Saving History Saturday: Honor Those Who Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice By Preserving Their Legacies

A post-war print of veterans placing flags and wreaths at the graves of their fallen comrades. Courtesy of H.A. Ogden.

Next week, Americans across the country will be honoring those who gave the ultimately sacrifice in the line of duty. Some place American flags at their heroes’ graves, host a BBQ, visit a history museum, or watch a sports game. As Civil War historians and enthusiasts, Memorial Day is an important time to remind family, friends, and the general public about the meaning of this special day.

We honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice by not only laying flags in front of their headstones – we honor them most of all by making sure we tell their stories. By saving and preserving their legacies, we never forget them.

A few ideas come to mind on how we can preserve their stories: visit a forgotten local cemetery to place flags at the graves of veterans who may get forgotten, research a soldier from your hometown who was killed in combat, donate to a local history nonprofit or museum, host a fundraiser for a preservation organization, or simply remember them.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, John A. Logan, wrote in his General Order No. 11 to establish Memorial Day in 1868, “Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude, — the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”

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