Arlington Cemetary

UNREMEMBERED SOLDIER: Sgt. Edward Younger’s Orders

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By Ken Zurski

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Sgt. Edward Younger

In March 1921, a congressional resolution was passed calling for an American serviceman, remains unknown, to be buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Four unidentified bodies were drawn from separate regions of the European theater. In a small French village, at a makeshift chapel, one would be selected.

Sgt. Edward Younger of Chicago was the unassuming soldier chosen to make the pick. Younger had served in the war, went home, and then reenlisted. He was on special duty when he got orders. “Take these flowers,” his commanding officer told him, “proceed to the chapel and place them on one of the caskets.”

Alone and in silence, Younger circled the four caskets. He touched each one. He knelt and prayed. Then something drew him to the second casket on the right. “It seemed as if God himself guided my hand,” Younger recalled.

He gently set the flowers down and saluted.

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Forget the Inventor of Baseball Claim, Abner Doubleday Was a War Hero

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General Abner Doubleday

By Ken Zurski

ABNER DOUBLEDAY, the name synonymous with the invention of baseball, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

A decorated general in the Civil War, Doubleday was everywhere in the Union theater. He aimed the first guns at Fort Sumter to start the war, replaced another general, Joshua Reynolds, after he was struck down on the first day of Gettysburg, and led the troops to repulse Pickett’s Charge.  Doubleday survived the war with honors and continued a life in the military until his retirement in 1873.

He died in 1893.

The campaign to associate Doubleday with baseball’s origins began in 1905 with a letter published in “Spalding Baseball Guides” claiming Doubleday was in Cooperstown, New York (the so-called birthplace of baseball) and had indeed “…invented the game.” It was signed by a man named Abner Graves who says he witnessed it.  The letter caught the eye of A.G.Mills, the president of the National League of Base Ball Clubs at the time, and head of a commission to determine how baseball started.

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A.G. Mills

Mills and Doubleday were friends and both members of the soldier’s veterans committee. Based only on the letter it seems, Mills began the push to link his friend with the game’s conception.

Of course, this was all done after Doubleday was gone.

In fact, until his death at the age of 73, Doubleday never mentioned a connection to baseball and was only interested in his legacy as a war general – an undisputed and honorable affirmation.

His inclusion at the nation’s most hallowed grounds is a testament to that.

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Arlington National Cemetery

 

Thank the General’s Wife, Mary Logan, for Memorial Day

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Mary Logan

By Ken Zurski

General John A. Logan could not go. “Blackjack Logan” as his men affectionately dubbed him due to his strikingly dark hair and eyes, was invited by a newspaper man in Chicago, Charles Wilson,  to visit Richmond, Virginia. It was March 1868, and Logan now the leader of the Grand Army of the Republic was too busy in the nation’s capital overseeing veteran’s affairs to break away. But Wilson had invited the entire Logan family with him on the trip. So he insisted Logan’s wife Mary, daughter Dolly and Baby son, John Jr. still attend  The general gave them his blessing.

In Richmond, Mary Logan was prepared for the worse. Large portions of the city had been destroyed by fire and now three years removed from the brutality of war, it still resembled a battleground. “Driving from place to place we were greatly interested and realized more than we ever could have, had we not visited the city immediately after the war, the horrors through which the people of the Confederacy had passed,” Mary recalled after arriving.

Because of its proximity to Washington, many Union leaders, including President Lincoln, toured Richmond shortly after the North captured the embattled Southern capital.  Lincoln arrived with his son Tad on April 4, 1865 to a military-style artillery gun salute. He viewed first hand the devastation caused by the fires set by the escaping Rebels. The city’s structures were nearly gone, but the war was over. Five days later, General Robert E Lee signed surrender papers. Less than a week after that, Lincoln was dead.

But Richmond survived.

“The hotel we stayed in was in a very wretched condition,” Mary would later write about her trip. “And we expected to find the rebellion everywhere.”  Wilson, another war veteran, was interested in seeing Libby prison, so they took a carriage to the site. Along the roads, Mary noticed “colored people” still picking up the remnants of exploded shrapnel, broken cannon and  Minie balls to sell for iron scrap at local foundries. She remembers passing a poor little boy, so “thinly clad that he had little to protect him for the inclemency of the weather.” The March chill had given the city a depressing glumness.  “Well isn’t it so miserably hot to-day,” Mary recalls the boy humourously calling out to the driver, while at the same time, “his teeth were chattering,” she wrote.

The carriage then made its way to the cemeteries. This is where Mary took pause. Not only were there endless lines of stones, but they were all decorated. Mary was moved by the site.  “In the churchyard we saw hundreds of graves of Confederate soldiers. These graves had upon them bleached Confederate flags and faded flowers and wreaths that had been laid upon by loving hands.” Mary stopped to reflect. “I had never been so touched by what I had seen,” she said.

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General John A. Logan

When she returned to Washington, Mary summoned her husband and told him what she had witnessed at the grave sites. Logan said that it was a beautiful revival of a custom of the ancients preserving the memory of the dead. “Within my power,” he promised her, “I will see that the tradition is carried out for Union soldier as well.” A promise he did not wait long to keep.

Almost immediately, Logan sent a letter to the adjunct- general of the Grand Army of the Republic, dictating an order for the first decoration of the graves of Union soldiers.  He wrote:

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..

On May 30, Just as Logan had ordered the first Memorial Day service took place at Arlington Cemetery. Logan had given a directive how to proceed:

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.

Mary says that her husband picked the end of May because “flowers would be in their greatest perfection.” But perhaps most fitting of all was the day itself. Although no one could predict the weather, it was sunny and warm, a perfect start to the summer season. Baskets of brilliantly colored flowers in full bloom and enriched by the warmth of the sun’s light were spread throughout the national cemetery grounds.

It was as Mary would later describe it, “a beautiful day.”

 

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