The History of Memorial Day

Monday in the United States is Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for those who died in our nation’s service. The origins of this day of remembrance are in doubt, with more than two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.

Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic: “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

It is believed that the end of May was chosen for the first Memorial Day because ” flowers would be in bloom all over the country.”

The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York, in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). In 1971 Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be held on the last Monday in May. In addition, several southern states have an additional, separate day for honoring their Confederate (Civil War) dead as follows:

  • Mississippi: Last Monday in April
  • Alabama: Fourth Monday in April
  • Georgia: April 26
  • North Carolina: May 10
  • South Carolina: May 10
  • Louisiana: June 3
  • Tennessee (Confederate Decoration Day): June 3
  • Texas (Confederate Heroes Day): January 19
  • Virginia: Last Monday in May

Memorial Day is the perfect time to pause and remember our ancestors who fought in defense of their country. Now is the time to learn of the sacrifices, large and small, that they made so that we can all enjoy the freedoms we have today.

Here is a list of web sites that will help you learn about Memorial Day and our military heroes:

Army Mortuary Affairs History Page http://www.qmfound.com/mortuary-affairs.htm
Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War http://www.asuvcw.org
Blinded American Veterans Association http://bavf.org/index.htm
Cemeteries and Cemetery Records http://www.interment.net/
Department of Veterans Affairs Home Page http://www.va.gov
Dept of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration http://www.cem.va.gov
Disabled American Veterans (DAV) http://www.dav.org
Find A Grave http://www.findagrave.com
GI Search (Military personnel search) http://www.gisearch.com
Gold Star Wives http://www.goldstarwives.org
Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) http://www.purpleheart.org
Military Timelines – Timeline of Wars and Military Conflicts Throughout History http://genealogy.about.com/cs/militarytimelines
National Cemeteries and War Veterans Burials http://www.interment.net/us/nat/veterans.htm
The National D-Day Museum http://www.ddaymuseum.org
The Old Guard Association http://www.oldguard.org
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War http://suvcw.org
USA KIA/DOW Family Foundation http://www.usakiadowff.org
US Merchant Marine Museum http://www.usmma.edu/museum
US Merchant Marine Veterans of WWII http://www.lanevictory.org
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) http://www.vfw.org
World War Two Maps http://www.ww2dday.com

3 Comments

Regina Markowicz May 26, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Southern states with seperate but equal celebrations? Interesting… Mississippi: Last Monday in Alabama: Fourth Monday in April, Georgia: April 26, North Carolina: May 10, South Carolina: May 10, Louisiana: June 3, Tennessee (Confederate Decoration Day): June 3,
Texas (Confederate Heroes Day): January 19, Virginia: Last Monday in May

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The American Battle Monuments Commission at http://www.abmc.gov/ has a searchable database of all American Soldiers buried abroad. It will tell you where thewy came from and which American cemetery they are in in France, Belgium, The Phillipines, and other countries.

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Arkansas Third Monday in January
Florida April 26

Were not included in the list. Eleven States Honor their Confederate Heroes..

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