Memorial Day takes place on the last Monday of May in America and was created to pay tribute to the men and women who died in the service of the nation’s military. It’s an important act of commemoration and remembrance, but did you know this federal holiday was originally called “Decoration Day” and has its roots in the practice of adorning the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and mementos?
No-one is sure exactly when the ritual first began. Most likely it preceded the Civil War, although the bloodiness of that conflict certainly produced far more graves than any that had come before it in America and cemented the need for a collective way of mourning.
Accounts of the first officially documented Decoration Day vary and might have been as early as 1862 in Savannah, Georgia; 1864 in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; or during an observance by freed slaves on May 1st 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, who came together to honour the Union soldiers who had died during the preceding four years of war.
Whichever date can lay claim to being the first, eventually the holiday did become formalised as it transitioned to the last Monday of May each year, when flowers were most likely to be in full bloom and ready to be cut and placed on graves.
Given American Queen Steamboat Company’s close ties to the South, the scene of most battles during the Civil War, and the Civil War’s importance in inspiring the creation of Memorial Day, it’s interesting to find ties throughout the region to the War Between the States that exist even in places you might not expect.
On our Civil War themed cruises, we’re joined by distinguished guest speakers, who bring this era of history to life through stories and events, highlighting unique perspectives and legendary tales that both entertain and enlighten. On land, guests are afforded the opportunity to experience solemn battlefields where knowledgeable experts resurrect memories misplaced in the tumult of war.