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Memorial Day Established by GAR

Memorial Day, May 30, was organized in 1868 by Civil War veterans as a day of remembrance.

In May, 1868, just two years after the GAR was founded, a letter was received by the adjutant of the GAR in Washington from a Civil War soldier from Cincinnati, Ohio. This man suggested that "in some of the countries in Europe it was the custom to strew with flowers in the springtime the graves of heroes who had fallen in defense of their country", and asked if such a custom would not be appropriate "to commemorate the services of our comrades who had given their lives that the nation might not perish". The adjutant was so impressed with this letter that he took a rough draft to General Logan, commander of the GAR, who was serving in the House of Representatives.

General Logan promptly approved by issuing an order to have this suggestion carried out. The national officials decided that spring would be the best time for the observance and chose May, a month when spring flowers would be in bloom. May 31 that year fell on a Sunday, so May 30 was decided upon.

GAR General Order Number 11 began as follows:

"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."

Thus came into being the first "Day of Remembrance." which was then referred to as Decoration Day. It was observed in 27 states of the Union, with General James A. Garfield, later the president of the United States, delivering the principal address at the ceremonies in Arlington National Cemetery.