Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Memorial Day and the State Library

With Memorial Day approaching, it is important to recognize this holiday and
to point to some holdings in the State Library which represent ways that the state has
marked the day.

Speech by former Senator Marian Walsh

Some Interesting Facts about the Day

Memorial Day was begun after the Civil War and was at one time called "Decoration Day." The numbers of dead and wounded from the war were unprecedented and the carnage was apparent to all.  After the Battles at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and also at Vicksburg, Mississippi, women decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers.  These  remembrances became known as Decoration Day and there is still debate as to where the “day” originated,  North or South.

In 1866, a union hero, Major General John A. Logan delivered an address in Carbondale Illinois which marked the first such speech and the first gathering of veterans.  Logan also commanded the Grand Old Army of the Republic, a group of union veterans and in early May of 1868, he issued an order setting May 30th aside “for the purpose of strewing flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in the defense of their country during the late rebellion.”

It was not until after World War I, however, that the Confederate states began to mark Memorial Day. By then, the term was used to honor the dead from all of the country's wars.  Many of those from the South still celebrate a Confederate Memorial Day. Some states use the birthday of General Robert E. Lee, January 19th, for this. Other southern states have chosen other dates.

On Nov. 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1967, Memorial Day, May 30th, was designated as a national holiday.  And, four years later, the remembrance was shifted to the last Monday in the month. This year it falls on the 25th of the month.

State Library Holdings which Mark the Day

Senator Walsh’s speech above represents the 100’s given each year by members of the
Massachusetts General Court.  Often, the legislator or his/her staff visit us here to do the research for their presentations.

Other holdings include items published by the Grand Army of the Republic:

Or Proclamations from Governors about the day:

In 2000, Congress added to the day by asking that people join in in a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 PM on Memorial Day.

Pamela W.Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian