29 May Read these 8 Facts about Memorial Day – Celebrate, Honor, Remember
8 Facts about Memorial Day
All gave some. Some gave all. Read these 8 facts about Memorial Day. And please make time to celebrate, honor, and remember the heroes who gave all for our freedom.
1. IT STARTED WITH THE CIVIL WAR
Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died.
2. THE BIRTHPLACE OF MEMORIAL DAY
Although many towns claimed the title, it was Waterloo that won congressional recognition in 1966 as the “birthplace of Memorial Day.
– In 1864, women from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, put flowers on the graves of their dead from the just-fought Battle of Gettysburg.
– In April 1866, women from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers
– Also in April 1866, in Carbondale, Illinois, 219 Civil War veterans marched through town in memory of the fallen to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Union hero Major General John A. Logan delivered the principal address
– Waterloo, New York began holding an annual community service on May 5, 1866
3. GENERAL LOGAN MADE IT OFFICIAL
General Logan, the speaker at the Carbondale gathering in 1866, also was commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans. On May 5, 1868, he issued General Orders No. 11, which set aside May 30, 1868 “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.” The orders expressed hope that the observance would be “kept up from year to year while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades.”
4. IT WAS FIRST KNOWN AS DECORATION DAY
The holiday was long known as Decoration Day for the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but the name Decoration Day didn’t disappear until after World War II. Federal law declared “Memorial Day” the official name in 1967.
5. A STATE-BY-STATE HOLIDAY
Calling Memorial Day a “national holiday” is a bit of a misnomer. While there are 10 federal holidays created by Congress—including Memorial Day—they apply only to Federal employees and the District of Columbia. Federal Memorial Day, established in 1888, allowed Civil War veterans, many of whom were drawing a government paycheck, to honor their fallen comrades without being docked a day’s pay.
For the rest of us, our holidays were enacted state by state. New York was the first state to designate the May 30th Memorial Day a legal holiday, in 1873. Most Northern states had followed suit by the 1890s. The South didn’t adopt the May 30th Memorial Day until after World War I, by which time its purpose had been broadened to include those who died in all the country’s wars.
6. FROM MAY 30th TO LAST MONDAY IN MAY
The holiday was May 30th every year until 1971, when the Monday Holiday Law shifted Memorial Day to the last Monday of every May.
7. THREE GENERALS – TWO PRESIDENTS
On May 30, 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant presided over the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery — which, until 1864, was Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s plantation. Some 5000 people attended on a spring day. The principal speaker was James A. Garfield, a Civil War general, Republican congressman from Ohio and future president.
Taps, the 24-note bugle call, is played at all military funerals and memorial services. It originated in 1862 when Union General Dan Butterfield “grew tired of the ‘lights out’ call sounded at the end of each day,” according to The Washington Post. Together with the brigade bugler, Butterfield made some changes to the tune.
Not long after, the melody was used at a burial for the first time when a battery commander ordered it played in lieu of the customary three rifle volleys over the grave. The battery was so close to enemy lines, and the commander was worried the shots would spark renewed fighting.