Memorial Day 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, which states -
"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. 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."
It was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873, and by 1890 it was recognized by all of the Northern states.
The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).
It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays).
Several Southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the War Dead of the Confederacy.
Alabama: April 26
Georgia: April 26
Florida: April 26
Mississippi: April 26
North Carolina: May 10
South Carolina: May 10
Louisiana: June 3 (Jefferson Davis' Birthday)
Tennessee (Confederate Decoration Day): June 3
Texas (Confederate Heroes Day): January 19
Virginia: Last Monday in May
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.
There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day, and there is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War:
A hymn published in 1867 - "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" - by Nella L. Sweet - carried this dedication: "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" .
Remember the Fallen - not just from this war but from all of our wars.
The WWI poet - Lawrence Binyon - had this to say.
"They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them ... nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them..."
Take a few minutes to clean their stones and if you can - leave some small remembrance.
They deserve this small recognition of the sacrifice they paid...
Vaya con Dios, acaso...