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Memorial Day  

Memorial Day
By Sarah Lane, Cynthia Kirkeby
May 8, 2012, 18:46 PST

Memorial Day


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 establishing Decoration Day.  This “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 1st commemoration.


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 their country.


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.


Sources:    U.S. Embassy, Trivia Time


Additional Memorial Day Learning Links


Freedom Files

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 available.

Source:      ClassBrain, Inc.


Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920

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.

Source:      American 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 sacrifice…”

Source:      US Memorial


The Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg

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.

Source:      National Park Service


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