On Memorial Day “the Living Pause in the Onward Rush . . .”

Memorial Day, which we observe today, was originally called “Decoration Day.” The first national observance was in 1868, three years after the  Civil War, although some cities had staged their own Decoration Day observances as early as 1866.

decoration day 68This poignant story about Decoration Day in 1868 was printed in the Jackson, Mississippi Daily Clarion. Indiana had been a Union state; Andersonville had been a Confederate prison camp in Georgia.

memorial day 77By the 1870s the term Memorial Day was coming into use. The Daily Fort Worth Standard in 1877 printed this Memorial Day poem by Fanny Downing of Virginia. Downing wrote poems about the Civil War from a Confederate perspective. This poem devotes a stanza to each of several fallen soldiers, including Generals Granbury and Cleburne.

memorial day 1884Perhaps understandably, in the beginning Decoration Day was not a bipartisan observance. In the North, Decoration Day early on honored fallen Union soldiers. This 1884 Fort Worth Gazette clip details the Decoration Day observance in Washington, D.C., which had a Union focus (the Grand Army of the Republic was a Union veterans organization). (I have included the adjacent local ad for menswear because . . . well, because that dude just looks so darned spiffy.)

These headlines are from the 1885 Gazette.

As in much of the South, the formal Fort Worth observance of Decoration Day originally honored Confederate veterans. But this Gazette clip of 1885 shows that the local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic invited ex-Confederates to join in decorating the graves of both North and South soldiers. (Texas observes its own Confederate Heroes Day on January 19—Robert E. Lee’s birthday—to honor those who died for the Confederate cause.)

memorial may 31 1887In 1887 Fort Worth honored both blue and gray with first a parade and then a ceremony at both the “old cemetery” (Pioneers Rest) and the “new cemetery” (Oakwood) to honor fallen soldiers buried there, including General J. J. Bryne. Clip is from the May 31 Gazette.

pr deo inviceAt Pioneers Rest, the Confederate Iron Cross of Honor. “Deo Vindice” (“Under God, [Our] Vindicator”) was the motto of the Confederacy. The cemetery contains the graves of more than 140 Confederate veterans.

After World War I Memorial Day honored all Americans who have died in all wars.

Oakwood Cemetery.

Veterans Memorial Park on Camp Bowie Boulevard.

Veterans Memorial Park on Camp Bowie Boulevard.

Mount Olivet Cemetery.

veterans RHShannon Rose Hill Cemetery.

Newsreel feature on Memorial Day 1945 by Universal Studios (YouTube):

memorial day 1945 front pagememorial day 1945 storySoldiers were still dying in World War II as the United States observed Memorial Day in 1945.

TCU’s Memorial Columns: Memorial Day: “What We Do for Others and the World . . .”

This entry was posted in Cities of the Dead, East Side, Life in the Past Lane, North Side, Public Art, West Side. Bookmark the permalink.

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