Why We Remember

William Daley admires a new plaque bearing the 294 names of Sandwich's Civil War veterans. The plaque is mounted on the wall at Sandwich Town Hall and will be dedicated on Veterans Day. Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times
William Daley admires a new plaque bearing the 294 names of Sandwich’s Civil War veterans. The plaque is mounted on the wall at Sandwich Town Hall and will be dedicated on Veterans Day. Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times

I serve as Chaplain for the Department of Massachusetts, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.  I had the honor of representing the Department Commander at a dedication of a new memorial in the town of Sandwich Massachusetts on Veteran’s Day 2015.  Below is the text of the remarks I gave.


I bring you greetings from Department Commander Dexter Bishop and the entire membership of the Department of Massachusetts Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.  It is indeed an honor for me to be here with you and to join with countless others on this veteran’s day as we pause to remember the service of the men and women of the armed forces of the United States past and present.

It is especially an honor to be here as you dedicate this memorial to the 298 brave men of Sandwich who answered the call to give what Abraham Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion and service to our country during a very dark moment in our history.  It is sitting that we stand here today, 150 years after the end of the bloodiest war on American soil, to recall the names of these men and I congratulate the committee that work so hard to make this a reality.

Most of them fought together in Company D of the 29th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and left Sandwich on May 18, 1861, for places they probably never heard of.  Many of them would serve in the United States Navy no doubt because they grew up so close to the water here in Sandwich. They would see the battle at Bulls Bluff, Petersburg, Fishers Hill, Spotsylvania, and Bull Run just to name a few.  Fifty-four of them would lose their lives in battle or because of conditions in the camp.  Some were held prisoner and reunited after the war and most would come home and try and put their lives back together again.

While preparing for these remarks today I came across a list of all of the men, many of them just boys at the time, listed on this memorial. I paused when I read each name to think about what each one had given up and the families that they had left behind.  Each name here represents a story of love and loss, fathers, and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and it is our responsibility to keep that memory alive.

On the anniversary of September 11th, the names of those who died in New York, Washington DC and Shanksville Pennsylvania are read out loud.  Some of those names are read by family members of those who lost their lives that day.  Reading the names of those who have gone before us keeps their memory alive if even for a few moments.  James P Attkins, he was thirty-two years old when he enlisted and was killed in 1864 at the Battle of Cold Harbor in Virginia.  Thomas Ball, one of many Ball’s on this memorial, was 18 years old at the time of his enlistment.  He was discharged in 1864.  Edward Connelly a twenty-two-year-old glass maker enlisted in May of 1861, and Charles Chipman, who rose to the rank of Major, was wounded at Petersburg and died of his injuries there.  These are just a few of names that we memorialize today.

On a November day in 1863, shortly after the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg Pennsylvania to dedicate a new national cemetery not far from the actual battlefield.  The war raged on, and the Battle of Gettysburg was still green in the memory of those who were present on that day.  In that short speech, he spoke of the dedication of that cemetery but also why it was impossible for us, the living, to dedicate it.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

He then went on and spoke to us, the living, those who remain and whose task it is to keep the memory of these men and women alive on not only this day but every day.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…

Friends, we must never forget the devotion to duty that each of these men gave.  We must never forget the devotion to duty that those veterans are joining us today gave.  We must never forget the devotion to duty that those presently serving in our armed forces give and continue to give here at home and overseas.  We must never forget!

So why do we remember?  I turn back to the closing words of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  We must never forget so

—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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