Confederate Memorial Day
|Confederate Memorial Day|
|Also called||Confederate Heroes Day, Confederate Decoration Day|
|Observed by||Southern states (United States)|
|Observances||Remembrance of Confederate soldiers who have died in military service|
|First time||April 26, 1866|
Confederate Memorial Day (called Confederate Heroes Day in Texas and Florida, and Confederate Decoration Day in Tennessee) is a cultural holiday observed in several Southern U.S. states on various dates since the end of the Civil War to remember the estimated 258,000 Confederate soldiers who have died in military service.
The holiday is observed in late April in many states to recall the surrender of the last major Confederate field army at Bennett Place on Wednesday, April 26, 1865. The holiday is unofficially observed in most Southern states, and remains an official state holiday in South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
In the spring of 1866 the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia, passed a resolution to set aside one day annually to memorialize the Confederate war dead. Mary Ann Williams, the association secretary, was directed to pen a letter inviting ladies associations in every former Confederate state to join them in the observance. Their invitation was written in March 1866 and sent to all of the principal cities in the former Confederacy, including Atlanta; Macon; Montgomery; Memphis; Richmond; St. Louis; Alexandria; Columbia; and New Orleans, as well as smaller towns like Staunton, Virginia; Anderson, South Carolina; and Wilmington, North Carolina. The actual date for the holiday was selected by Elizabeth Rutherford Ellis. She chose April 26, the first anniversary of Confederate General Johnston's surrender to Union Major General Sherman at Bennett Place. For many in the Confederacy, that date in 1865 marked the end of the Civil War.
In their book, The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday in America, Bellware and Gardiner assert that the national Memorial Day holiday is a direct offshoot of the observance begun by the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia in 1866. In a few places, most notably Columbus, Mississippi and Macon, Georgia, Union graves were decorated during the first observance. The day was even referred to as Memorial Day by The Baltimore Sun on May 8, 1866, after the ladies organization that started it. The name Confederate Memorial Day was not used until the Northern observance was initiated in 1868.
While initially cool to the idea of a Northern version of the holiday, General John A. Logan was eventually won over as evidenced by his General Order No. 11 of May 5, 1868, wherein he commanded the posts of Grand Army of the Republic to likewise strew flowers on the graves of Union soldiers. The Grand Army of the Republic eventually adopted the name Memorial Day at their national encampment in 1882.
Many theories have been offered as to how Logan became aware of the former Confederate tradition he imitated in 1868. In her autobiography, his wife claims she told him about it after a trip to Virginia in the spring of that year. His secretary and his adjutant also claim they told him about it. John Murray of Waterloo, New York, claims it was he who inspired Logan in 1868. Bellware and Gardiner, however, offer proof that Logan was aware of the Southern tributes long before any of them had a chance to mention it to him. In a speech to veterans in Salem, Illinois, on July 4, 1866, Logan referred to the various dates of observance adopted in the South for the practice saying "…traitors in the South have their gatherings day after day, to strew garlands of flowers upon the graves of Rebel soldiers..."
The first official celebration as a public holiday occurred in 1874, following a proclamation by the Georgia legislature. By 1916, ten states celebrated it, on June 3, the birthday of CSA President Jefferson Davis. Other states chose late April dates, or May 10, commemorating Davis' capture.
Statutory holidays for state employees
Confederate Memorial Day is a statutory holiday in Alabama and Georgia on the fourth Monday in April. In Mississippi it is observed on the last Monday in April. In South Carolina it is a legal holiday, observed on May 10. In Texas it is called Confederate Heroes Day and held on January 19 each year. In Tennessee, Confederate Decoration Day is celebrated on June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis.
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