Origins of Memorial Day

Today as we take a moment to reflect upon those American veterans that gave “their last full measure of devotion,” at the same time we also honor the earliest origins of this day. Discover how newly-freed African-Americans honored Union war dead during the war’s twilight in Charleston, South Carolina 150 years ago and began what we call Memorial Day.

Click on the video below to watch this presentation.

About Daniel Welch

Dan Welch is currently a primary and secondary educator with a public school district in northeast Ohio. Previously, he was the Education Programs Coordinator for the Gettysburg Foundation, the non-profit partner of Gettysburg National Military Park. Dan continues to serve as a seasonal Park Ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park. He has received his BA in Instrumental Music Education from Youngstown State University and a MA in Military History with a Civil War Era concentration at American Military University. Dan has also studied under the tutelage of Dr. Allen C. Guelzo as part of the Gettysburg Semester at Gettysburg College. He has been a contributing member at Emerging Civil War for over six years and is the co-author of The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign, 1863. He resides with his wife, Sarah, and three Labrador retrievers in Boardman, Ohio.
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2 Responses to Origins of Memorial Day

  1. LouisS says:

    I thought the history of Memorial Day was told rather well with the website:
    It explains, with resources, how a “Remembrance Day” for the “Battle of Old Men & Young Boys” fought at Petersburg, Va(6/9/64) later became the basis for the national holiday. General John Logan played a major part in laying the groundwork for the holiday, he actually ordered it, which is referenced as well. Are you aware of this website? Is it in error?

  2. Daniel Welch says:

    Louis thanks for the comments. I was not aware of this site, but upon further review of it have found some significant historical issues. For example, Logan’s remarks at Arlington and to gathered loved ones and fellow GAR members that day are not remarks that encompass Confederate dead, nor, was it the goal of the GAR to remember the Confederate dead by decorating their graves; thus, the author cannot be correct when he cites that this speech shows the GARs efforts to remember their work in creating a national memorial day when it was solely directed to Union veterans, alive and deceased.

    Even if we assumed that the narrative told on this site was one hundred percent correct, the date of the ceremony in Petersburg was not until June 1865. The planning for what happened in Charleston began two months earlier, and, the reburial of the dead, the building of a proper cemetery, procession, and ceremony occurred during April and May 1865 weeks before what happened in Petersburg.


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