Decoration Day began following the Civil War Now we refer to it as Memorial Day
May 29, 2019
Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. The day became an official holiday in 1971 but its roots go back more than a 150 years.
The Civil War claimed the lives of more than 620,000 Americans and maimed several hundred thousand more. It destroyed countless acres of farmland, buildings, roads and homes.
The origin of the first gathering is unclear and many locations claim to be the first, but in 1966 the federal government recognized Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Communities of the time independently initiated gatherings as springtime tributes to the fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers and saying prayers.
Waterloo first celebrated the occasion on May 5, 1866 and was given the title as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo was chosen because of its tradition of hosting annual community-wide events that occurred in conjunction with local businesses closing so citizens could decorate the grave-sites.
On May 5, 1868, the head of the Northern Civil War Veterans, General John A. Logan, asked for a nationwide day of remembrance “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated 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 proclaimed.
Logan referred to the day as ‘Decoration Day’ and the date because it didn’t coincide with any particular battle. A gathering of more than 5,000 were on hand during the first celebration and General James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery before 20,000 Union and Confederate graves were decorated.
Communities all across Montana, the Hi-line and Blaine County celebrate Memorial Day with great pride each year.