From the Richmond Dispatch, 6/1/1868, p. 1, c. 4
THE FEDERAL MEMORIAL CELEBRATION. – The 30th of May having been selected by General Logan, of the Grand Army of the Republic, as the “Union Memorial Day,” the branch of that organization in Richmond celebrated it as such on Saturday.
The memorial exercises took place at the National Cemetery, on the Williamsburg road, about two miles from Richmond. Here six thousand two hundred Federal soldiers sleep their last sleep – some of them far from where they fell; for by special enactment the United States Congress has provided for the care of the Union dead. Money and labor have made this cemetery a beautiful spot. It is laid out with great regularity in sections, and the head-boards are planted in rows with true precision. Every grave is covered by a green-turfed mound. The neat wooden boards are painted white, and in some cases bear the names of those whose bones are lying below; but two-thirds of them simply bear the inscription, “Unknown U. S. Soldiers,” or “2 Unknown U. S. Soldiers.” In the centre of the cemetery is a tall mound, upon which is erected a platform, over which the stars and stripes are continually flying. On Saturday the flag was at half-mast. At different spots by the side of the gravelled walks are shield-shaped wooden tablets bearing appropriate poetical inscriptions. We give one or two specimens:
“The bugle’s wild and warlike blast
Shall muster them no more;
An army now might thunder past,
And they not hear its roar.
The starry flag ‘neath which they fought
On many a bloody day,
From their graves shall rouse them not,
For they have passed away.”
“Flung to the viewless winds,
Or on the waters cast,
Their ashes shall be watched,
And gathered at the last;
While from their sacred dust,
Around us and above,
Shall spring a precious seed
Of witnesses for God.”
The crowd began to gather at the cemetery at about 11 o’clock, and there were many persons present all day; at 1 o’clock it was estimated that there were about three thousand persons in and about the enclosure. Of these perhaps four hundred were white – Federal officers and their ladies, Government employes, the newly-appointed city officers, and nearly all the prominent Richmond Radicals, accompanied by their families. We noticed City Councilman Wigand, Miller, and Kent, and Mr. Franklin Stearns, James Morrissey, and David Turner, on the grounds. Of course it was not expected that our people generally would join in the tribute, as Logan’s order was couched in words libelling us and insulting our own noble dead.
The graves having been prettily decked with flowers, a tiny Union flag waving over each, the exercises were commenced with prayer by Rev. Mr. Mitchell, of the Northern Methodist Church. General Granger, General Brown, George Rye, Mayor Chahoon, James H. Clements, Captain B. C. Cook, and others, were seated on the platform. Chaplain Manly was then introduced, and read a very fine address, suitable to the occasion. He dwelt at length upon the patriotism and valor of the citizen soldiers of the Union, averring that the world had never seen the like. Washington, he thought, was no better or greater than Lincoln, nor Warren and other revolutionary Generals greater than Lyon, Macpherson, and many other heroes of ’61. He spoke feelingly of the custom of decorating the graves, and hoped that it would be kept up.
At intervals during the day an excellent band, stationed near the platform, discoursed some sweet funeral dirges. The solemnity of the exercises was much marred by the cries of cake, lemonade, and peanut venders, who made the most noisy efforts to dispose of their wares. We were surprised to see one of the most prominent colored Republicans of Richmond engaged in these ignoble pursuits, apparently without a thought of the thousands of dead around him.