After the culmination of
events that took place during the Civil War, the healing of the north and south
would be a lengthy process. Each
would still have reservations about the other, but would agree on one thing;
all the men and women who perished as a result of the war should be honored for
their bravery and service. Two
different ideas on how to go about doing this surfaced and eventually combined
to form Memorial Day. This
particular day, the last Monday in May, is not simply a three-day weekend but a
day of personal remembrance and reflection for those who lost someone who
served America during a time of war.
On May 5th of
1866, Henry Welles,
a drugstore owner from Waterloo, New York suggested a day to honor soldiers
killed in the Civil War. Wreathes,
flags, flowers, and crosses were placed upon the graves of the dead and shops
were closed. On May 5th,
1868, exactly two years after the Waterloo observance, retired Major General
John A. Logan issued General Order No. 11
“memorial” was a planned ceremony for soldiers who had survived the
war to decorate comrades’ graves with flags. In 1868 the two ideas merged.
In 1882 the name was changed from
Decoration Day to Memorial Day.
Memorial Day was celebrated
to honor those who served in the Civil War.
The Northern States
commemoration day was on May 30.
The Southern States
celebrated individual Confederate Memorial Day’s. Georgia on April 26th,
Alabama the 4th Monday in April, and Mississippi the last Monday in
April, just to name a few.
Children read poems, sang Civil War
songs, Veterans visited schools in uniforms wearing medals to talk about
the Civil War, graves of soldiers were decorated, and rifles were shot in the
air to salute the dead.
In 1966 President Lyndon
Johnson proclaimed Waterloo the birthplace of Memorial Day, 100 years after the
In 1971 President Richard
Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday on the last Monday in May.
This day now honors those who
died and served in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, Korean War,
and Vietnam War.
Each city now has their own
ceremony to pay respect to the women and men who died in war or in the service of
Although the numbers honored
may have grown since the very first memorial services, we no doubt should keep
in mind that if it weren’t for those first brave men and women, we would
never have such a strong and unified country today.
Embassy, Trivia Time
Additional Memorial Day Learning Links
ClassBrain takes a look at
the events of September 11th, 2001 and remembers those who lost
their lives in defense of our country, and at the things that make our country
great. In addition to information on the attacks we have a number of patriotic worksheets and printables
This amazing collection from the Library of Congress showcases
over 3000 pieces of sheet music from the mid to late 1800s and the early 1900s.
Although there are selections from all different music types including minstrel
songs, protest songs, sentimental songs, patriotic and political songs,
plantation songs, and spirituals, the collection is especially strong on
antebellum Southern music, Confederate imprints, and Civil War songs and music.
Memory Collection – Library of Congress
How to Observe Memorial Day
“The "Memorial" in Memorial Day
has been ignored by too many of us who are beneficiaries of those who have
given the ultimate sacrifice. Often we do not observe the day as it should be,
a day where we actively remember our ancestors, our family members, our loved
ones, our neighbors, and our friends who have given the ultimate
The Soldiers National Cemetery at
This cemetery was
established to properly bury the Union soldiers who died at Gettyburg. Today,
veterans from all of America’s major wars and conflicts find their final
resting place at the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
More About Memorial Day