(From: The National Memorial Day– by Ernest F.M. Faehtz, 1870)
Fellow-citizens: On this May-day, with the fresh flowers of spring, gathered by scores of hands from woods, gardens, and household plants, wrought into the varied symbols of love and Christian faith, we decorate the graves of men, who, in battle, in hospital, in cruel prison, have offered up their lives for their country. Whatever of value there is in being able to say, “We have a country” we owe, under God, to these. In this act, to be annually renewed, we answer the scandal that ” Republics are ungrateful.” Public patriotic speeches are often subjected to the criticism that only the more conspicuous officers are mentioned with praises, while there are thousands of privates whose heroism was equally great. But this day the private soldier receives the highest avowal of gratitude which his countrymen can bestow.
All distinctions are leveled in the grave. The commander and the private are in this ceremonial equally honored; their mounds arc alike marked with flag-tokens and alike decorated with floral offerings. Not by titles, but by simple home-names are they known to-day; here the muster-roll of death is called by no other voice than that of the heart, and when the heart calls the roll the humblest soul ranks with him who once was most exalted. But my gratitude is stirred towards the living as well as towards the dead. Whatever we owe to.those whose bodies peacefully slumber beneath our feet, that same debt is due to their comrades who survive them and are this day present. When they enlisted in their patriotic work they took their lives in their hands; they knew not, when they entered any battle, if they should emerge from it living men; but they kept steadfastly at their posts. All, living and dead, alike laid their lives upon the altar; God accepted a part, and gave back a part; let both receive grateful praise.
Life is precious; it should be sacrificed only at a great price. Fellow- citizens, shall these lives be wasted ? Shall these our brothers have died in vain?
Surviving comrades of the deceased, I have a message for you. Who has made you to differ? Who shielded you from harm? Who turned aside the bullet from your hearts? Who saved you from or out of disease? God! Gratefully acknowledge your indebtedness to Him. These lives which He has given back to you consecrate to Him. His cause is just; His service more illustrious than that of even your country; in it promotion is sure, and the final reward and triumph glorious- beyond conception. In this solemn hour, and by the all-needful and all-sufficient”merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the last great conflict, you shall be more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us.