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, Ga.
Mrs. Williams and her little girl visited his grave every day, and often comforted themselves by wreathing it with flowers. While the mother sat abstractly 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 time 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 for them thought of the thousands of patriot graves throughout the South, far away from home and kindred, and in this way the plan was suggested of setting apart one day in each year, that love might pay tribute to valor throughout the Southern States. In March, 1868, she addressed a communication to the Columbus Times, an extract of which is below:
“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.
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