In 1868, Commander in Chief, John A. Logan, of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30, as a memorial day with the accompanying description “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.”
With that issue, the first national celebration of the holiday was held on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, where Confederate and Union soldiers were buried. (For more information on the origin of Memorial Day, check out this article mentioning former slaves who paid tribute to dead Union Soldiers on May 1, 1865…
Memorial Day, originally recognized as Decoration Day, is celebrated throughout America and today, many towns celebrate the day with a parade and other precedents through to commemorations. The practice of strewing flowers on soldiers’ graves is a common practice throughout the nation.
Waterloo, New York, was proclaimed as the “Birthplace of Memorial Day,” by President Lyndon Johnson because it began a first formal observance of the day on May 5, 1866. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, also claims to have held the first Memorial Day observance back in October 1864. Towns across America also claim the title as the first to hold a Memorial Day service.
In 1971, federal law changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars. There are however, a few states that continue to celebrate Memorial Day on May 30.
Today, national observance of the holiday still takes place at Arlington National Cemetery with the placement of a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the adornment of each grave with a small American flag.
When flying the American flag on Memorial Day it is appropriate to raise it quickly to the top of the pole at sunrise, and thereafter, immediately lowering it to half-staff until noon, finally displaying it at full staff from noon until sunset.Other information and guidelines about the flag.