On Decoration Day

flagHappy Memorial Day to you U.S. folks. To everyone else, briefly, this is a day we honor those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This time wasn’t federally recognized as ‘Memorial Day,’ per se, until 1968; for much of the post-Civil War 19th century it was simply known as Decoration Day. There are many claims to origination for the first such day, but the most interesting to me is by far is this story of Decoration Day in Charleston, SC:

Charleston was in ruins.

The peninsula was nearly deserted, the fine houses empty, the streets littered with the debris of fighting and the ash of fires that had burned out weeks before. The Southern gentility was long gone, their cause lost.

On a Monday morning that spring, nearly 10,000 former slaves marched onto the grounds of the old Washington Race Course, where wealthy Charleston planters and socialites had gathered in old times. During the final year of the war, the track had been turned into a prison camp. Hundreds of Union soldiers died there.

For two weeks in April, former slaves had worked to bury the soldiers. Now they would give them a proper funeral.

The procession began at 9 a.m. as 2,800 black school children marched by their graves, softly singing “John Brown’s Body.”

Soon, their voices would give way to the sermons of preachers, then prayer and — later — picnics. It was May 1, 1865, but they called it Decoration Day.

On that day, former Charleston slaves started a tradition that would come to be known as Memorial Day.

The rest is well-worth reading. Enjoy your time today, and remember those who died for something greater than themselves.

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