Updated: Dec 1, 2022
This coming Monday, May 30th, is Memorial Day. Although the exact origin of the holiday is unclear, it was widely celebrated beginning May 30th, 1868, in honor of the ultimate sacrifice of Civil War soldiers. General John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the G. A. R. (Grand Army of the Republic) issued the proclamation declaring the first Decoration Day, as it was originally named. This author remembers visiting the graves of relatives with red, white, and blue flowers every Decoration Day. Gradually the commemoration encompassed military personnel from other conflicts .It became a Federal Holiday in 1971, and was celebrated on the last Monday in May. It is fitting that this year the 154th anniversary of the first Decoration Day falls on the traditional May 30th.
Longmeadow honors many soldiers from conflicts going back to the Colonial Wars. Here are a few of their stories:
Lt. Nathaniel Burt, 1711-1755, Longmeadow Cemetery
Lieutenant Nathaniel Burt (1711-1755) was killed in the "Bloody Morning Scout" battle of September 8, 1755, during the French and Indian Wars. His wife Sarah, and their daughter, also named Sarah wrote a letter to Nathaniel, addressed "To Lt. Nathaniel Burt, In the Army Marching Against Crown Point." The letter arrived 3 days after his death. The letter, full of newsy items from home, is in the collections of the Longmeadow Historical Society.
Also in the archives is an anonymous elegy written about Burt "Elogy On the death of Mr. Nathaniel Burt, Deacon of the Church of Christ at Longmeadow, and Lieutenant in his Majesty's service; who was killed in the memorable battle at Lake George, Sept. 8, 1755, in the 45th year of his age." It describes the battle, and the way the news was received back in Longmeadow "...But yet no certain tidings we could hear, which held us in suspence, 'twixt hope and fear Until a Reverend letter pass'd the plain with the sad mournful news--Brave Burt is slain."
Moving to the American Civil War, the Coomes family gave up 2 sons to the cause. Elias Coomes (1835-1862) was killed at the Battle of Fair Oaks, VA on May 31, 1862. His older brother James Madison Coomes (1823-1864) died as too many soldiers did in the Civil War, at Andersonville Prison, on May 4, 1864.
James Madison Coomes
Both were laid to rest in the Longmeadow Cemetery. Their portraits are in the collections of the Historical Society, as is a "soldier's pocket bible" inscribed with James' name.
To learn more about other soldiers from Longmeadow, we encourage you to visit the Memorial on the town green, and the Longmeadow Cemetery. Look for the markers for the Colonial Wars, the SAR markers for the Revolutionary War, and the many flags flying in the breeze. We salute you all.
Contributed by Betsy McKee, Longmeadow Historical Society Board Member.
Originally published May 26, 2022