Union and Confederate veterans celebrate Memorial Day together for the first time at Alexandria Soldiers' Cemetery in 1891.

Robert Bell, "LET US HAVE PEACE.": An Alexandria Man on the Blue and Gray," Washington Post, June 5, 1891, 2.

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“Let Us Have Peace”

An Alexandria Man on the Blue and the Gray.

Editor Post: The Post circulates here as a town paper, and it is not at all surprising that the two communications in today’s issue, relating to Saturday at the soldiers’ cemetery here, have caused some indignation. This has been exposed by both blue and gray.

It was a given out here that Grant Post was to decorate the soldiers’ graves on the 30th, and Lee Camp had been invited to unite with them. The invitation was written in a business-like way, and closed with Grant’s memorable words, “Let us have peace.”

The next meeting of Lee Camp was held just before they marched out to decorate the monument and mound of Confederate soldiers in Christ Church yard. It was accepted, and when the visitors came down on Saturday morning- a very busy day here, and on a day that Alexandria seldom takes for a holiday- they, with the town drum corps and citizens, met them.

To me, and I was certainly not alone, an humble but interested observer, born here since Appomattox and of loyal Virginian parentage and people who have adhered also to the Republican party since it absorbed the Whig, the presence of such men as Corse, Knox, Warfield, Jamieson, Wood, Herbert, Taylor, and others, both ex-Confederate and citizens who hoped and labored for their cause seemed something altogether unusual, something more than ordinary, to teach the younger generation love of country and true citizenship.

When the time for the ceremonies over the graves of the Federal dead came there was nothing but deep respect and true patriotism manifest, both by those who wore the gray and those who wore the blue, and if the speeches were at all moderated to suit the occasion, and I believe they were not, they were, nevertheless, patriotic, and they were stirring and altogether such as to please all who listened and worthy those sleeping at their feet.

My heart is not that of a woman, but it was full of emotion when I saw the strewing of flowers upon the graves by the veterans and people here in the same spirit manifested in the exercises of Monday, and there was more in hearing one say on his departure, “Well, these graves are more trim now than they were ever before,” and then sending their sons and townspeople’s sons at sundown to fire the volleys.
Such actions surely are not injured or made less significant by Mr. Thompson’s communication.

As to Capt. Jones he should be assured that the younger generation consider themselves no degenerate sons of their fathers, and are bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, and God grant that they shall ever be.

I, for one do not agree with him as to the cross-bar flag, and I claim to love that flag no more than he.

If he infers that the Southerner by a display of these flags and pointing his children to it means to teach them to love it as the flag of their country he does every one of them an injustice. Said a fire-eating ex-Confederate to me to-day: “It is a relic I think it as much so as the shot-and-shell-riddled State banners carried in the first engagements of ‘61, which are now displayed in many State houses and armories of the North and West. No difference.” The gentleman I referred to pointed to the Stars and Stripes and said, “That flag was made since the war, and it is much my flag as it is you flag, and my children shall be taught by it as your children, but we have as much right to display our old flag now as we have such like things of the war, which closed before you were born- twenty-six years and some months ago.”

Time changes and things change with time, and yet, as the Revolutionary war is not forgotten, so shall the late war be remembered in the future with each year the ranks of those living the grow thinner and thinner and after awhile there will be but a few left to tell the tale.

It is important that we of the younger generation should be taught, and now we are becoming capable of learning beyond the reach of the master’s pencil and switch.

Despising a thing will not kill it, and liberty and the touch of human nature maketh the whole world akin.

A man can despise the Confederate flag and yet be esteemed by one who does not. This country had been free, and perhaps too free; but this freedom cannot be shackled unless you go about it the right way. Touch the right spring and you have it.

In a few years Decoration Day will be as familiar to us as Christmas, and each year will make it more and more significant.

Let our fathers leave off their extreme ideas and we will be bettered by it.

We no longer need fear any cross-bar flag. We know none other than that which every nation reverences.

We fear no more rebellion; should it come we will put it down, and speedily for it cannot be what the last was. The younger generation of to-day are students of the country’s past history more than their fathers were, and 1861 was not what 1891 is.

When a couple of years ago a body of scores of thousands of men bearing a secret fraternity’s device marched in solid phalanx up and down the grand highway of our National Capital no one asked whether they were Yankies or rebels, yet they were both in majority, and I believe such lessons as this are far more likely to help the younger generation to love their country’s flag than hiding or burning the red rag. The less flag talk just after such gatherings at Alexandria on Saturday the better. “Let us have peace.”

Robert Bell.
Alexandria. Thursday.

  • Union and Confederate veterans celebrate Memorial Day together for the first time at Alexandria Soldiers' Cemetery in 1891.

Let Us Have Peace

Memorial Day 1891 marked the very first time the Robert E. Lee Camp of Confederate Veterans joined the Grand Army of the Republic Veterans to decorate Alexandria Soldiers’ Cemetery. Previously, Confederate and Union veterans had met separately to commemorate their dead. Not only was national unification more apparent but so was a sense of reconciliation and a shared sense of responsibility for all American Civil War dead.


Examine the source carefully and answer the questions below:

What details from the article illustrate greater reconciliation between Union and Confederate veterans?
Are there any details from the article that show ex-Confederates still thought of themselves as having a separate heritage from a national American one? If so, explain.