Memorial Day took shape in the Civil War and was originally known as “Decoration Day.”(1) In its early times, it was a day to only honor those who lost their life in the Civil War. The day has revolved into so much more, and rightfully so. You don’t have to be a history buff to learn a bit about how America became the land of the free and the brave.
To get an understanding of just how horrific this war was, consider that the Civil War remains the deadliest war to date. If one were to combine all war deaths, they would still not surpass the war deaths of just the Civil War. While the actual number of military casualties has been refuted over the years, the declared number of deaths remains written in history as “..an estimated 620,000 men..” (2)
Such a staggering and historical figure brings attention to vast amount of area, states and reasoning of the involved states. The start of the Civil War began over the State of South Carolina’s perceived threat posed by the election of Abraham Lincoln. The start of the battles revolved around the President’s opposition to slavery. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the United States. They wanted no part in being a part of “The United States of America.” With the additional interest and requests of ten other states, “The Confederate States of America” (3) was born.
In epic form, The South Rose up against the North and fighting ensued for over three years. The fighting encompassed “..thousands of different places, from southern Pennsylvania to Texas; from New Mexico to the Florida coast,” (4) before the North was declared a winner. At that time, the eleven total southern states went back under the United States.
While today’s meaning of Memorial Day includes all members of the military who have died in the line of duty, the beginning of its history was strictly for those servicemen who died in the Civil War. It is reported by many states that Memorial Day started with them. It was ultimately settled in a court of Law that “Waterloo, NY was the official birthplace” regardless of substantial proof that the customs had been going on long before the General ever laid the wreath in celebration of Decoration Day. (5)
Decoration Day Estimated Deaths Confederate States of America Places of Battle Birthplace