The true origin of Memorial Day is in hot dispute. As many as a dozen cities claim their observance was the first one to honor our fallen soldiers.
The spirit of the day and the reason we visit cemeteries and lay floral memorials on graves, particularly those of military family members, can be found in this proclamation made in 1868. During the “late rebellion” the Civil War 750,000 died. The devastation was unfathomable. General Logan asked that graves be decorated with the “choicest flowers of springtime.” Isn’t that a lovely image? Gathering blooming lilacs, apple blossoms, daffodils, forsythia from their yards, people would go to “garland the passionless mounds.” The “official” beginning of Memorial Day was this proclamation aimed at healing the wounds of those who remained and honoring those who gave their lives during the “late rebellion.”
General John A Logan’s Memorial Day Order
May 5, 1868
The 30th day 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 church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.
We know that prior to the official declaration, women of the South, many of them freed slaves, took flowers to the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers. That day was typically called Decoration Day. Today at Arlington National Cemetery, home to our fallen soldiers, Memorial Day is observed with the placing of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and each grave is adorned with a small American Flag.
YOUR TURN, iSissies
Have you visited Arlington National Cemetery? What was your experience there?
How will you observe Memorial Day? Share the name of those you would like for us to remember – those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.