Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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What they didn’t teach us about Memorial Day in school

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Unknown dead from the Civil War rest in a national cemetery in Virginia. (CLINT SCHEMMER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

History can be as fresh and new as anything you find in any media outlet.

That is, if it’s history you haven’t come across before. So I’ve learned in the past week or two while reporting today’s story in The Free Lance-Star, about the forgotten tradition of multiracial Memorial Day (or Decoration Day, as it was once called) observances in Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

For brevity’s sake, there were several good bits that I left out of the print article. I’ll share them with you in coming days.

But for now, I’ll close with two items:

One is that the local residents who have organized Monday’s procession to the National Cemetery have reached out to other, more established Fredericksburg-area Civil War re-enactment groups and invited them to participate in recognizing the valor and sacrifice of the 15,300 men who rest upon Willis Hill at Marye’s Heights.

“The committee wants to show that after 150 years, we can all agree to honor the soldiers and show the spirit of reconciliation,” Steward Henderson, president of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, told me.

The second is that there are some remarkable stories out there about Memorial Day which folks like me, who received a good public-school and college education, have never heard.

Here’s one that I still marvel over, a year or two after first coming upon it.

Clearly, Civil War history isn’t as cut-and-dried as I learned back in the classrooms of yore.