Memorial Day 1942: Recalling A Long-Ago Experience

As a high school senior at that year’s holiday, it was my honor to recite a patriotic poem at the school’s Civil War memorial statue ceremony. It was at Girard College, a residential school for fatherless boys in Philadelphia, founded in the 1830s.

When the Civil War began in 1861, many Girard students, ages 14 to 17, ran away to join. Most fought for the Union, while some made their way south to the Confederacy. As history reports, casualties on both sides were horribly heavy, including many of the Girard teen volunteers.

The poem I recited, written by Francis Miles Finch just after the Civil War, is The Blue and the Gray. It equally mourns and honors the dead of both sides of the conflict, and ends with:

No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day,
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.

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