Mary Ann Williams frequented her husband’s grave, a Confederate officer from Columbus, Georgia, who fell to the Civil War. Mary Ann decorated the deceased husband’s grave, and her daughter inspired her to lay flowers at the graves of all fallen soldiers. The sentiment caught up in many Southern states and soon came to be commemorated as Decoration Day to honor, mourn and celebrate the dead soldiers.
The practice quickly spread to Northern US; in 1868, John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic declared it a Memorial Day for all the fallen soldiers, confederate or Union. Memorial Day has survived the “appropriation” charges of some of the leaders in the South. After WW II, Memorial Day became more or less universally accepted over Decorative Day. In 1968, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday on the last Monday of May to honor all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country’s good.
As the long weekend occasions, family gatherings, BBQ, and the usual commercial excesses, it ought to compel us to recognize the day’s solemnity.
Mary Ann Williams started a tradition that blurred the divide of the Civil War with a noble tradition that commemorates the sacrifices of all who laid their lives that a grateful nation honors on this day.
As the divisions remerge, this day should also remind us that we are all Americans. Our differences are beneath us, and the bonds that bind us are stronger; if not, we stand to default on the debt owed to the fallen soldiers.
As I remember, I say a silent prayer: Together Better.