Monthly Archives: May, 2015

For the Purpose of Strewing With Flowers: John and Mary Logan and the Establishment of Memorial Day

Q. Tell me, who first proposed the day? A. No one really knows.School Education, 1896


Few American holidays have as complex and contested history as Memorial Day. The ritual of placing flowers and flags on the graves of Civil War soldiers may have started while the war was still ongoing, or it may have started in the first years after it ended. Most credit Confederate women’s organizations for starting the practice, while historian David Blight makes a case for its origin with freed slaves in postwar Charleston. Two dozen communities lay claim to the being its birthplace.

Or perhaps there was no single point of origin. Confronted with over 700,000 war dead and bound by a common culture of mourning rituals, it’s possible that multiple communities started the practice independently. It’s equally likely that it never would have made the jump to a nationally-recognized annual holiday without the intercession of General John A Logan and his wife, Mary Cunningham Logan. Continue Reading

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