Decoration of the Soldiers Graves at Arlington
Honor to the Patriot Dead
(The First Decoration Day in Washington, D.C.)
The decoration of the Union soldiers graves at Arlington Cemetery, over the Long Bridge, took place today at
one o'clock, and was a very impressive affair. Yesterday afternoon and this morning, the committees were busily engaged in receiving and arranging flowers and evergreens at the Foundry M.E. Church, corner of 14th and G streets, which were contributed by ladies and gentlemen throughout the city, and from the public gardens under General Michler, the botanical garden under W.R. Smith, Esq., and the President's Conservatory and Treasury gardens. Hundreds of bouquets, wreaths and caskets were beautifully arranged and conveyed to Arlington by ambulance. During the morning hundreds of all kinds of vehicles were passing over the Long Bridge, and by one o'clock the crowd of ladies and gentlemen at the Cemetery was very large.
The exercises were opened at one o'clock in front of the Arlington Mansion, by W.T. Collins, Esq., who read the general order (Grand Army of the Republic – G.A.R.) designating the 30th of May as a day to be observed throughout the United States in decorating the graves of the Union dead. Rev. Byron Sunderland then offered an impressive prayer, after which an appropriate hymn was sung. Honorable James A. Garfield (then a Member of Congress from Ohio) was then introduced and delivered the oration, which was very appropriate and listened to with marked attention. The lateness of the hour prevents us from giving Mr. Garfield's address. At its conclusion, a patriotic song was sung by the assemblage and an original poem was read by Honorable J.C. Smith. The services at this point concluded with a solemn dirge by the 44th Infantry band.
The procession was then formed as follows: Children of Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphan Asylum, in charge of the officers and managers of the Association, and Committee on Decorations followed by friends generally. The procession marched around the gardens south of the Mansion, the children strewing flowers upon the graves along the line of march as they passed and halted at the tomb of the unknown soldiers, who fell in Virginia during the early years of the war. A fervent prayer was offered by Rev. J.G. Butler, of the Lutheran Church, and an appropriate chorus was sung by the Arion club. The fifth cavalry band then performed a dirge, during which the tomb was decorated with flowers and evergreens. The procession then marched to the flag stand at the principal cemetery where the exercises were opened with prayer by Rev. Chas. V. Kelly, of Chicago, and after a hymn, Honorable Halbert E. Paine (Member of Congress), of Wisconsin, read the dedicatory address of the late President Lincoln, delivered at Gettysburg. The committee of Decorations, the orphans and friends, then proceeded to decorate the graves throughout the cemetery, covering the same with flowers while solemn music was performed by the various bands.
During the time of the ceremonies a national salute was fired from the front of the Arlington house. The
decorations having been made the visitors returned to the stand, and after a hymn by the Arion Club. Rev. C.B. Boynton, offered a fervent prayer and pronounced the benediction.
The Committee of Arrangements, with General N.P. Chipman, as chairman, the Committee on Reception, with
W.H. Brown, Esq., chairman, and the Committee on Decoration, with Mrs. Senator Trumbull, President of the
Soldiers and Sailors Orphan Asylum, assisted by a large number of ladies and gentlemen, deserve great credit for the excellent manner in which all arrangements were made and executed. The celebration was in all respects a most solemn and impressive one.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard