Memorial day was conceived shortly after the War Between the States, and designated for the commemoration of Union dead in the late conflict.
This short poem commemorates John Sedgwick, the highest ranking Union officer killed during the war. Born in Connecticut, he fought Seminoles, Mexicans, and Apache before the secession and the war thereafter.
The ironic nature of his death has been the subject of much discussion amongst history buffs, and remains a classic piece of trivia about the war of 1861-1865. At the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, overseeing the disposition of his troops, he saw his men ducking and flinching from the hitherto ineffective fire of Confederate sharpshooters. He admonished his men for cowering, stating that “they couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” General Sedgwick was killed almost instantly afterwards, by a rifleman’s bullet through the head.
I wrote this with the tune of the Irish Loyalist song “The Orange and Blue” in mind, but I’m sure there are other tunes that would suit it as well.
I went to his grave on memorial day
I laid down a wreath maybe two
I thought how he fell with salt tears in my eyes
He died for the red, white and blue.
We remember with pride how he fought and he died
Had only his cause been as true
As the sword that he waved as a son of the brave,
When he died for the red, white and blue.
The fighting was light as he strode in command
But the story they tell it is true
That he cried for his men not to duck but to stand,
Then he died for the red, white and blue.
It pains me to talk of how Sedgwick died,
And I’ve something I ought to tell you
That the Union deserved not one brave man as he,
My curse on the red, white and blue!