#14 Lest we forget: Digging up the facts about Decoration Day, first celebrated on May 1, 1865

Step-by-step guide on how to get to the truth and improve everyone’s ancestry facts

  • When was the first Decoration Day ceremony held? 1865 or 1868?
  • Who was present at that sacred ceremony? Three thousand black school children, northern missionaries and mutual aid societies … or … Southern white women.
  • How much pre-work was completed prior to the first Decoration Day and by whom? Graves of nearly 300 Union soliders who died at a horrific Confederate camp were dug up and relocated into single graves at a more peaceful site … or … a declaration by a U.S. General.
  • Why was a Decoration Day created? To celebrate the war dead with decorations on graves of soliders, parades and other commenorative celebrations.

There is a dual history remembrance of the very day set aside to remember our fallen comrades to war.


On May 1, 1865, following the construction of the newly built cemetery, the largest commemoration took place with a parade of nearly 10,000 people, led by a group of 3,000 Black school children. The processional led to the cemetery where everyone came together, both Black and white, and listened to the melancholy voices of the children’s choir and scripture readings. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Or did the following occur to establish the first “memorial” to our war dead?

From: https://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp

Local Observances Claim To Be First Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.”

Question #1 for genealogists: Who started the tradition of decorating graves with flowers and when?


Clubhouse at the race course where Union soldiers were held prisoner. Civil war photographs, 1861-1865, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Special thanks to Time.


Here’s what is generally known about what has become Memorial Day:

Here’s what happened at the Confederate prison camp in Charleston, S.C.: https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/may-30/. Three years after the first marking of Decoration Day, the U.S. General changed the narrative to mark it as a national holiday with traditions taken from the earlier years.

Question #2 for genealogists: Check out the facts and determine which year is the origination?


In 1865, 28 black workmen re-buried all (Black and Caucasian) Unioin soliders in individual graves. Prints and Photographs Collection, Library of Congress.

Or is this the first Decoration Day? https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/may-30/

Question #3 for our genealogists: Check out the facts and figure out how the narratives are blended so that all is true.

From Wikipedia:

“On May 11865, in Charleston, South Carolina, recently freed African-Americans held a parade of 10,000 people to honor 257 dead Union soldiers, whose remains they had reburied from a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp.”

How your family ancestry aids in merged narrative

  • Check and re-check the historical research that is present on our ancestry sites. After review, correct, adjust and all with integrity.
  • Write the established websites that I have included in this blog and others. For instance, the U.S. Government has existing information that is in direct conflict with the real Decoration Day-turned Memorial Day.
  • U.S. citizens are asked to pause at 3 p.m., Monday, May 31, 2021, for three minutes to commenorate all those who died in miitary conflict. There were many were died at some level of domestic battles that were not provoked by them.
  • Please also remember these folk, our ancestors from all creeds and ethnic backgrounds. Lest we forget Tulsa, Oklahoma; Omaha, Nebraska, ElaineU.S. citizens are asked to pause at 3 p.m., Monday, May 31, 2021, for three minutes to commenorate all those who died in miitary conflict.
  • Enjoy Memorial Day for its true value in this great nation.

Published by Learning family histories

Our genealogy traces our family from western and central Africa and western Europe. Our ancestors entered the United States at the Virginia and Georgia Ports. First cousins Mark Owen and Ann Lineve Wead (it is protocol to use the maiden names of females in genealogy searches) are responsible for writing this blog. Although Ann has been involved in genealogy research while searching for certain ancestors since the age of 10, the cousins began deeper research of their families during the COVID-19 Pandemic Year of 2020. Devoting as much as 6 hours some evenings to the methodical training and research of genealogy, the cousins completed the year 2020 by earning genealogy certificates. Join us. @goodgenesgenealogy on wordpress and fb, twitter Sign up for our blog and enjoy the journey.

One thought on “#14 Lest we forget: Digging up the facts about Decoration Day, first celebrated on May 1, 1865

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: