It is a matter of history that Mrs. Chas J. Williams.
of Columbus, Ga., instituted the beautiful custom of
decorating soldiers' graves with flowers, a custom
which has been adopted throughout the United States.
Mrs. Williams was the daughter of Maj. John Howard,
of Milledgeville, Ga., and was a superior woman. She
married Maj. C.J. Williams on his return from the
Mexican War. As Colonel of the First Georgia Regulars,
of the army in Virginia, he contracted disease.
from which he died in 1862, and was buried in Columbus,
Mrs. Williams and her little girl visited his grave
every day, and often comforted themselves by wreathing
it with flowers. While the mother sat abstractedly
thinking of the loved and lost one, the little one
would pluck the weeds from the unmarked soldiers"
graves near her father's and cover them with flowers,
calling them her soldiers' graves.
After a short while the dear little girl was summoned
by the angels to join her father. The sorely bereaved
mother then took charge of these unknown graves for
the child's sake, and as she cared tor them thought of
the thousands of patriot graves throughout the South,
faraway from home and kindred, and in this way the
plan was suggested to her of setting apart one day in
each year, that love might pay tribute to valor throughout
the Southern States. In March, 1866, she addressed
a communication to the Columbus Times, an
extract of which I give:
"We beg the assistance of the press and the ladies
throughout the South to aid us in the effort to set
apart a certain day to be observed from the Potomac
to the Rio Grande, and to be handed down through
time as a religious custom of the South, to wreathe
the graves of our martyred dead with flowers, and we
propose the 26th day of April as the day."
She then wrote to the Soldiers' Aid Societies in every
Southern State, and they readily responded and reorganized
under the name of Memorial Associations.
She lived long enough to see her plan adopted all over
the South, and in 1868 throughout the United States.
Mrs. Williams died April 15, 1874, and was buried
with military honors. On each returning Memorial
Day the Columbus military march around her grave,
and each deposits a floral offering.
The Legislature of Georgia, in 1866, set apart the
26th day of April as a legal holiday in obedience to
her request. Would that every Southern state observe the