Today is Memorial Day. A day of remembrance for those who have died serving in our American armed forces. Sometimes this commemorative day can be lost in anticipation of the start of summer, end of school festivities, graduations, barbecues, and a 3-day weekend.
It’s certainly understandable to be excited about these special activities and events. We here at Next Level Plumbing love spending time with our loved ones and friends, whether it’s Memorial Day or a planned family get-together!
But we feel it’s important to stop and recognize the ultimate sacrifice that soldiers throughout the years have made for our country and really for us, its citizens.
In light of this, we wanted to take some time today in our blog to honor and recognize this day and share with you a little about the history of Memorial Day. There may be some things you didn’t know about this signficant holiday…
The History of Memorial Day
While honoring the fallen is an ancient tradition dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, the first “commemorative” Memorial Day events didn’t take place in the United States until the late 1800’s.
One of the earliest events was led by recently freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina.
As the Civil War came to a close, thousands of Union soldiers, held as prisoners of war, were placed into camps in Charleston, South Carolina. With living conditions so bad at a particular camp ( a former racetrack), more than 250 prisoners died from disease or the elements and were laid to rest in a mass grave there.
On May 1, 1865, three weeks after the Confederate surrender, more than 1,000 recently freed slaves, along with regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops, and a few white Charlestonians, gathered in that camp to honor the fallen by singing hymns, readings, and decorating the area with flowers.
Shortly thereafter in May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, mandated that May 30 should become a nationwide day of remembrance for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War. (That staggering number is now believed to be higher than this. )This day became known as Decoration Day. On this day, Americans were to lay flowers and decorate the graves of the fallen as a means of honoring them.
It’s believed that Logan probably adapted the idea from earlier events in the South. Even before the war ended, women’s groups in the South were gathering to decorate the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers; however, these events were sporadic and didn’t happen on one standard day,
Americans quickly got on board with the idea of Decoration Day. In the first year, more than 27 states held some sort of ceremony. By 1890, every former state of the Union had adopted it as an official holiday.
But for more than 50 years, the holiday was used to commemorate those killed just in the Civil War. The holiday expanded to included all fallen soldiers when the United States entered World War I. And Memorial Day was not officially recognized nationwide until the 1970s.
Decoration Day gradually became known as Memorial Day and The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 formalized the holiday changing its traditional observance on May 30 to the last Monday in May.
Traditions that surround Memorial Day include that the American flag should be hung at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, then raised to the top of the staff. And in 2000, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that all Americans are encouraged to pause for a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.
Honoring the Fallen
We hope you will join with us in honoring those soldiers who gave their all and take time today to pause and remember their priceless gift to us. Happy Memorial Day to you and your family.