As long as there has been war, soldiers have fallen and survivors have remembered them. The Memorial Day we observe today had its genesis when the Ladies’ Memorial Association in Columbus, Georgia, passed a motion in 1866 to designate a day to throw flowers on the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers. For all the millions that have perished in our wars, every single one of them had their own story. Each had loved ones who would miss them, or a life that went unfulfilled. While millions is too big a number for our minds to grasp, one story can remind us of the sacrifice each made.
The following is taken from a letter written by Sullivan Ballou, a Major in the Second Rhode Island Volunteers. He wrote home to his wife:
July the 14, 1861
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield. The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us.
If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at eat First Battle of Bull Run.
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