Learn About the History of Memorial Day

May 28, 2017

Today is Memorial Day, an official holiday celebrating the brave men and women who gave their lives serving their country. While we remember these soldiers from throughout American history, you might want to also learn a bit about the history of the holiday itself.

  • While the first Memorial Day wasn't held in the United States until the late 19th century, the practice of honoring those who have fallen in battle dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.
  • One of the first American Memorial Day ceremonies was hosted by recently freed slaves. On May 1, 1865, more than 1,000 recently freed slaves, regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops, and a handful of white citizens gathered in a camp in Charleston, SC to consecrate a proper burial site for the Union dead.
  • The holiday was originally known as "Decoration Day". In May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30 should become Decoration Day, a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War.
  • The name was later changed to Memorial Day in order to honor fallen soldiers from all wars.
  • Memorial Day didn't become an official holiday until 1971, though it was observed by most states for many years before then.

8 Things You May Not Know About Memorial Day [HIstory Channel]

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