Grand Army of the Republic
"Burial of the Dead"
I. A Post may attend funerals of deceased comrades, or of soldiers and sailors honorably discharged from army or navy, when a request shall have been made by the deceased or his family or friends, upon order of Commander or vote of the Post. II. The Post shall assemble at residence of deceased comrade, or at the place where religious services are to be held, and the Commander shall detail a sufficient number of comrades as pall-bearers, if so requested. III. The remains shall then be escorted to the grave or to limits of town or city, or otherwise as circumstances may dictate, in the order as laid down in Army Regulations. Left in front, the Post preceding the hearse, and a guard of honor surrounding the remains. IV. The Officer of the Day shall, under the Commander, take charge of the pall-bearers and guard of honor. V. Arriving at the grave, the Post shall halt, open order, and allow remains to pass to the front, when they shall be placed upon the bier. VI. Post shall then be formed about the grave or tomb in most fitting manner, appropriate to the occasion and the nature of the ground. VII. The last offices of respect due to the defenders of the Republic shall then be paid according to the following. RITUAL
Commander takes position at head of coffin.
Chaplain takes position at foot of coffin.
Officers and Past Commander in rear of Commander.
Post in rear of Chaplain
Colors to front.
1. COMMANDER. -Assembled to pay our last tribute of respect to this dead soldier (or sailor) of our Republic, let us unite in prayer. The Chaplain will invoke the divine blesssing. 2. PRAYER BY CHAPLAIN. -God of battles! Father of all! amid these monuments of the dead, we seek thee with whom there is no death. Open every eye to behold Him who changed the night of death into morning. In the depths of our hearts we would hear the celestial word, "I am the Resurrection and the Life, he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." As comrade after comrade departs, and we march on with ranks broken, help us to be faithful unto thee, and to each other. We beseech thee, look in mercy on the widows and children of deceased comrades, and with thine own tenderness console and comfort those bereaved by this event, which calls us here. Give them "the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Heavenly Father! Bless and save our country with the freedom and peace of Righteousness, and through they great mercy, a Saviour's grace, and they Holy Spirit's Grace, and they Holy Spirit's favor, may we all meet at last in joy before thy throne in Heaven, and to thy great name shall be praise for ever and ever! ALL COMRADES.-Amen! (3) If a choir be present, an appropriate hymn will now be sung) (4) The Commander may then speak as follows, of if he elects, extemporize)
COMMANDER. - One by one, as the years roll on, we are called together to fulfil these last sad duties of respect to our comrades of the war. The present, full of the cares and pleasures of civil life, fades away, and we look back to the time when shoulder to shoulder on bloody battle-field, or around the guns of our men-of-war, we fought for our dear old flag. We may indulge the hope that the spirit with which on land and sea, hardship, privation, danger, were encountered by our dead heroes - a spirit uncomplaining, nobly, manfully obedient to the behest of duty, whereby today our Northern honors are secure and our loved ones rest in peace under the aegis of the flag---will prove a glorious incentive to the youth who, in the ages to come, may be called to uphold the destinies of our country. As the years roll on we, too, shall have fought our battles through and be laid to rest, our souls following the long column to the realms above, grim death, hour by hour, shall mark its victim. Let us so live that when that time shall come, those we leave behind may say above our graves, "Here lies the body of a true-hearted, brave and earnest defender of the Republic.
FIRST COMRADE. (laying a wreath of evergreen or flowers upon the coffin) - In behalf of This Post I give this tribute, a symbol of an undying love for comrades of the war.
SECOND COMRADE (laying a rose or flower upon the coffin). -Symbol of purity, we offer at this lowly grave a rose. May future generations emulate the unselfish devotion of even the lowliest of our heroes!
THIRD COMRADE (laying a laurel leaf upon the coffin). - Last token of affection from Comrades in arms, we crown these remains with a symbol of victory.
(Then the Chaplain shall repeat the following, or make an address of about the same length.)
CHAPLAIN'S ADDRESS. - The march of another comrade is over, and he lies down after it, in the house appointed for all the living. Thus summoned, this open grave reminds us of the frailty of human life and the tenure by which we hold our own. "In such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh." It seems well we should leave our comrade to rest, where over him will bend the arching Sky, as it did in great love when he pitched his tent, or lay down weary and footsore by the way, or on the battlefield, for an hour's sleep. (As we leave our comrade to rest, no longer to hear the sound of the waves, or to float upon the bosom of the deep; no longer to sail beneath peaceful skies, or to be driven before the angry storm, may he find welcome in that land, where there is no more sea.) (Word in brackets to be used in the burial of a sailor.) As he was then, so he is still, --in the hands of the Heavenly Father.
"God giveth his Beloved sleep."
As we lay him down here to rest, let us in great charity forget each foible of our deceased omrade as human, and cherish only his virtues. Reminded also forcibly by the vacant place so lately filled by our deceased brother, that our ranks are thinning, let each one be so loyal to every virtue, so true to every friendship, so faithful in our remaining march, that we shall be ready to fall out here to take our places at the great review, not with doubt, but in faith; the merciful Captain of our salvation will call us to that fraternity, which, on earth and in heaven, may remain unbroken. (A pause for a moment.) Jesus saith, "Thy brother shall rise again. I am the Resurrection and the Life." (The body is deposited in grave or tomb). Behold the silver cord having been loosed, the golden bowl broken, we commit the body to the grave, where dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit to God who gave it. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, looking for the resurrection and the life to come through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Source: Taken from a book printed in 1879 in Dayton, Ohio, at the Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic, National Soldiers' Home. This service was adopted by the National Encampment at New Haven, Connecticut, May 14 and 15, 1873.
Courtesy of Margaret Atkinson, a volunteer at the GAR Memorial Museum and Library, Philadelphia, Pa.