Memorial Day as we know it began in April 1866 when US General John A. Logan, commanding occupying forces in the South, noticed Southern women decorating the graves of fallen Southern soldiers in Columbus, Mississippi, at the Shiloh battlefield. He was outraged.
Logan then ordered his department the next May 30 to observe a memorial service for fallen federal soldiers. In 1868 at Arlington Cemetery, the home that the US government stole from Robert E. Lee, President Ulysses S. Grant observed the first large memorial day exercise for the United States on May 30 each year. The tradition has continued.
|Ode: Sung on the Occasion of Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C., 1867 |
by Henry Timrod
- Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause;
Though yet no marble column craves
- The pilgrim here to pause
In seeds of laurel in the earth
- The blossom of your fame is blown,
And somewhere, waiting for its birth,
- The shaft is in the stone!
Meanwhile, behalf the tardy years
- Which kept in trust your storied tombs,
Behold! your sisters bring their tears,
- And these memorial blooms
Small tributes! but your shades will smile
- More proudly on these wreaths to-day,
Than when some cannon-moulded pile
- Shall overlook this bay.
Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!
- There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valour lies,
- By mourning beauty crowned.