Every Memorial Day, my parents schlepped us girls into town, stood us in a little line with a bunch other men and women 70 years older than us, and told us to pay attention.
By that I mean, every year, my parents took us to our hometown's Memorial Day service. We listened to Taps, looked at the names of all the men from our small Iowa town who have given their lives, and walked among the tombstones, finding our family members' names listed among them.
I still go to Memorial Day services: because I love the United States military, because I love freedom and democracy, and because I don't want the the older generations thinking young people in America don't respect and value their sacrifice.
Missouri, though, saw over 1,000 Civil War skirmishes, which is why, this Memorial Day, I also stopped by the Confederate Memorial Cemetery in town.
The cemetery is part of a larger historic site, which sits on the ground where the Confederate Soldiers Home of Missouri was located, a place where staff cared for Confederate veterans and their families from the late 1800s all the way up to the 1950s.
Chris took me to see the little chapel that still stands there the first time I visited his neck of the woods while we were dating. The gentleman showing people around the grounds asked us right away if we were looking for a place to get married.
Needless to say, we scooted right on out to wander around the cemetery.
Today, though, while wandering up and down the rows of graves, happening upon names like
I spotted one name I'd seen in history books:
History buffs will remember Quantrill's Raiders, "a small force of no more than a dozen men who harassed Union soldiers and sympathizers along the Kansas-Missouri border and often clashed with Jayhawkers, the pro-Union guerrilla bands that reversed Quantrill's tactics by staging raids from Kansas into Missouri. Union forces soon declared him an outlaw, and the Confederacy officially made him a captain. To his supporters in Missouri, he was a dashing, free-spirited hero."
"The climax of Quantrill's guerilla career came on August 21, 1863, when he led a force of 450 raiders into Lawrence, Kansas, a stronghold of pro-Union support and the home of Senator James H. Lane, whose leading role in the struggle for free-soil in Kansas had made him a public enemy to pro-slavery forces in Missouri. Lane managed to escape, racing through a cornfield in his nightshirt, but Quantrill and his men killed 183 men and boys, dragging some from their homes to murder them in front of their families, and set the torch to much of the city."
"Even after his death, Quantrill and his followers remained almost folk heroes to their supporters in Missouri, and something of this celebrity later rubbed off on several ex-Raiders -- the James brothers, Frank and Jesse, and the Younger brothers, Cole and Jim -- who went on in the late 1860's to apply Quantrill's hit-and-run tactics to bank and train robbery, building on his legacy of bloodshed a mythology of the Western outlaw that remains fixed in the popular imagination." (From PSB.com)
I've gone to lots of Memorial Day services up north, in Iowa, but this is the first time I've spent one wandering through a Confederate cemetery, learning the history of the Civil War from farther down south.
Next up: I've heard Jesse James, one of Quantrill's Raiders along with his brother Frank, set fire to a bridge only a few miles from our house while fleeing a posse so I've got to figure that story out too!
Now it's your turn: What historic spots are found in your hometowns?