Thursday, June 01, 2006

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

That detestable and avoidable war which divided our Nation and which caused untold suffering, death, and destruction, is variously called the Civil War, the War Between the States, the War of Southern Rebellion, or the War of Northern Aggression. Even before the war ended, it became a custom to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers with spring flowers. In 1866, just a year after cessation of hostilities, Southern ladies in one town decided to decorate both the graves of the Confederate soldiers, and also the otherwise neglected graves of Union solidiers. This custom seems to have started simultaneously throughout the United States, with May 30th soon being declared 'Decoration Day'; this day was observed in the North, with the South having other days for similar observances.

Memorial Day replaced Decoration Day, and was observed nationwide, eventually honoring the dead of all the wars. In 1971, the date was changed to the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend holiday.

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, in Saint Louis County, Missouri.

Before the war, these men were friends, relatives, neighbors, and fellow Americans. For a brief period of years, the nation turned against itself and the natural bonds between men were broken. Boys consigned their former schoolmates to the grave.

These men's relics now lie side by side with those of their former rivals. The rounded monuments are for Union soldiers, the pointed monuments are for Confederate.

A very large number of graves, like this one, contain the relics of an unknown soldier.

Even though this is a secular cemetery, it is still sacred, holy ground. These bodies were once temples of the Holy Spirit, and they deserve high respect.

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