Visitors to Civil War sites such as the Antietam in Maryland more than likely leave with an overwhelming sense of the magnitude of the loss from that war – 23,000 dead from just that one battle, a total of 620,000 lives lost in the four-year conflict. Need any more confirmation of the impact on the American psyche of the Civil War? For the first time, non-battle participants saw the horror themselves: Mathew Brady's photos of fallen soldiers laying twisted on the dirt, or slumped behind boulder-protected sniper sites put a human face on war.
The idea of a Memorial Day holiday was an aftermath of that war. One story is that a drugstore owner in Waterloo, New York, suggested that shops close for one day to honor soldiers killed during the Civil War. On May 5, 1866, the town’s people closed their stores and put flowers on the graves of soldiers. Others claim that Southern women put flowers on the graves of soldiers at a Richmond, Virginia, cemetery on May 30, 1866. Retired Major General Jonathan Logan planned another ceremony on May 30, 1868, which honored the dead with flowers and songs. The annual ceremony, which became known as Decoration Day, continued to be celebrated on May 30. In 1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day and it became a public holiday in parts of the country. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday, to be celebrated the last Monday in May. Memorial Day celebrations include flags, bunting, eagles and other symbols of American wars and fallen soldiers.
This Memorial Day postcard
pictures Columbia, the female personification of the United States, draped in a flag and wearing a Phrygian cap, signifying freedom and the pursuit of liberty. The back of the postcard tells us it was made sometime between 1907 and 1917. Postcards like this sell online for $10 to $15.
Have a good Memorial Day!
And after you take time to remember and honor those who served our country, visit a local antiques show or flea market to celebrate the kick off of summer flea market season. Flea market browsing is a classic Memorial Day activity.
Join The Discussion
Kovels.com is pleased to share your comments. Your postings may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in our print publications. We encourage a variety of opinions, but ask that you refrain from profanity and hate speech. To post comments, you must be a registered user of Kovels.com. Please remember that your username will appear with any comments you post.