Memorial Day: A History of Remembrance

As your break out the grill, join family and friends, and (ideally) enjoy the Old North State’s beautiful coastline this holiday weekend, be sure to take time to reflect on the laudable reasons behind the Memorial Day holiday – those men and women in uniform that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation or to stand up for its moral values. They, along with their families, deserve a moment of solemnity.


Below, find a history of Memorial Day from Military.com that is sure to provide some perspective on the impetus for the first long weekend of the summer season.

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30.

It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

LOCAL OBSERVANCES CLAIM TO BE FIRST

Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Mississippi, April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh.

Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.

Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Virginia. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Illinois, cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866.

Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.

OFFICIAL BIRTHPLACE DECLARED

In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York, the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. […]

Read more about the history of this important holiday here, and spread the knowledge to friends and family in between hot dogs and fun in the sun.

 

Join the conversation!

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.