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History of Antietam National Cemetery (Bradford - page 43)

Union soldiers, Battle of Antietam. Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


But let us pass from this melancholy retrospect to the more agreeable contemplation of the tribute due to the valiant dead that lie here now at rest around us. The posthumous honors rendered to departed patriots are commended to us by the example of the noblest nations of antiquity, and are prompted by those impulses of the human heart which in all ages seek to perpetuate some record or reminiscence of the good and the brave. In the best days of the republics of old, these mortuary observances were far more frequent and impressive than in modern times; they not only embalmed the bodies of their warriors and statesmen, but their funeral ceremonies, the eulogies pronounced over them, and the monuments erected to their memory, were recognized as of national obligation. Their exploits were chronicled and elaborated by the poets and orators of their nation, and have been handed down to the present day as a classic theme, on which the youthful mind still delights to dwell.

It was a custom with the Athenians to appoint every year a man for the observance of solemn funeral rites over the remains of their heroes who had fallen during the year ; their bones were collected together, their friends were invited to be present, their remains were decorated as the fancy or affection of those friends might suggest, and, after three days thus employed, these remnants of mortality were carried in solemn funeral pomp to a public temple prepared for their reception. Nor were they forgotten whose mouldering forms it had been impossible to recover, for them, or in memory of them, an empty bier, the most gorgeous in the procession, was especially dedicated ; and a sepulchre situated in the costliest suburb of the city received the sumptuous coffins, the empty and the full. We have, as yet, established no such national anniversaries, nor yet provided any such gorgeous pageantry. No storied urn or cypress coffin may contain the remains of our soldiers' dead ; many of them doubtless have never yet been gathered within any recognized cemetery, and still occupy the shallow grave on the margin of the battle field, or near some hospital site, their last resting place probably altogether unmarked, or if marked at all, only by a rough stake, and occasionally a few rude letters ; but whatever be its condition or wherever it may be, on the banks of the Mississippi or among the mountains of Pennsylvania, in the morasses of the Chickahominy, or in this quiet and well-ordered cemetery, Greece nor Rome, in their palmiest days, never offered up costlier sacrifices in the cause of human freedom than "the hearts once pregnant with celestial fire," which these rude sepulchres entomb.

In ancient times it was undoubtedly true, especially as regarded the honors to living men—and probably no age may be altogether exempt from the. imputation—that in the costly statues erected to, and the magnificent orations showered upon, the successful soldier or accomplished statesman, there lurked not unfrequently some personal consideration


Page #:

Maryland. Board of Trustees of the Antietam National Cemetery.


Collection Location:
Washington County Free Library.

Original Size:
23 x 14 cms

J.W. Woods, printer, Baltimore

Antietam National Cemetery; United States History, Civil War, 1861-1865, Registers of dead.

Washington County, Md; 1862-1869.

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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