Monday, January 21, 2008

The Blue and the Gray

This was a busy weekend in our household. Yesterday, January 20th, was our daughter-in-law's birthday and tomorrow, January 22nd, is our daughter's birthday. Our daughter had planned to drive over from Birmingham on Saturday to spend part of the three-day weekend with us. She teaches third grade and the schools were going to be closed on Monday for the observance of Martin Luther King's birthday. But Alabama's weather forecasters were predicting snow on Saturday so she drove over with Sawyer and Sam on Friday evening instead. Our son-in-law couldn't make the trip this time because he had to work on Saturday.

We planned a family get-together for Saturday that was supposed to emphasize the casual family atmosphere aspects and de-emphasize the birthday-celebration aspects and just be a "because we want to and because we love each other" get-together. On Saturday morning North Georgia had some more snow (twice in one year is unheard of around here, let alone twice in one week) with predictions of icy roads by late afternoon and temperatures dropping into the teens by Sunday morning. My older son, who is married to the daughter-in-law having the birthday, thought it best not to make the hour-long trip to our house because they might not be able to get back home, but my younger son, who is married to the daughter-in-law whose birthday is not until July, lives closer and he decided to drive over anyway. Elijah and Noah and Sawyer and Sam built a snowman in the front yard, complete with the straw hat I wear while mowing the lawn and an orange scarf promoting Auburn University, courtesy of the Birmingham bunch. On Sunday the roads were not icy, so our older son's family came over in the early afternoon for a visit as well. So our daughter was able to see both of her brothers and her sisters-in-law, but the brothers and the sisters-in-law didn't get to see one another this time. Sam and Sawyer saw all of their cousins, but Matthew and Ansley didn't get to see Elijah and Noah. There will be, we trust, many more times for other get-togethers with all in attendance.

We didn't have to rush to the supermarket to stock up on the basics like so many of our panic-stricken fellow citizens were doing because all week long the folks from the church choir have been bringing fabulous meals in copious amounts to our house to help us out during Ellie's recuperation. (Note. On Saturday Ellie was able to walk without the aid of a walker for the first time since the surgery on her knee.) So our thanks go out to Terri H., Steve and Kristi A., Cheryl and Dave M., Gwen M., Bruce and Judy C., Walter & Margaret T., Lori and Jeff R., and Alicia J. for all of your hard work, culinary talent, time taken, and love expressed in such a tangible way. I think we have food enough to last another week, and for that we are grateful. And also for Patti C. who brought over two DVDs of gospel music for us to watch and listen to, and for Peggy N., our neighbor on the hillside, who brought over a cute, plush toy frog that reminds Ellie and me daily that we can Fully Rely On God.

I said all that to say this. In all the hubbub of birthdays and snowman-building and post-op victories and photo opportunities and lots of people coming and going, January 19th slipped right past me unnoticed. January 19th is--don't laugh, please--the birthday of Robert E. Lee, and since I am a member of Kappa Alpha Order (Xi chapter, 1959), the same Kappa Alpha Order of which General Lee is practically the patron saint, I have always remembered when it was his birthday. I know some of you think this is a bit weird. I do it anyway, and it in no way lessens my admiration for the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday was actually last Tuesday, not today. Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate forces in their gray uniforms during the U. S. Civil War (1861-1865), was a Christian gentleman who became president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Virginia after the war ended. Kappa Alpha Order was founded there in 1865. Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union forces in their blue uniforms, was a brilliant military strategist who became a President of the United States even though he had a problem with alcohol. Both of them were graduates of West Point. The nation remained intact, for which all of us should be thankful, and the healing was already underway as early as 1867 when some ladies in Mississippi visited a cemetery and laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate dead. Surely even Abraham Lincoln, who had been killed by John Wilkes Booth two years earlier, would have approved of their act. It helped speed reconciliation and forgiveness at a time when much of the nation was still bitterly divided in the war's aftermath. And it was noted in a newspaper article that was read by one Francis Miles Finch, who wrote the following poem:

The Blue and the Gray
by Francis Miles Finch

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep on the ranks of the dead;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the one, the Blue;
Under the other, the Gray.

These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat;
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the laurel, the Blue;
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours,
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers,
Alike for the friend and the foe;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the roses, the Blue;
Under the lilies, the Gray.

So, with an equal splendor,
The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
On the blossoms blooming for all;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Broidered with gold, the Blue;
Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
The cooling drip of the rain;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Wet with the rain, the Blue;
Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done;
In the storm of the years that are fading,
No braver battle was won;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the blossoms, the Blue;
Under the garlands, the Gray.

No more shall the war-cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever,
When they laurel the graves of our dead.
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Love and tears for the Blue;
Tears and love for the Gray.

I hope General Lee's admirers will forgive me for missing his birthday.


  1. What a very nice post, remembering Robert E. Lee.

    A tiny bit of Iowa history trivia.......45 minutes north of here is Fort Atkinson, Iowa, where there is a museum in one of the old limestone fort buildings. It was the only fort in the U.S. ever built for the purpose of protecting one Indian tribe from another. Anyway, for a while, Jefferson Davis was the commanding officer there! I'm not sure exactly when, but it was before the Civil War.

    Blessings on your day! Great to read that your wife is up walking!

  2. Forgot you were in Kappa Alpha...enjoyed reading today's blog. In honor of the JSU Chapter of Kappa Alpha Order, here's what I remember most from my collegiate days with The fraternity known as KA...
    Fried Chicken, Country Ham...
    KAPPA ALPHA....Yes ma'am!!!

    Oh well, I don't write as eloquently as my father...
    Love to all in Georgia from the "Birmingham Bunch"...

  3. Did you know that a lot of those who were killed in the war weren't buried for years afterwards, and that at the start of the war, no provision was made on either side for identifying the dead, burying the dead, or notifying the families of the dead? Of course, some of these things certainly happened, but no provisions were made to insure that they happened.