Remembering Our Honored Dead: Memorial Day Traditions

You may know that Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day, but did you know that originally it honored only those who died in the Civil War?

Daisies gathered for Decoration Day, May 30, 1899

In 1868, John Logan, the Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for Union veterans, issued an order designating May 30th as a memorial day. He said this day should be for the purpose of “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” Logan also asked that we guard their graves so that future generations can remember the cost of a free and undivided republic.

Primary sources from the Library of Congress can help students explore some of the ways people have commemorated Memorial Day in the past.

People cleaning and decorating graves at Pineview Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend

 

Students can:

What comparisons did students make between  these commemorations from the past and the commemorations of today? Let us know in the comments.

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