From April 12, 1861 to April 9, 1865 two sovereign nations – the United States of America and the Confederate States of America – fought a bitter Civil War. One of the first observances to honor the Union soldiers sacrifice was held on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, SC at the racetrack near the Citadel. The racetrack had been turned into a prisoner of war (POW) camp for the Union soldiers. Due in part to deplorable conditions, massive deaths occurred there. A mass grave for the POWs was located behind the racetrack’s grandstand. A few weeks after the end of the Civil War, over 1,000 freed slaves, regiments of black Union troops, and a handful of white citizens from Charleston, formed a solemn procession that led to the POWs’ grave site to consecrate a proper burial site for the fallen soldiers. In 1868, General John A. Logan decreed that May 30 be declared “Decoration Day” in remembrance of the 620,000 fallen Civil War soldiers. General Logan declared that the citizens of this nation should lay flowers to decorate the soldiers’ graves. Decoration Day was to honor just the fallen Civil War soldiers. But, after American soldiers fought and died in World War I, it was declared that Decoration Day was to honor all fallen American soldiers. For over a century, the holiday was celebrated on May 30th. In 1968, Decoration Day was officially named Memorial Day and moved to the last Monday of the month. The United States officially recognized Memorial Day as a federal holiday in 1971. There are certain rituals that should be observed on Memorial Day: the American flag should fly at half-mast until noon and then be raised to the top of the pole; and, at 3:00 PM local time, each American is asked to observe a National Moment of Remembrance. For many, the first 3-day weekend of the summer is hectic, but please remember to give a moment of silence and thanks. The soldiers were responding to the call of duty, knowing in their hearts that they may have to sacrifice their lives, yet without hesitation they fought and died for their country. Imagine if those brave soldiers of yesteryear could speak with one voice, would they ask – “Does that star-spangled banner yet wave? O’er the land and of the free and the home of the brave?” Thanks to them and their sacrifices, we can proudly reply, YES!
SharLeigh has an inquisitive nature – she is interested in current events, history, science and many more subjects, including things that go bump in the night! Since 1997, SharLeigh has scoured the internet, looking for interesting, fun and timely topics covering all sorts of human-interest subjects for her articles from her home in Fontana, CA.