Macon among communities laying claim to 1st Memorial Day

wcrenshaw@macon.comMay 25, 2014 

A historical marker at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon celebrates a ceremony held there April 26, 1866, to remember soldiers killed in the Civil War.

WAYNE CRENSHAW — wcrenshaw@macon.com

In the spring of 1866, communities North and South were reeling from the devastating loss of life from the Civil War.

Some began designating a special day to decorate the graves of the war dead. It’s a matter of debate as to which was the first.

According to the history of Memorial Day on the Department of Veterans Affairs website, Macon, Columbus and other communities have laid claim to being the first to hold a Memorial Day ceremony.

The Macon claim apparently stems from a ceremony held April 26, 1866, on Cherry Street. On that day, according to a historical marker at Rose Hill Cemetery, the newly organized Ladies Memorial Auxiliary decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers buried there and at a cemetery at 7th and Cherry streets.

On the same day, the Macon Daily Telegraph printed the names of 575 soldiers killed in the war.

Other communities across the country held similar events that became annual traditions. Confederate Memorial Day, however, is still recognized as a separate holiday. It is an official state holiday in Georgia.

The Memorial Day recognized the last Monday in May was officially established in 1868 as Decoration Day.

Other communities were already unofficially recognizing the observance, according to the VA’s history.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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