Memorial Day: The Forgotten History of America’s Memorial Day and What It Commemorates

Memorial Day: The Forgotten History of America’s Memorial Day and What It CommemoratesMemorial Day is more than just the “unofficial start of summer.” It was originally a celebration of the lives sacrificed on both sides during the War Between the States. Not an official federal holiday until 1971, the history of Memorial Day is one of controversy. This guide traces the origins of this American day dedicated to remembering and honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Early Celebrations: Annual Decoration Days

While the day was eventually codified as a Civil War-centric holiday, people had laid flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers for decades before there was such a thing as Memorial Day, or “Decoration Day” as it is sometimes called. Annual decoration days were most common in the American South. Because the American South was more rural and agrarian based, it was not uncommon to have a family cemetery. It was here that families would gather for picnics and grave decorations.

The early celebrations were not about remembering the fallen from the war. They were effectively extended family reunions, a sort of folk ancestor worship specifically developed out of the folkways of the American South. A religious service typically accompanied the meal.

A Richmond Times-Dispatch article from 1906 documents a June 3, 1861, Warrenton, Virginia, celebration as the first time a Civil War veteran’s grave was decorated. In 1862, there is another recorded example of an early Civil War grave decoration which occurred in Savannah, Georgia. In 1863, there was a decoration of soldiers’ graves in Gettysburg.

Decoration of graves became widespread after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. There were, at this point, over 600,000 American soldiers in the ground. This gave what was a previously existing informal ritual a new significance. It was this year that the federal government began making a national cemetery for the Union war dead. Despite this, the celebrations were primarily a Southern thing.

Continue reading Memorial Day: The Forgotten History of America’s Memorial Day and What It Commemorates at Ammo.com.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

  

  

  



Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner