The Healing of Decoration Day

Hello, again History Lovers,

An editorial published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women May 1921 casts light on the emotional struggles of Americans who suffered significantly following the Civil War. Not only mourning their dead, their loss of property, and their lifestyle many languished with bitter feelings toward their recent enemy. This editorial celebrates the “olive branch” put forth slowly at first by both sides as the graves of fallen Americans began to be compassionately honored on Memorial Day whether they be “blue” or “gray”.

Living in the West, we don’t get many opportunities to actively honor Civil War veterans but after researching this article I feel a deep sense of respect for and gratitude toward the civil war soldiers’ loved ones who were able to let their hearts begin to heal in spite of their pain by showing respect for their deceased fellow Americans each year on Memorial Day.


Confederate Decoration Day Marker Columbus, Mississippi

When Memorial Day was first instituted, its principal function was to keep in mind the sacrifices of the boys in Blue. Time went on, silently eradicating prejudices and hatreds until at last, the observation of Memorial Day came to include, in the North, tributes to the Gray as well as the Blue, and in the South, tributes to the Blue as well as the Gray. Out of this unifying thought came the great day on July 1, 1913, when on the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Veterans of the 1860s, North and South, met in one great friendly encampment at Gettysburg, and there, so to speak, officially buried their differences and became brothers indeed.

Decoration Day Greeting Card 1908

This had to come to pass. The normal human mind could not have it otherwise. Sheer logic forced it to talk of “Blue” and “Gray” and “North” and “South.” We are indeed a nation, one and undivided, even on Memorial Day, which has long been a day dedicated to every American life laid down in war.

Decoration Day Greeting Card in Honor of Fallen Civil War Servicemen

Three years ago, May Thirtieth widened its solemn and sacred program to include all Americans whose blood was shed in the world struggle (WW I). And now, in 1921, this day of annual tribute would seem to have reached a climax, for it memorializes also the lives of countless thousands in other nations—men and women and little children—who innocently perished because humanity is in the throes of greed and envy which are the begetters of unholy strife.

Memorial Day 1920 Hartford, Connecticut Children honoring fallen WWI Servicemen

This evolution of Memorial Day from an observance which at first served to keep alive the old contentions of the Civil War into an observance that leads our thoughts away from our own homeland to quiet resting places in other lands across the sea is a remarkable illustration of the changeless law of change and progress. Try as it may, the human heart cannot keep its hatreds, its oppositions, its narrowness. Time, holding his hourglass, watches his worldly children climb the immortal heights of betterment. They can do no other. Whether we will or not, the quiet process of change goes right on, the wounds are healed, and the graves are grown over. We may ever so vigorously repudiate leagues, shun alliances, seek solidarity and declare ourselves forever separate from those we oppose but we and they move right on forward and upward, steadily drawing closer together, shrinking our differences, uniting our purposes, working out the divinely-implanted principle of human brotherhood. — The Editors

Wishing everyone a thoughtful and safe Memorial Weekend.

Post Civil War Memorial Day Greeting Card Souvenir

3 thoughts on “The Healing of Decoration Day

  1. When I was growing up, my grandmother always called Memorial Day, Decoration Day. Now I get it. Also, since I was born after WWII, I think the emphasis of the meaning changed somewhat so it is good to remember what the holiday really means. Thanks, Elaine!

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