Many of us will be enjoying cookouts or a day at the beach on Memorial Day. I am NOT opposed to having a good time on Memorial Day. It is a great holiday to get together with family and friends. It is also a three day weekend and an opportunity for a short stay out of town. But that is not why we observe this holiday.
Legend states that the first soldier's grave decorated (by someone other that his family) to honor his service was in Warrenton, Virginia in 1861, shortly after the start of the Civil War. In 1862, women in Savannah decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers. After the war, Northern interests began to follow the Southern practice and designate a Decoration Day for the adornment of the graves of the war dead. The day was not universally called Memorial Day until after World War II.
Veteran's Day, on November 11, is when we honor all veterans who have fought for our country. Memorial Day is specifically intended to be a day for honoring those who died while in service (including those who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.)
I honor here my ancestors who died while in military service:
Pvt. Benjamin Kenton, R.S. (my 7th great uncle.) He served in the 11th Virginia Regiment, 7th Company of the Continental Line and died at Philadelphia on 26 JUL 1777 in defense of the Continental capital.
Pvt. Silas Weeks, R.S., (my 6th great grandfather.) Silas Weeks and one of his sons - Theophilus Weeks - were soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Theophilus enlisted in Donoho's Company of the 6th North Carolina Regiment on 03 MAY 1776 while Silas enlisted in the same Company in 1777. Both participated in the battles at Brandywine and Germantown. They wintered at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78 in General Lachlan MacIntosh's Brigade, which was immediately adjacent to General Washington's post. Silas died on 22 MAY 1778 at Valley Forge.
Sgt. Thomas L. Roberts (my 3rd great uncle.) 1st Florida Cavalry, Company A, wounded and captured on 25 NOV 1863 at Missionary Ridge, TN; died 20 NOV 1864 at Rock Island, IL.
Pvt. William P. Roberts (my 3rd great uncle.) 9th Florida Infantry, Company K, killed at the second battle of Reams Station, Virginia on 25 AUG 1864.
Pvt. Abel Roberts (my 3rd great uncle.) Florida 4th Infantry, Company F, died on 15 SEP 1862 at Lafayette County, Florida.
Pvt. Reubin S. Roberts (my 3rd great uncle.) He died in AUG 1864 at a Confederate hospital in Petersburg, Virginia, due to illness. The most common cause of death in the war was illness, not combat wounds, and the most common illnesses were dysentery and typhoid fever. (Thomas, William, Abel, and Reubin Roberts were all brothers. This family sent five sons off to war and only one returned – crippled from a combat wound.)
Pvt. George Washington Bowermaster (my 5th great uncle.) He served in the 74th Ohio Infantry, Company A, then 31st Ohio Infantry, Company I. Pvt. Bowermaster died 31 JUL 1864 at Andersonville, Georgia.
Pvt. William L. Bowermaster (my 5th great uncle) served in the Illinois 80th Infantry, Company H, and was killed at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky on 11 OCT 1862. One of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy at the Battle of Perryville.
Surprisingly - and thankfully - I have no ancestors who died in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, or the War in Vietnam.
Most Helpful Opinions
Yes! I feel that a lot of people need this reminder. So many people just see it as a 3 day weekend but it's meant to honor and remember those who didn't make it back home from war. It's amazing how you know your ancestors all the way back to the Revolutionary War and how/where they died.
I can name all of my family members who served as far back as WW2. None of them died while serving though. I do know that I have ancestors who fought in the Civil War but I'm not familiar with their stories. That may be an interesting thing for me to research.