Frederick R. Meres served in the 14th US Infantry during the Civil War and later as the “Grand Army Poet” of the Grand Army of Republic (GAR). In all, he is said to have penned over 500 poems. I came across Mr. Meres in a 1923 Milwaukee Journal article, “Vet Poet Angered by Plan to Change Civil War’s Name.” The article explains his reactions to a history book (the book is not named) written by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, that did not use the phrase Civil War but rather
affirms that the rebellion was not a rebellion but a “war between the states.” That Abraham Lincoln was the instigator of the Civil War, “and all that sort of nonsense.”
Upon reading this, I wondered if this Daughters of the Confederacy book was the first to reference the Civil War as “The War Between the States”? This link by the North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission shows that indeed, many Southern Groups who made attempts during the 1920s to change the war’s name to “the War Between the States.”
Lincoln used the term Civil War when he could perhaps more rightly have called it the War of the Rebellion.. but he did not wish to offend the South. But the new term they have conceived is ridiculous. Accept this change, and Lee was a hero and Jefferson Davis was the equal of Lincoln and should be honored as such. I ask you, can you beat it?”
I searched online for more information on Meres and found his poem, “National Memorial,” (1907). He clearly saw the abolition of slavery as a key reason to remember the Civil War. But there are shades of a reconciliatory tone between Northern and Southern soldiers in the poem’s Chorus (read below). What do you think? Was Meres ready to let bygones be bygones with the South (1907) until they started changing the name of the War and perhaps the reasons why it was fought (1923)? Did the majority of Yankee veterans care what the war was called or were they more interested in Reconciliation with their former Southern adversaries?
National Memorial (1907)
Oh say can you see by the dawn of the day,
The day set apart for the grave decoration,
The remnant of those who in battle away
Had offered their lives for the life of our Nation;
That the shackle and chain no longer remain,
Nor the slave block its horror Nation profane.
Then gather the flowers that grow by the way,
And strew on the graves of the Blue and the Gray.
Oh the havoc of shell, the gloom of the pen.
The ravage of fever, the pang of starvation,
Are past and forgiven by this band of brave men,
Who honor the graves with love and devotion,
For the sword now is sheathed, they are resting beneath
The sod and the wave for the freedom of slave
Then lovingly cast on the crest of the wave
The tribute of love for the true and the brave.
Then cast on the flowers, deck the monument fair,
In church-yard and park with the holy reflection;
With malice to none and in charity share
The principals held by the chief of our Nation,
And the flag of the free forever will be
The emblem of peace and of true liberty.
We will councel our children and honor the day
That ended the strife ‘tween the Blue and the Gray.