“The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree.” ~Thomas Campbell

Memorial Day originated shortly after the Civil War as a day to remember fallen soldiers of the Civil War by decorating their graves with flowers and other appropriate objects.  Before it’s official proclamation as Decoration Day in 1868, it had become tradition to decorate the graves of fallen Civil War Soldiers towards the end of May around the time that flowers started to bloom.


The Veterans Administration’s history page describes one of the earliest records of this traditions in a beautiful story of forgiveness and compassion shown by women in decorating graves of fallen soldiers:

Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.” (3)

According to history recounted by the Clarion County Historical Society:

“[t]he earliest evidence of observance goes back to various women’s groups in the North and South, when ladies organized events to honor their war dead by decorating graves. The earliest recorded event took place on April 25, 1866 in Columbus, Mississippi when a group of women formed an association to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers, starting with those who died in the Battle of Shiloh.” (2)

It was officially named Decoration Day and thus proclaimed on May 5 1868 by General John Logan who was the National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.  His General Orders No. 11 proclaimed in part:

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing 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.”

“‘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 cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the 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 fond mourners. 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.” (3)

he term “Memorial Day” was not used officially until 1967, its use first emerged circa 1880s.

It wasn’t until after World War I that the day was expanded to honor those who had served and died in all American wars and not just those of the Civil War.  The term Memorial Day was first used in 1882 but did not gain regular use until after World War II.  The day was not officially called Memorial Day until 1967.  On June 28, 1968, Congress moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to Monday in order to create three-day weekends through the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.  This moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May.  The law federally took affect in 1971; however, it would be a few years before all 50 states adopted Congress’ order.  Memorial Day was also then declared a national holiday.

Memorial Day has also become to be known as the official start of summer.

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

~An Old Irish Blessing

Marian McCoy Boveri

(3)  http://www.usmemorialday.org/?p=90

(2)  https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10152253979979830&id=109532589829&substory_index=0

(1) http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp and

Decoration Day Becomes Memorial Day