Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Origin of Decoration Day

By David Bragg

    According to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Waterloo, NY is the birthplace of Memorial Day. But his 1966 pronouncement did little to dissuade the other cities making the same claim. Originally known as Decoration Day, it was first adopted to honor those who fell in defense of the Union during the Civil War (as ordered by General John A. Logan in 1868). New York was indeed the first state to adopt the annual observance (followed by all the Northern states). May 30th was selected because there were no battles fought on that day.
    That first official Decoration Day included a speech by Union General and future President James A. Garfield at Arlington National Cemetery, the former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, to attendees there to decorate the graves of some 20,000 fallen warriors, both North and South. In the years to follow all the Northern States would adopt the annual day of remembrance, but it would not be until after World War I that the Southern States would make it the national observance that it is today: honoring the dead from all wars.
    We should remember all those who have served our nation. But of even greater significance is to honor those faithful soldiers in God’s church. We can find motivation to follow in their example as Christian soldiers knowing that God will remember us for good: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on ... that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them" (Rev. 14:13).

- David Bragg serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: or his blog:

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