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Memorial Day Celebrations (1870-1879)

1870 1871 1872 1873 1874
1875 1876 1877 1878 1879

The Evening Star, June 1, 1870
Honors to the Dead
Decorating the Soldiers' Graves at Congressional Cemetery

Yesterday the graves of the Union soldiers who fell in the late war, and whose remains lie in Congressional Cemetery, were decorated with flowers by George H. Thomas Post, Grand Army of the Republic, in the presence of a very large concourse of persons. The Post left their hall at 5 p.m., headed by Shroeder's Band, escorted by Light Battery F., 5th Artillery, Colonel H.A. Dupont commanding, and proceeded to the Cemetery. About 200 pupils of the Public Schools in the Wallach Building, headed by Mr. West, of the Grammar School, and Professor McFarland, music teacher, had preceded the Post. The ceremonies commenced at 5 ½ o'clock, the battery firing a national salute and the band playing a solemn dirge. Commander Kirkwood, of the Post, briefly stated, the object of their assembling, and Rev. Mr. Parsons, of the Lutheran Church offered a fervent prayer. The school children sang the "Soldier's Grave" in a very feeling manner, after which Comrade C.M. Barton delivered the oration. Another dirge was given by the band, and Rev. Mr. Parsons addressed the assemblage. The school children sang another hymn, and the benediction having been pronounced the members of the post and the young ladies from Wallach school being circulated throughout the cemetery and decorated the graves of the fallen dead. The vault containing the remains of the late Secretary Rawlins was decorated in a beautiful manner, and wreaths, crosses and bouquets of flowers were strewn upon it profusely. Comrade Joyce acted as officer of the day, with Comrade B Austin as adjutant.

The Evening Star, May 30, 1871
Memorial Day -- The Union Dead
At the Congressional Cemetery

The ceremonies took place this morning, at 10 o'clock under the auspices of Geo. H. Thomas Post, No. 8, G.A.R., of East Washington. A national salute was fired by the Navy Yard howitzer battery, after which a dirge was played by Prof. Donch's brass band, followed by prayer by Rev. Joseph P. Wilson, of the East Washington M.E. Church. The hymn "America" was then sung by the school children of the Wallach school house, and an oration delivered by Clarence M. Barton, Esq., Commander of Post No. 8. "Soldiers' Grave" was then sung by the school children, and Maj. J.E. Doughty delivered a short address; and afterwards there was music by the East Washington Musical Society. At this junction the children and visitors dispersed all over the grounds, strewing the graves of the soldiers with flowers. The soldiers' graves were designated by miniature flags placed on each grave. During the time the flowers and wreaths were being strewn over the graves the band was playing a dirge, and a hymn was sung by the children of Miss Simpson's class. There was music by the East Washington Musical Society at different stages of these ceremonies, which closed with the doxology, sung by the whole audience, and a national salute by the Navy Yard howitzers.

When the grave of the young ladies who were killed at the explosion of the Washington Arsenal during the war, the graves were very neatly decorated and festooned with flags. At the public vault, where the remains of the lamented General Rawlins repose, the children of Miss Simpson's class sung "Mount Vernon, the Mecca of the Free." After the ceremony the children were marched back to Wallach school house and dismissed.

The Evening Star, May 30, 1872
Congressional Cemetery

George H. Thomas Post No. 8 had charge of the decorations of soldiers and sailors graves at the Congressional Cemetery, Mr. Frank Woodbury, chairman of the committee of arrangements. There are 117 soldiers and sailors buried in this cemetery, each one of whose graves was decorated with a beautiful monument over the remains of the girls killed at the Arsenal explosion was not forgotten. The remains of the late Gen. John A. Rawlings temporarily placed in a private vault over two years since, where they still remain, were not forgotten by Thomas Post and the front of the vault was finely festooned.

The Evening Star, May 30, 1873
Congressional and Glenwood Cemeteries

The pleasant duty of decorating the graves of union soldiers at Congressional and Glenwood cemeteries was assigned to Comrade A.J. Gunning, who, accompanied by two comrades and Mrs. Marie Barton Greene, left Grand Army hall, corner of 9th and D streets, in a carriage, at half-past seven o'clock, carrying wreaths, flowers and flags. They first proceeded to the Congressional cemetery, where they decked the tomb of Gen. John A. Rawlins, formerly Secretary of War, with flowers and garlands. A few days since a letter was received by an officer of the G.A.R. from the widow of Gen. Rawlins, expressing the hope that his tomb wold not be overlooked in the decoration ceremonies, and a reply was at once forwarded, stating that the request would of course be cheerfully complied with, and that the G.A.R. had already made arrangements to pay special honors to the memory of the deceased soldier and statesman. At the tomb of Gen. Rawlins a prayer was offered by Dr. Bogan, and a poem, composed for the occasion by Mrs. M.B. Greene, was read by that lady. After the decoration of the graves of the few union soldiers whose remains repose in this cemetery, the committee proceeded to Glenwood, where, after appropriate religious services, the graves of the union dead were decorated with flowers, garlands and miniature flags. At the conclusion of the ceremonies, the party left for Arlington, where they joined the main body of the G.A.R.

The Evening Star, May 30, 1874
(Memorial Day)
Congressional Cemetery

Comrade Aug. Ridgely, with a committee to aid him, left headquarters on D street early in the day and drove to Congressional Cemetery where he made a brief address after which Rev. Mr. Davidson offered up a very fervent petition to heaven. The graves of those who fell in the late conflict were then decorated with a profusion of flowers.

The Evening Star, May 29, 1875
(Memorial Day)
Congressional Cemetery

Comrade Augustus Ridgeley with Mrs. A. Ridgeley, Jrs. V. Whalen and Mrs. M.E. Ridgeley visited Congressional Cemetery where about 75 graves were decorated.

The Evening Star, May 30, 1876
Oak Hill and the Congressional Cemetery

The graves of the Union dead reposing in Oak Hill cemetery, Georgetown, and in the Congressional Cemetery were beautifully decked with floral tributes by members of the Grand Army.

The Evening Star, May 30, 1877
(Decoration Day)
Congressional Cemetery

The exercises at Congressional cemetery, where there are about 75 Union dead, commenced at 9 1/2 o'clock a.m. There was a large crowd present, and the exercises were very interesting. At 9 1/2 o'clock the assemblage was called to order by R.R. Brouner, after which Rev. Charles D. Andrews, of Christ church, offered a prayer. An appropriate selection was sung by the Rathbone Quartette. A fine poem, written by Frank Carpenter, was read by Prof. A.W. Sharit. The Rathbone Quartette rendered another selection, and Mr. Crypti Palmoni being introduced he delivered a very appropriate address. Thirty-six young ladies dressed in white then made a circuit of the graves, strewing flowers, while chanting an original poem, written by Mrs. M.A. Dennison; and the benediction closed the exercises.

The Evening Star, May 30, 1878
Congressional Cemetery

The ceremonies here commenced about 9 ½ o'clock, and they were in charge of Mr. Geo. J.P. Wood. After decorating the graves, about seventy-five in number, Mr. Wood called the assemblage to order, and prayer was offered by Rev. Dr. Chester. The choir sang the "Soldier's Requiem," after which Major John Williams read an historical poem composed by Rev. George Taylor, the department chaplain. An ode to the "Nation's Dead," (composed by Chaplain Taylor,) was sung by the choir.

The Address
Mr. H.J. Gifford was introduced as the orator of the day. He referred to the fact that at the commencement of the late war "we were a nation unused to the arts and science of war," spoke of the alacrity with which the citizens rallied to the defense of the Union, and said 350,000 soldiers laid down their lives. On the subject of reconciliation, he said they had been asked to bury their differences; to join hands, the blue with the gray, and answered that they not only honor the valor displayed by the Union soldiers, but honor the cause for which he died, and that, now, as in the past, their motto is: "The Union, now and forever." They sought not to disparage the bravery of the rebel, and acknowledging that, they also recognize that they (the rebels) were seeking to destroy the government. "We do not harbor feelings other than those of kindness toward the living who were in arms against us. All advances toward a complete reconciliation will be cordially met by every lover of the Union, and by none more heartily than by those who "wore the blue;" but a reconciliation that shall ignore the results obtained by the war, or that shall demand from us an apology for the part we took, will be an insult to the living as well as to the dead soldiers of the Union. He closed by referring to the fact that in this ground are some who struggled for independence, served in the second war and in the late war-three generations of heroes.

The choir sang a memorial ode, written by Mr. Taylor, and the benediction concluded the services.

The Evening Star, May 30, 1879
At Other Cemeteries

At the Congressional Cemetery the assembly was called to order by Comrade G.J.P. Ward. Prayer by Rev. John Lanahan was followed by the singing of an anthem by the choir entitled, "How Blest Are They Who Trust in God." The poem, "Cover Them O'er," by Will Carleton was impressively read by Comrade E.C. Townsend. After the chant, "Fraility of Life," Rev. Benjamin Swallow delivered an oration. Then followed a national anthem, "Stand by the Flag," and the benediction concluded the interesting exercises.

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