Now You Know

WE REMEMBER

A day honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice began with a choice towards compassion after conflict.
Here's the unique history of
Memorial Day.

Now You Know

The Backstory

  • The first Memorial Day observance in the U.S. dates back to just after the Civil War (1868).
  • At the time, it was commonly called “Decoration Day” since flowers or other items were used to decorate graves.
  • Although the tradition began in April, May 30th was eventually chosen because it’s the time of year when ample flowers bloom nationwide.

Now You Know

“They start to see these Union graves that are just laying there, kind of barren ... Their hearts start to feel bad for the mothers who have lost these children. So, they start to throw flowers on the Yankee graves...”

Dr. Richard Gardiner, co-author of "The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday," explains how women in Mississippi honored ALL those who had fallen, despite the war ending just a year before. This is just one story of more than two dozen claiming ties to the first Memorial Day.

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Memorial Day At Arlington

  • The first “Memorial Day” at Arlington was spearheaded by Major General John A. Logan - a Civil War veteran and lawmaker who advocated for others who had served.
  • Fmr. Union general and soon-to-be-elected President Ulysses S. Grant attended, along with about 5,000 people who gathered and put small American flags on graves.
  • About the same number of people attend today and do exactly the same thing.

Now You Know

"We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance ... Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic."

Maj. General John A. Logan, Memorial Day Order, May 5, 1868.

Now You Know

Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971 and was designated to be observed on the last Monday in May. An important distinction: Memorial Day is “a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.” That's different from Veterans Day (Nov 11th) - “largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service…”

May 28, 2021

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    sources

    Memorial Day Order 1868: CLICK HERE

    Origins as described by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs: CLICK HERE

    A little bit more about the fascinating origins of Memorial Day: READ HERE & HERE