On April 26, 1865, the ladies of Columbus, Mississippi, decorated
the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers in Friendship Cemetery. This small gesture of reconciliation after a bloody civil war made national news. In New York a lawyer and amateur poet named Francis Miles Finch read about the event and was inspired to write the following poem, which was published in the Atlantic Monthly in September 1867:
THE BLUE AND THE GRAY.
“The women of Columbus, Mississippi, animated by nobler sentiments than are many of their sisters, have shown themselves impartial in their offerings made to the memory of the dead. They strewed flowers alike on the graves of the Confederate and of the National soldiers.”—New York Tribune.
By the flow of the inland river, Whence the fleets of iron have fled, Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver, Asleep are 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.
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.