On Memorial Day, I’ll be performing songs at Kiroli Park for the Blue Star Mothers, their friends and family. I’m working on my song list now and I hope the ones I choose will inspire and comfort the families who attend. The Blue Star Mothers are mothers of military service men and women. You can read more of this organization here:
Not surprisingly, the custom of Memorial Day may have began in the South, during the War Between the States. An article at a Memorial Day site says: Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. 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: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” (Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). However, the author (David Merchant?) later says, “Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. 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). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.”
You can read about the history and meaning of Memorial Day here:
About Confederate soldier graves: In addition to the “pits” where multiple slain soldiers were buried together in large numbers, the most common markers I’ve seen are one of these two designs–a Maltese Cross and the pointed slab (The legend is that these were designed so Yankee soldiers wouldn’t sit on them).