President's message - Memorial Day 2015

Greetings to all the members and friends of the Civil War Roundtable of the Merrimack.

Our May 13th meeting brought our speaker Gary Ward down from Plainfield, NH to educate us about the Medal of Honor including the history of the Medal, the differences in the designs of the Medals, the Massachusetts recipients of the Medal, and much more.  Many thanks to Gary and his wife Laura, who accompanied him on the long trip down and back that evening!


This weekend brings a very special holiday which is near and dear to the hearts of many: Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day.  Traditionally celebrated May 30th, the "Monday Holiday Bill" or "Uniform Holiday Bill," signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on June 28th, 1968, officially moved Memorial Day to the last Monday in May.  This took effect at the Federal level in 1971.  This year Memorial Day will be celebrated on May 25th, 2015.  

The following is an excerpt from a page of the VA website entitled, "Memorial Day History:"

"Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.***

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.” "

***The website says this:

"Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It 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. “The 30th 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 churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.***

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there."

So now, rather than on the day intended - May 30th - all many Americans know is that it is a 3-day weekend.  With that mindset, this is the modern attempt at remembrance, from the website:

"The “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.” "

What we are left with is "a moment."

If you feel that Memorial Day means more to you, please go to:

and sign the petition to restore Memorial Day to May 30th.