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.

Graves at Arlington on Memorial Day

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:

2 Comments

Thank you for writing the piece on Memorial Day. I fear quite often it gets lost with people using the three day weekend to host bar-b-q’s, go to the beach for the first time, or other recreational activities, although maybe not so much this year.
I would add that Fold3 is free this weekend for anyone wishing to look up military history.

Like

Thank you for refreshing our memories.

Like

Leave a Reply

Name and email address are required. Your email address will not be published.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: