Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Our freedom

One of my more memorable trips as a young child was to Shiloh battlefield.

I went with my best friend and his parents. I was perhaps a bit young to fully understand its meaning and significance. I was probably more interested at the time in what we were going to eat for lunch, since it was a picnic.

But I do recall the trip as it was yesterday, particularly the cemetery. My mind goes back to the monuments and the lives that were lost while fighting for our freedoms.

Shiloh National Military Park was established in 1894 to preserve the scene of the first major battle in the Western theater of the Civil War. The two-day battle, April 6 and 7, 1862, involved about 65,000 Union and 44,000 Confederate troops. This battle resulted in nearly 24,000 killed, wounded, and missing.

It proved to be a decisive victory for the Federal forces when they advanced on and seized control of the Confederate railway system at Corinth. The battlefield contains about 4,000 acres at Shiloh and an interpretive center at Corinth. The park has within its boundaries the Shiloh National Cemetery along with the well preserved prehistoric Indian mounds that are listed as a historic landmark.

The Shiloh battlefield is located in Hardin County, Tenn., on the west bank of the Tennessee River nine miles southwest of Savannah, Tenn., with an additional park unit located in the city of Corinth, 23 miles southwest of Shiloh.

Next week we celebrate a national holiday, Memorial Day, Monday, May 30. Its significance should not be overlooked.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day to remember those who have died in our nation’s service. After the Civil war many people in the North and South decorated graves of fallen soldiers with flowers.

In the Spring of 1866, Henry C. Welles, a druggist in the village of Waterloo, NY, suggested that the patriots who had died in the Civil War should be honored by decorating their graves. General John B. Murray, Seneca County Clerk, embraced the idea and a committee was formed to plan a day devoted to honoring the dead. Townspeople made wreaths, crosses and bouquets for each veteran’s grave. The village was decorated with flags at half mast. On May 5 of that year, a procession was made to the town’s cemeteries, led by veterans. The town observed this day of remembrance on May 5 of the following year as well.

Decoration Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed officially on May 30, 1868. The South did not observe Decoration Day, preferring to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I. In 1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day, and soldiers who had died in other wars were also honored.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be held on the last Monday in May.

Today, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of the summer season in the United States. It is still a time to remember those who have passed on, whether in war or otherwise. It also is a time for families to get together for picnics, ball games, and other early summer activities.

In connection with Memorial Day on the local front, there will be a lighting of the eternal flame ceremony this Friday afternoon, May 27, at 5:30 p.m. on the Marshall County Court Square in Holly Springs. Thanks to the Marshall County Board of Supervisors, the VFW and others who have played a role in relighting the eternal flame. There have also been substantial beautification efforts on the courthouse grounds and around the Veterans’ Memorial.

It’s only fitting that this ceremony be tied in with Memorial Day — a time when we should all pause, remember and be thankful for freedom and those who have given their lives for their country.


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