The following e-mail comes from Jim Neely of Columbus. Neely”s daughter, Paula Krantz, who lives in Los Angeles, sent to friends and relatives.
Most of you know I am from Mississippi, but not all of you know I am from the city of Columbus. I want to share with you some historical information about my hometown and its relation to this upcoming holiday, Memorial Day.
In the northeast region of the state, located on the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway Columbus is home to the Mississippi University for Women (the first women”s university in the country), Columbus Air Force Base and the birthplace of prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams. Columbus is also home to three National Register Historic Districts that boast an impressive 676 properties. Fifty-seven of the these properties are open to the public during The Columbus Pilgrimage. The Pilgrimage is held every year for two weeks around Easter when the dogwood and azalea are at their finest. When I was in the ninth grade, I was able to dress up in period clothes and be part of a tour in one of these beautiful homes.
While other cities were ravaged during the Civil War, Columbus was a “hospital town,” leaving the antebellum and Victorian homes–along with their contents–spared.
Many of the states of the old Confederacy refused to celebrate Decoration Day (a day to clean and place flowers on the soldiers” graves) due to lingering hostility towards the Union Army and also because there were relatively few veterans of the Union Army who were buried in the South. A notable exception was Columbus, which on April 25, 1866, at its Decoration Day commemorated both the Union and Confederate casualties buried in its cemetery.
Memorial Day here in the U.S. is said to have been inspired by the actions of the women in Columbus. These women would pack lunches, cut flowers from their gardens and take their children to Friendship Cemetery.
Located just south of Columbus, Friendship Cemetery is situated on a bluff overlooking the Tombigbee River. This historic burial ground was founded May 30, 1849, and rests on 65 acres containing approximately 16,000 graves. Buried within its walls are veterans of the American Revolution, The War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War (unknown graves of Confederate and Union), the Spanish American War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
On April 25, 1866 the women of Columbus decorated the graves of soldiers, not only Confederate but Union as well. This act of kindness has been referred to as “when flowers healed a nation” and would later inspire F.M. Fitch to write “The Blue and The Gray,”
Happy Memorial Day from a proud Columbus girl!
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.