the dead — Antietam cemetery, at Sharpsburg, where the repose the remains of so many thousands who gave up their lives in their country’s cause. The crowd in attendance at Sharpsburg, which began to pour in to that place at an early hour from all directions, and by every conceivable way of conveyance, bore evidence that time in its flight had not carried the hearts of the people away from the scenes and trials that transpired upon those ever-memorable fields so many years ago.”
The Hon. Peter Negley, addressed the crowd at the cemetery:
“Again we meet on this sacred spot, dedicated to the memory of the brave men who offered their lives on the alter of their country’s good, eighteen years ago. To look out over the face of nature, blooming in all its grandeur and magnificence, no one would suppose that grim visaged and iron clad war had ever visited this lovely spot. All traces of the mighty contest are nearly obliterated. Peace, prosperity and happiness reign supreme; no footfall and clatter of the angry war horse; no marching and counter-marching of armed infantry; no mounted cannon and following caissons, now disturb the grateful quiet of this smiling and beautiful May day. All these have passed away, and as we trust, have passed for ever.
“The custom of strewing the graves of those we lovingly remember is older than the war of the rebellion. Time out of mind the faithful wife and sorrow stricken mother has strewn the grave of her departed husband, or the last resting place of her loved son, with the choisest (sic) floral offerings of nature. It is a custom beautiful in thought and refining in its exercise, and one that will live and be practiced when all memory of our civil war will have been buried in forgetfulness and the distant past.
“We honor the memory of the brave and gallant dead, whose mortal remains are resting in this hallowed spot. The nation, for whose life their lives were given, survives in a grandeur, power and magnificence of which they did not dream. It will never forget the debt of gratitude it owes them, and never cease to remember them lovingly and kindly as we are doing to-day. …”
A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. on the last Monday in May in honor of the fallen.
Source: Herald and Torch Light, June 1, 1881, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website