Confederate Memorial Day

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Confederate Memorial Day
Standard government headstone for unknown Confederate soldier, Beech Grove, Tennessee
Also called Confederate Heroes Day
Observed by
Type Cultural
Frequency Annual
First time April 26, 1866; 151 years ago (1866-04-26)
Related to

Confederate Memorial Day (also called Confederate Heroes Day in Texas), is a public holiday observed by the U.S. states of Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana and Texas since the end of the American Civil War to remember the estimated 258,000 members of the Confederate States Army, Navy, Marines, and militia who died in combat while fighting against the United States.[1] The day is also marked by observances in many other states, it is observed in late April in some Southern states to recall the surrender of the last major Confederate field army at Bennett Place on that date in 1865.[2]


In the spring of 1866 the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia, passed a resolution to set aside one day annually to memorialize the Confederate war dead. Mary Ann Williams, the association secretary, was directed to pen a letter inviting ladies associations in every former Confederate state to join them in the observance.[3]

Their invitation was written in March 1866 and sent to all of the principal cities in the former Confederacy, including Atlanta,[4] Macon,[5] Montgomery, Memphis, Richmond, St. Louis, Alexandria, Columbia,[6] and New Orleans, as well as smaller towns like Staunton, VA,[7] Anderson, SC,[8] and Wilmington, NC,[9] the actual date for the holiday was selected by Elizabeth Rutherford Ellis.[10] She chose April 26, the first anniversary of Confederate General Johnston's surrender to Union Major General Sherman at Bennett Place, for many in the Confederacy, that date in 1865 marked the end of the civil war.[3]

In their book, The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday in America, Bellware and Gardiner determine that the national Memorial Day holiday is a direct offshoot of the observance begun by the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia in 1866. In a few places, most notably Columbus, Mississippi[11] and Macon, Georgia,[12] Union graves were decorated during the first observance, the day was even referred to as Memorial Day by the Baltimore Sun on May 8, 1866 after the ladies organization that started it. The name Confederate Memorial Day was not used until the Northern observance was initiated in 1868.

While initially cool to the idea of a Northern version of the holiday, General John A. Logan was eventually won over as evidenced by his General Order No. 11 of May 5, 1868 wherein he commanded the posts of Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) to likewise strew flowers on the graves of Union soldiers. The GAR eventually adopted the name Memorial Day at their national encampment in 1882.[13]

Many theories have been offered as to how Logan became aware of the former Confederate tradition he imitated in 1868; in her autobiography, his wife claims she told him about it after a trip to Virginia in the spring of that year.[14] His secretary and his adjutant also claim they told him about it. John Murray of Waterloo, New York claims it was he who inspired Logan in 1868. Bellware and Gardiner, however, offer proof that Logan was aware of the Southern tributes long before any of them had a chance to mention it to him; in a speech to veterans in Salem, Illinois on July 4, 1866, Logan referred to the various dates of observance adopted in the South for the practice saying “…traitors in the South have their gatherings day after day, to strew garlands of flowers upon the graves of Rebel soldiers...”[15]


Confederate Memorial Day observance in front of the Monument to Confederate Dead, Columbia, South Carolina, on May 10, 2012.


In Alabama, Confederate Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in April,[2] it is a public holiday and state offices are closed.[16]


In Florida, Confederate Memorial Day is observed on April 26.[2] When it falls upon a Sunday, the public holiday will be observed on the following Monday.[17]


In Georgia, the holiday celebrated on April 26 and known as Confederate Memorial Day was observed on the Monday prior to or on April 26, as proclaimed by the Governor,[18] the state capitol and state agencies are closed, as on all state holidays. In 2016, the name Confederate Memorial Day was dropped and April 26 was observed on Monday April 25 and simply designated "State Holiday."[19]


Kentucky observes June 3 as both Confederate Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis' birthday, along with Robert E. Lee's birthday on January 19. State offices may close, but usually do not.[20]


In Mississippi, Confederate Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in April,[2] it is a public holiday and state executives may close their respective offices. [21]

South Carolina[edit]

In South Carolina, Confederate Memorial Day is observed on May 10.[2] If on a Saturday, it shifts to Friday. If Sunday, it will be observed the following Monday.[22]


In Louisiana, Confederate Memorial Day is observed on June 3rd.[23]


In Texas, Confederate Heroes Day (also called Confederate Memorial Day) is observed on January 19, it is a public holiday and some state agencies may operate on reduced staff.[24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Boyer, Paul S., ed. (2001). The Oxford Companion to United States History. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 132. ISBN 0-19-508209-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Woolf, Henry Bosley, ed. (1976). Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Co. p. 236. ISBN 0-87779-338-7. OL 5207141M. 
  3. ^ a b Lucian Lamar Knight. "Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends ...: Under the code duello ...". p. 156. Retrieved January 15, 2016. 
  4. ^ "The Soldiers’ Graves". Digital Library of Georgia. Atlanta Intelligencer. March 21, 1866. p. 2. Retrieved February 27, 2017. 
  5. ^ "“Woman’s Honor to the Gallant Dead,” Macon Telegraph, March 26, 1866, p. 5". Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved February 27, 2017. 
  6. ^ "“In Memory of the Confederate Dead,” Daily Phoenix, Columbia, SC, April 4, 1866, p. 2". Library of Congress. Retrieved February 26, 2017. 
  7. ^ "“The Southern Dead,” Staunton Spectator, Staunton, VA, March 27, 1866 p.1". Library of Congress. Retrieved February 26, 2017. 
  8. ^ "“The Southern Dead,” Anderson Intelligencer, Anderson Court House, SC, March 29, 1866, p.1". Library of Congress. Retrieved February 26, 2017. 
  9. ^ "“In Memory of the Confederate Dead,” Wilmington Journal, Wilmington, NC, April 5, 1866, p.1". Library of Congress. Retrieved February 25, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Lizzie Rutherford (1833-1873) | New Georgia Encyclopedia". 2004. Retrieved January 15, 2016. 
  11. ^ "“Confederate Soldiers’ Dead,” Louisiana Democrat, July 18, 1866". Library of Congress. July 18, 1866. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  12. ^ "Will They Notice This Touching Tribute". Library of Congress. Columbus, OH: Ohio Statesman. May 4, 1866. p. 2. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  13. ^ Beath, Robert B. The Grand army blue-book containing the rules and regulations of the Grand Army of the Republic and decisions and opinions thereon .. Philadelphia: Grand Army of the Republic, 1884. Google Books. p. 118. Retrieved February 25, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Logan, Mrs. John A., Reminiscences of a Soldier’s Wife, C. Scribner sons, 1913, p. 243". Google Books. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  15. ^ "“The Right of Citizenship,” Evansville Journal July 30, 1866 p. 4.". Library of Congress. July 30, 1866. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Confederate Memorial Day still recognized in Alabama and across the South". Alabama Media Group, the Associated Press. April 27, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Statutes & Constitution : View Statutes : Online Sunshine". Retrieved January 15, 2016. 
  18. ^ "2015 Georgia State Holidays" (PDF). State of Georgia. Retrieved February 25, 2017. 
  19. ^ "Georgia State Holidays" (PDF). Website for State of Georgia. Retrieved February 25, 2017. 
  20. ^ "Kentucky Revised Statutes". June 5, 2017. Retrieved January 15, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Confederate Memorial Day". April 27, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Division of State Human Resources | Department of Administration - State of South Carolina". 2015. Retrieved December 17, 2016. 
  23. ^ "Legal Holidays; State of Louisiana". 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017. 
  24. ^ "Memorial Day History - Office of Public Affairs". 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2016. 
  25. ^ "State Holiday Schedule for Fiscal Year 2017" (PDF). Texas State Auditor's Office. n.d. Retrieved April 28, 2017. 

Further reading[edit]