During the Civil War, Columbus served as a hospital town where more than 3,000 wounded soldiers – many from the Battle of Shiloh – were brought for recovery. Thousands more suffered mortal wounds and were laid to rest in the town’s Friendship Cemetery.
In 1866, a group of women from Columbus gathered to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. These women made no distinction between Confederate and Union soldiers and, thus, began the nation’s healing process following a divisive Civil War.
A newspaper excerpt from April 26, 1866, recounted the deed, saying: “We are glad to see that no distinction was made between our own Confederate dead and Federal soldiers who slept their last sleep by them. It proved the exalted, unselfish tone of the female character. Confederate and Federal – once enemies, now friends – receiving their tribute of respect.”
Judge F.M. Finch, a poet from New York who happened to be in Columbus that day, immortalized the gesture in a poem called “The Blue and the Gray.”
Today, poignant images of the mass loss of life during the Civil War are evident in Friendship Cemetery. Rows and rows of marble stones marking the final resting place of 2,194 Confederate soldiers cover the beautiful landscape. Among the graves is a stone recognizing Mrs. Canant, Vol. Nurse, CSA. She is the only Confederate nurse officially recognized by the United States government.
Columbus, MS is proud to be remembered as the city “where flowers healed a nation.” To learn more about Columbus, MS and things to do there, please visit http://visitcolumbusms.org/