Memorial Day Has Illinois Roots

Memorial Day Has Illinois Roots

The national holiday of Memorial Day has Illinois roots.

Decoration Day was first observed in 1866, the year after the end of the Civil War, when widows and other placed flowers on the graves of those who died in the war. Gen. John A. Logan, who served in the war and who also held various political offices in Illinois both before the war (as a Democrat) and after the war (as a Republican) was the speaker at one of the first ceremonies, in Carbondale.

Two years later, Logan was commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans organization for Union soldiers, and he issued an order establishing Decoration Day – possibly because his wife told him to, says Michael Jones, director of the John A. Logan Museum in Murphysboro.

“I believe that Logan came into the Memorial Day story because of his experience in Carbondale, and because of what his wife said, that he issued General Order No. 11, which would make Memorial Day a national holiday,” he said.

The day of May 30 was selected because of the availability of spring flowers with which to decorate the graves. Decoration Day is now Memorial Day, and it’s a Monday holiday instead of May 30.


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