Shiloh: A Requiem

ShilohScreen Shot 2014-05-31 at 8.11.20 AM
A Requiem

Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
   The swallows fly low
Over the field in clouded days,
   The forest-field of Shiloh—
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain
Through the pause of night
That followed the Sunday fight
   Around the church of Shiloh—
The church so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
      And natural prayer
   Of dying foemen mingled there—
Foemen at morn, but friends at eve—
   Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceive!)
   But now they lie low,
While over them the swallows skim,
   And all is hushed at Shiloh.

Herman Melville – 1862

With compliments,


The Portent

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 11.04.12 AMHanging from the beam,

Slowly swaying (such the law),


Gaunt the shadow on your green,




The cut is on the crown


      (Lo, John Brown),


And the stabs shall heal no more.


Hidden in the cap


      Is the anguish none can draw;


So your future veils its face,




But the streaming beard is shown


      (Weird John Brown),


The meteor of the war.


– Herman Melville, 1859


With compliments,


Frederick Douglass on Black Soldiers

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 10.35.22 AMOnce Lincoln gave the go ahead for the enlistment of black soldiers, prominent African Americans such as Frederick Douglass were asked to help with recruitment. Douglass was delighted and sent two of his sons to join the ranks of the now famous 54th Massachusetts. It quickly became apparent that black soldiers would not be treated equally with whites: less pay, no chance for advancement, and menial duty. Speaking to a group in Philadelphia, he explained that despite such treatment, the enlistment of black soldiers was a significant event.

“This is no time for hesitation…Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S.; let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on the earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States. I say again, this is our chance, and woe betide us if we fail to embrace it.”

With compliments,


A Few Out of the Way Spots on Memorial Day

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 9.27.20 AMA few day ago I posted a number of pictures taken while participating in the pre-Memorial Day exercises at the National Cemetery in Los Angeles. Over the weekend, it occurred to me that there were several Union Civil War veterans buried elsewhere in cemeteries around LA, especially at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which as I have often made note, is in close proximity to Harristorian HQ.

Unfortunately, most of the graves are in isolated parts of the cemetery and rarely visited. I suppose that the veterans’ descendents have long ago moved on. So we (my wife, Coni and I) took it upon ourselves to hold our own Decoration Day (the original name of Memorial Day from 1868) and place flags on the graves of Union veterans in Hollywood.

Below are a few shots of our own festivities.


With compliments,


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John A. Logan’s General Order #11 Designating Memorial Day

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 9.20.07 AMGrand Army of the Republic commander John A. Logan issued GAR General Order #11 on May 5, 1868. Note that the twin themes of Union and emancipation hold equal significance:

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice of neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 9.19.23 AMwarmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude, — the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

With compliments,