Memorial Day, an annual occasion for remembering the brave Americans who perished in battle, is observed on the last Monday in May. The idea for observing Memorial Day dates to the U.S. Civil War. Prior to 1971, Memorial Day was observed on May 30. On May 28, 1895, two days before Memorial Day was observed that year, Harper’s Round Table published an essay about Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg by Theodore Roosevelt, who would become President of the United States within the decade, and a poem commemorating Memorial Day. I will examine both in brief in commemorating our upcoming 2021 Memorial Day.

Photograph of the 2018 Memorial Day ceremony at the White House.
Memorial Day 2018” by The White House is marked with CC PDM 1.0

On Theodore Roosevelt’s Piece on Pickett’s Charge as it Relates to Memorial Day

Theodore Roosevelt wrote a medium-length essay on Pickett’s Charge that I will examine in detail at a later date. Two passages from his essay struck me as especially meaningful as we approach Memorial Day.

Of Pickett’s charge, Roosevelt wrote:

It was the greatest charge in any battle of modern times, and it had failed. It would be impossible to surpass the gallantry of those who made it, or the gallantry of those that withstood it.

Roosevelt described the aftermath of the Battle at Gettysburg, which itself serves as a reminder of why we observe Memorial Day:

When night fell Union flags waved in triumph over the field of Gettysburg; but over thirty thousand men lay dead or wounded, strewn through wood and meadow, on field and hill, where three days’ fight had surged.

Memorial Day Poem

Below, you will find the Memorial day poem that appeared in Harper’s Round Table reprinted in its entirety.

“Memorial Day”

 Flutter of flag and beat of drum
     And the sound of marching feet,
 And in long procession of soldiers
     To the call of bugles sweet.
 And the marching soldiers stop at last
     Where their sleeping comrades lie,
 The men whose battles have long been fought,
     Who dared for the land to die.

 Children, quick with your gathered flowers,
     Scatter them far and near;
 They who were fathers and brothers once
     Are peacefully resting here.

 Flutter of banner and beat of drum
     And the bugle's solemn call,
 In grand procession the solders come—
     And God is over us all!

Final Thoughts

Memorial Day is always appreciated for bringing with it a three-day weekend and an opportunity for people to gather with friends and family. We should also remember the reason why Memorial Day is observed at all – to honor the memory of the soldiers who fought and died for the United States in the fields of battle.