The next year, southern states began their own Memorial Days to honor their soldiers who died during the war. No specific date was used but occurred in late April through June. By 1880, there was a more organized Confederate Memorial Day. These celebrations honored specific soldiers to commemorate the Confederate “Lost Cause.” By 1913, a sense of nationalism saw a commemoration of all soldiers that have died in battle.
In the north, the fraternal organization of Civil War veterans The Grand Army of the Republic began organizing “Decoration Day” in 1868. Decoration Day was to honor the fallen by decorating the graves of Union soldiers with flowers and flags. Ceremonies included speeches that were a mix of religion, nationalism, and a rehash of history in vitriolic terms against the Southern soldiers. The acrimony against the South began to subside by the end of the 1870s.
Memorial Day did not take on national significances until after World War I. Rather than being a holiday to remember those of died in service during the Civil War, the nation began to recognize all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during all conflicts. By the end of World War II, most of the celebrations were renamed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. Memorial Day did not become an official holiday until 1967 and its date changed from the traditional May 30 to the last Monday of the month by the Uniform Holidays Act (Public Law 90-363, 5 U.S.C. § 6103(a)) in 1968.
Regardless of how you view the current world conflicts, the men and women who serve in our military deserve the honor and respect for their service. Pray for their ability to safely return home.
We will resume numismatic writings shortly.