Monday, May 28, 2007

Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping

There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.

Waterloo NY was declared the birthplace, but it's difficult to prove the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed in 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).

In the summer of 1865, a prominent local druggist, Henry C. Welles, mentioned to some of his friends at a social gathering that while praising the living veterans of the Civil War it would be well to remember the patriotic dead by placing flowers on their graves. General John B. Murray, a civil war hero and intensely patriotic, supported the idea wholeheartedly and plans were developed for a celebration on May 5, 1866. It has been held annually ever since. From: Waterloo NY home page.


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