Today we take time to honor and recognize our troops who have died while defending our way of life. In the North, tradition was that Decoration Day began in New York in 1868, but, in reality, it really started in Virginia soon after the end of the Civil War. This is one of my favorite stories!
Now, enter my Grandmother, Linnie Ross Sanders Wallace, born in 1866, , who I wrote about on May, 27, 2007, in [“A True Texan”]. She was a Civil War baby boomer, and a rebel’s daughter. Her Father, Levi Sanders, had spent four years fighting with the 6th Texas Cavalry across Indian Territory, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. She made sure that I knew what “Decoration Day”, now known as our Memorial Day, was and just what it meant.
Within a month after the end of the Civil War, May 1865, ladies in Winchester, Virginia, formed a Ladies Memorial Association, (LMA), with the single purpose to gather fallen Confederate soldiers within a fifteen mile radius of their town and provide them burial in a single graveyard. Once that task had been done they hoped to establish an annual tradition of placing flowers and evergreens on the graves. There were Federal troops buried along with the Confederates and they received the decorations also. Within a year, ladies across the South had established over 70, LMA’s.
In the first year, these LMA’s had assisted in the recovery of over 70,000 Confederate dead! The ladies of Lynchburg chose May 10 as their Decoration Day. This was the day that Lt. General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had succumbed to wounds. The Richmond LMA had chosen May 31 because that was the day the populace of that town had first heard the guns of war in 1861.
Vicious Reconstruction laws not withstanding, by 1867, Decoration Day flourished across the South and it was a day that southern spirit and pride surfaced. Alabama, Florida and Mississippi celebrated it on April 30; North and South Carolina on May 10 and Virginia finally compromised on May 27.
Then in 1868, in the North, May 5 was officially designated Memorial Day. This was later changed to May 30, because no significant battle was fought on that day. In May 1968, at Waterloo, New York, Pres. Lyndon Johnson “officially” recognized Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Still later, our government intruded and made the last the last Monday in May, Memorial Day, a Federal holiday.
LBJ should have studied his history better! He began his career as a history teacher at San Jacinto High School in Houston, and taught Linnie Ross’s youngest, daughter, Hazel. He soon switched to teaching civics, government studies. Maybe he was deficient in American history?