Memorial Day – to many people today, represents the unofficial start of summer. It is the beginning of picnic, barbecue, and beach seasons. Many beaches open over the Memorial Day weekend. This vison bears no resemblance to the observance as it was originally conceived.
There is no consensus among historians as to the true beginnings of this official national holiday. They do agree however, on one detail regarding the origin of this holiday that welcomes summer and all that summer entails.
According to Time Magazine, there is a dispute over how the holiday or day of observance really began. Five towns claim to have conceived of the idea shortly after the Civil War ended. David Blight, a historian at Yale University, believes the first “Memorial Day” observance took place in April of 1865. He suggests that the tradition began when some freed slaves gathered in Charleston, South Carolina at a confederate prison that had been a horse racing track. Over 250 union soldiers died in that prison.
The ex-slaves dug up the bodies of soldiers that were buried there in a mass grave. Then they dug graves for each soldier, so these deceased soldiers who died while imprisoned there, would have their own graves. They then built a 100-yard fence around the graves and placed a plaque on an arch at the entry to the newly created cemetery. They inscribed the words “Martyrs of the Race Course” on the archway.
Roughly 10,000 Charleston residents, including teachers, school kids, Union troops, and white missionaries march around Planter’s Race Course, carrying armfuls of roses as they marched and sang. They gathered at the graveyard where five black preachers recited passages from the Bible. A children’s choir sang the National Anthem and Negro spirituals.
This incident is virtually forgotten but some historians believe that this gathering represented the first Memorial Day celebration. Over the course of the next three years, small town celebrations occurred, but it wasn’t until General John A. Logan, leader of the Ground Army of the Republic (an organization for former sailors and soldiers,) declared that May 30th would be the first ever “Decoration Day” observance. He explained that the purpose of that day would be to decorate the graves of the soldiers who lost their lives during the Civil War.
If you plan to go to the gravesites of the soldiers you know who died in combat, we can help you decorate the grave(s) with the most beautiful flowers that pay tribute to their service, and to their heroism.
Our Patriotic Spirit Wreath is the perfect tribute with which to honor the dignity with which your fallen soldier served the country. The wreath consists of pure white flowers that are decorated with red carnations and blue delphinium at the top. The final accent is a lovely red, white, and blue ribbon. The wreath stands on an easel.
All of us at Gainan’s want our customers to have a wonderful Memorial Day holiday. Let us help you find the perfect floral tributes to lay at the graves of the beloved deceased soldiers in your life.