Most of us boomers and before remember Memorial Day as Decoration Day.
I recall my grandmother and great-grandmother talking about having picnics in the graveyards on Decoration Day.
The legend says on April 25,1866 the women of Columbus, Mississippi started the tradition.
The women went to the Friendship Cemetery to decorate the graves of the local soldiers.
After they finished decorating the Confederate graves, someone noticed some graves that were not decorated.
The women proceed to decorate them.
A passerby said these are Yankee Graves.
One of the women said there are wives, sisters, sweethearts, mothers, daughters and grandmothers are mourning these men.
As the wives, sweethearts, sisters, daughters, mothers, grandmothers are mourning our boys.
So we will decorate these graves also.
I do not know if this story is true or not.
I think it may be the truth.
I do know the following is true.
General John A. Logan
I. 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 churchyard in the land.
In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe?
Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders.
Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice ofneglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull and 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 in us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude, — the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.
II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this order effective.
By order of
JOHN A. LOGAN,
WM. T. COLLINS, A.A.G.
The first ceremony on May 30, 1868, was truly inspired by the local observances that had been taking place in many towns across America since the end of the Civil War.
At this first celebration of Decoration Day General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetary, after which 5,000 participants helped decorate over 20,000 graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried in the cemetery.