27 May 2007

Memorial Day

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day. Like the haunting bugle call "Taps," it has its origin in the American civil war.

In 1868, General John Logan, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued Order No. 11.

"The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit."

Over time the day of commemoration shifted to the final Monday of May, and the commemorated sacrifices likewise expanded, to include the American dead of all wars, and the dead of both sides of the war Gen'l Logan had in mind. Both sides, after all, saw their own soldiers as fighting and dying "in defense of their country," though they understood that differently.

Taps, both as a lights-out signal and as a funeral dirge, originated during the Civil War -- specifically during the Peninsular Campaign. More on this tommorrow.

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