Memorial Day

Lee and Meade met where the three Fates would fly
In the year 1863 during the beginning of July
There gathered exceptional soldiers of honorable mettle
I was one of many who joined in this mortal battle

1-July began an awesome scene of cruel destruction
When on a small piece of earth — McPherson Ridge — we met our foes
Then moving to Seminary Ridge and more hateful devastation
And to the aptly named Cemetery Hill, for further blows

2-July saw even more wreckage during Bloody Run and in the Devils Den
With additional casualties throughout the Little Round Top strife
Ever so near — which could have save some lives — was the end
Yes, it would have saved a life

3-July at Picket’s Charge brought the collapse of more than 10,000 men
Left in the frothy wake of this thunderous tide which had crested
A record 51,112 found their demise then
With one side proclaiming success and the other sorely tested

4-July, the anniversary of our nation’s birth, dawned
To destruction and waste, and bodies and spirits broken and twisted
This clash, now known as the Battle of Gettysburg, was finished
But for two more terrible and tormenting years this civil war persisted

I died at the Battle of Gettysburg in a blaze of fire
When at Picket’s Charge a musket ball pierced my heart extinguishing all desire
Forever more I’ll silently sleep as one of the earlier
And welcome the laying of the wreath at our tomb — an unknown soldier

Bless the ladies of the South who decorated the graves of the Confederate dead
Remember us, as you will, in January, April, May or June
And the Union families who gathered to honor their departed in Gilead
Never forget us, your children, brothers, husbands, fathers, who met misfortune

These spontaneous celebrations arose from a simple human need
And in response a special day was decreed
Not to remember the splitting of our Union, the separation
But to respect all who gave their lives, a reconciliation

Create a pleasant place for our loving mourners and guests
For today you will find more of us across this great nation blessed
Residing nearby in your town, village and country graveyards
Soldiers of all stripes in concert embracing your regards

See to it that not one soiled foot our tombs invade
Treasure affectionately our memory — we the valiant deceased
Whose bodies were battered while used as a blockade
Safeguard our final resting places that we might be released

Forget not our widows, orphans, nor our disabled comrades in need
For while I died at Gettysburg when a shot struck my heart
It is with ever more brothers and sisters I now rest peacefully
And ask that you remember it was to keep you free why we fought

So gather round our mounds and consecrated vestiges
Bring with you the loveliest of springtime flowers
Some say the delicate poppy, but any blossom will do
And raise the flag we died defending — the red, the white, and the blue


James Stack has published a memoir, World’s Fair, and a collection of poetry, Pleasures & Seasons of Vermont. He is currently working on a novel based on his sophomore year in college (themes: friendship, betrayal, bigotry). You can find on The Huffington Post his blog, “Postcards From Lebanon,” about his experience with chemotherapy.