I read once that something can’t truly be called an “annual” event until it happens a second time. With that disclaimer in mind, today I made my second annual Memorial Day outing to Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. Last year’s outing is described here, and the post that inspired that visit is here. As with last year’s visit, my younger daughter accompanied me, and we made an adventure out of it. She was a good sport about it, and I was glad to have her company.
At one point, after driving around for a few minutes, looking for graves that had flags planted next to them, we saw a monument that captured out attention. It was located near a memorial for George H. Thomas, the “Rock of Chickamauga.” It was noticeable in that it had been ringed by approximately 20 U.S. flags, one for every six inches or so around the perimeter of the marker. Clearly, Thomas was an important player in the war. His victory at Nashville in 1864, after his defense of the Union forces at Chickamauga, is considered one of the war’s great turning points.
As we admired the Thomas memorial (which was not actually his gravesite), my daughter and I noticed a grave marker located some five feet away. Unlike the Thomas memorial, this marker had no flag planted nearby, which didn’t seem right on Memorial Day. We read the words “Medal of Honor” on the grave marker, and decided that he should receive some commemoration for his service.
Over my daughter’s objection, I lifted one of the flags that surrounded the Thomas marker and placed it in the ground at the grave of the soldier, Brigadier General Andrew Barclay Spurling of Maine. I then rearranged the flags around the Thomas marker, so that no one could tell any difference to what had been there before we arrived. I then took a picture of the gravesite (which is actually where he was buried, after his death in 1906), and we offered up a few moments of silent reflection.
It wasn’t until after I returned home and googled Spurling that I learned of the interesting life he led. I was particularly disappointed to learn that he died broke and forgotten, four decades after the war had ended. For more than a century, he has laid in that spot, where he hopefully has been the recipient of visitors and remembrances more meaningful than a lone pilfered flag. Whether that’s the case or not, today we made a small gesture to honor a man who once served our country, and thereby helped to eradicate slavery. For us, that qualifies as time very well-spent.