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3:39 AM / Thursday July 7, 2022

27 May 2022

Origins of Memorial Day

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May 27, 2022 Category: Local Posted by:

WWW.LOC.GOV

In 1868, Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30 as a Memorial Day “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.”

The first national celebration of the holiday took place May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried.

Originally known as Decoration Day, at the turn of the century it was designated as Memorial Day. In many American towns, the day is celebrated with a parade.

Southern women decorated the graves of soldiers even before the Civil War’s end. Records show that by 1865, Mississippi, Virginia, and South Carolina all had precedents for Memorial Day. Songs in the Duke University collection Historic American Sheet Music External include hymns published in the South such as these two from 1867: “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping External,” dedicated to “The Ladies of the South Who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” and “Memorial Flowers External,” dedicated “To the Memory of Our Dead Heroes.”

“SOLDIER’S MEMORIAL DAY EXTERNAL” Mary B. C. Slade, words; W. O. Perkins, music; Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co., 1870. Historic American Sheet Music External. Duke University Libraries

When a women’s memorial association in Columbus, Mississippi, decorated the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers on April 25, 1866, this act of generosity and reconciliation prompted an editorial piece, published by Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, and a poem by Francis Miles Finch, “The Blue and the Grey,” published in the Atlantic Monthly. The practice of strewing flowers on soldiers’ graves soon became popular throughout the reunited nation.

President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Waterloo, New York, as the “Birthplace of Memorial Day,” because it began a formal observance on May 5, 1866. However, Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, also claims to have held the first observance, based on an observance dating back to October 1864. Indeed, many other towns also lay claim to being the first to hold an observance.

In 1971, federal law changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars. A few states continue to celebrate Memorial Day on May 30.

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SENIOR CHIEF OPERATIONS SPECIALIST TIFFANY PALMER, A NATIVE OF PHILADELPHIA, is a 2005 graduate of Philadelphia High School for Girls and a 2017 Pennsylvania State University graduate. She is proud to serve her country this Armed Forces Day as a member of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet. “I specialize in gathering, processing, evaluating and disseminating tactical and navigational data,” said Palmer of her job. The month of May marks Military Appreciation Month, and includes Armed Forces Day, which honors those currently serving in the military, and Memorial Day, which honors the sacrifices of those who died while serving their country. Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the 3rd Saturday of May and stems from the unification of the armed forces under the Department of Defense. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jahlena Royer/ Released) MAYPORT, Fla. — (May 13, 2022) – Senior Chief Operations Specialist Tiffany Palmer, a native of Philadelphia, is a 2005 graduate of Philadelphia High School for Girls and a 2017 Pennsylvania State University graduate. She is proud to serve her country this Armed Forces Day as a member of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet. “I specialize in gathering, processing, evaluating and disseminating tactical and navigational data,” said Palmer of her job. The month of May marks Military Appreciation Month, and includes Armed Forces Day, which honors those currently serving in the military, and Memorial Day, which honors the sacrifices of those who died while serving their country. Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the 3rd Saturday of May and stems from the unification of the armed forces under the Department of Defense. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jahlena Royer/ Released)

Today, national observance of the holiday still takes place at Arlington National Cemetery with the placing of a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the decoration of each grave with a small American flag.

Protocol for flying the American flag on Memorial Day includes raising it quickly to the top of the pole at sunrise, immediately lowering it to half-staff until noon, and displaying it at full staff from noon until sunset. For other guidelines, see the Flag Code.

Many veterans of the Vietnam War, and relatives and friends of those who fought in that conflict, make a pilgrimage over Memorial Day weekend to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., where they pay their respects to another generation of fallen soldiers.

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