What was once Union Cemetery in Charleston, SC is now a sprawling, 60-acre park where a bronze plaque describes the location as the site of the first Memorial Day. It was there where thousands decorated the graves of Black soldiers who were re-buried there after Confederate soldiers interred them in a mass grave in 1865. The soldiers’ families held a parade and decorated the graves on May 1, 1895, three years prior to Union General John Logan’s decree that “Decoration Day” would be a time to honor fallen soldiers by decorating their graves. The holiday now known as Memorial Day was passed into law by Congress in 1968 and later made a federal holiday in 1971.
This Memorial Day, we remember our fallen heroes and give thanks for their sacrifice.