Monday, May 30, 2016

According to Jim, Vol. II, No. 1

                                                         The Origins of Memorial Day

     Memorial Day is a national holiday celebrated on the last Monday in the month of May. This holiday exists to honor those who have fallen serving the United States in the military service. What is the history behind this holiday? When did it begin? Why? (My students will see three of the five W's of history right there)!

     In the middle of the 19th century, the United States engaged in a civil war over the issue of slavery. Until very recently, more men were killed in that war than all of the rest of our wars combined. The death toll was incredibly high considering the population at that time. Many more men were wounded and maimed. The nation survived the conflict, but was forever changed by it. People wanted to remember the men who fell in that conflict. They did so in different ways at different times, and the result of these remembrances became Memorial Day.

No one knows when the first memorial day celebration took place. Many local legends exist and the documentation is scanty and often purposely altered to put the local story in a prominent place. However, it definitely was tied to the Civil War and quickly spread throughout both the North and South following the conflict. Some such as David Blight think it stemmed from an event that took place in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865. Others see widows of Confederate dead honoring their deceased men in 1866. By 1868 the Grand Army of the Republic began to officially celebrate honoring Union war dead in May.

Rather than repeat what so many of my historian friends are saying, I think I will link to their blogs and let my readers and students visit them and learn more. Most of the posts for Memorial Day are reposts of earlier ones they made years ago.

Andy Hall - Dead Confederates
Decoration Day at Arlington, 1871

Brooks Simpson - Crossroads  Memorial Day, 2016: Americans in Europe

Al Mackey - Student of the Civil War Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Memorial Day

Kevin Levin - Civil War Memory Remembering Southern Unionism on Memorial Day

David Blight - David W. Blight The First Decoration Day US Memorial Day

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