The date for observing Memorial Day is near, and it is timely to be reminded of the origins of this meaningful holiday which honors all men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. By the late 1860s, people in various towns and cities had begun paying springtime tributes to the countless fallen Civil War soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and offering prayers. Waterloo, New York claims the credit for holding the first public memorial gathering on May 5, 1866. Businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of Union Civil War veterans, proclaimed a national day of remembrance to be held on May 30, 1868. The observance was called Decoration Day. On that day, participants decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Many Northern states held similar events, and by 1890 each Northern state had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Decoration Day gradually became known as Memorial Day and continued to be observed each year on May 30. After World War I, it became a time to honor military personnel who had died in all wars. Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971 after the U.S. Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act, establishing Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. A National Moment of Remembrance is to be observed at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day.
From Jauflione Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution