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History of Antietam National Cemetery (Bradford - page 44)

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


mingling with the motives that suggested them. Sometimes it was fear that prompted the timid thus to propitiate the wrath of the powerful; sometimes it was a servile adulation that, in the time-serving, sought by such means to secure a recompense in the shape of other honors or emoluments to be reciprocated. It was doubtless the knowledge of such corruptions, and an appreciation of the motives that should always control such memorials, that prompted Cato, when once asked by a friend, why no statues had been erected to him, whilst Rome was crowded with so many others, to reply as he did, that he had much rather his countrymen should inquire why he had no statue, than why he had any ; but the character and circumstances of the honors we are here to render to our patriot dead, not only vindicate their motive, but in that motive itself is found the very germ of the honor we would confer. Let statues or monuments to the living or the dead tower ever so high, the true honor, after all, is not in the polished tablet or towering column, but in that pure, spontaneous and unaffected gratitude and devotion of the people that enshrines the memory of the honored one in the heart, and transmits it from age to age long after such costly structures have disappeared.

The only honor accorded to Miltiades, the great deliverer of Athens, was to be represented in a picture, painted by order of its citizens, at the head of the other nine commanders of the heroic ten thousand, animating his followers to the attack of the hostile force which outnumbered them ten to one : and yet that simple painting, preserved in the affections of succeeding generations, existed for centuries thereafter, whilst the three hundred statues which in a later and corrupter age, were erected by the same people in honor of Demetrius, were all demolished, even in his lifetime.

Thus in our heart would we enshrine the memory of the Union soldiers ; generations yet unborn shall recount to their offspring the history of their valor ; and long after brass and marble have crumbled into dust, shall their names be preserved as the men who perished to perpetuate what their fathers had so struggled to establish -this Heaven-appointed Government of popular freedom.

A sepulchre, as I have said, was formerly prepared for the heroes of ancient Greece in the most conspicuous suburb of their cities; this custom, however, had one miserable exception, and for which this day's solemnities on the field of Antietam furnishes an appropriate parallel.

Such was the extraordinary valor displayed by those who fell fighting against the Persian host on the memorable battle-field of Marathon, that the Athenians determined that their sepulchre should be separated and distinguished from those of their other heroes. The most honorable distinction they could suggest was to bury them on the field where they had fallen ; and thus this little marshy plain, immortalized by this battle of


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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