In 1868 Gen. John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued an order for a Decoration Day to remember Union and Confederate soldiers lost during the Civil War, but when it was extended to include the dead of all wars it became known as Memorial Day. It was observed originally on May 30 because it was not an anniversary of a battle.
By the 20th century Memorial Day became an occasion for more general expression of remembrance as more people visited the graves of relatives whether they served in the military or not.
The poppies sold by veterans around Memorial Day signify the blood of fallen soldiers in France during World War I. The idea of poppies for remembrance was made popular by John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields. The following link will take you to Columbia Ganger’s Poetry Database where you can read or listen to the poem. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cpid,url,uid&custid=concordt&db=jgh&AN=00000043125&site=ehost-live
The Uniform Monday Holidays Act passed in June 1968 moved Memorial Day to the last Monday in May creating a three day weekend for most people. Veteran’s groups continue to claim it undermines and takes away the solemnity and purpose of this day of remembrance because most people regard this weekend as a kickoff to the summer season devoted to shopping, family get-togethers, fireworks, and the Indy 500.
In her short story, “Decoration Day” New England author Sarah Orne Jewett hides the moral “that comfortable citizens should not forget the sacrifice of soldiers” (Gale, 1999) as the three main characters, veterans of the Civil War, plan to have a parade to remember fallen and injured soldiers.
Gale, R.L. (1999). Sarah Orne Jewett Companion. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 66-67 Retrieved May 18, 2011 from Ebrary. http://site.ebrary.com/lib/nhti/edf.action?docID=5005125&p00=sarah+orne+jewett&useNSAPI=0
Jewett, S.O. Decoration Day In: Novels and Stories pp. 773- 86. New York: Library of America. PS2131 1994