I Wuz Just Thinking: Memories and Memorial Day
May 21, 2023
Betty Mahurin Baker
Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day (formerly known as Armistice Day) is observed on November 11, honoring all military veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
Researching the origins of Memorial Day brought some interesting facts.
The origins were traced back to the neglected grave sites of soldiers during the Civil War.
“The first observance of what would become Memorial Day, some historians believe, took place in Charleston, South Carolina., at the site of a horse racing track that Confederates had turned into a prison holding Union prisoners. Blacks in the city organized a burial of deceased Union prisoners and built a fence around the site,” Yale historian David Blight wrote in The New York Times in 2011.”
“Then on May 1, 1865, they held an event there including a parade – Blacks who fought in the Civil War participated – spiritual readings and songs, and picnicking. A commemorative marker was erected there in 2010.”
Women decorated grave sites of Confederate soldiers that gave their lives in the Battle of Shiloh.
The ceremony, decorating graves with flowers, was one of the first Decoration Days in Columbus, Mississippi in 1866 on April 25.
A crowd of five thousand people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1873 with General Ulysses S. Grant presiding.
Flowers and small American flags were placed on graves by the orphaned children of soldiers and sailors, both Union and Confederate, who had been killed during the war.
This tradition continues to thrive in cemeteries of all sizes across the country.
It is thought the date in May was best as many flowers are in bloom at this time of year and can be used in decorating the cemeteries. Also, after this date in May, one tends to think of the beginnings of summer.
In 2000 The National Moment of Remembrance Act – which created the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance and encourages all to pause at three o’clock in the afternoon. local time, on Memorial Day for a minute of silence – was signed into law by Congress and the President.