In memory of our honored dead, an official day of remembrance and reflection commenorated in the USA since 1866.
"From these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain..." Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
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 it should be May 30. It is believed
the date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over
the country. The first large observance was held that year at
Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington,
The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda
of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant and other Washington officials
presided. After speeches, children from the Soldiers and
Sailors Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way
through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate
graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.
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,
Miss., 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, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa.,
claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale,
Ill., 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.