Confederate Memorial Day

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Confederate Memorial Day, also known as Confederate Decoration Day (Tennessee) and Confederate Heroes Day (Texas), is an official holiday and/or observance day in the U.S. South as a day to honor those who died fighting for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Eleven states officially observe Confederate Memorial Day: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.[1]

History[edit]

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 dead. Additionally, the secretary of the association, Mrs. Charles J. (Mary Ann) Williams was directed to author a letter inviting the ladies in every Southern state to join them in the observance.[2] The letter was written in March of 1866 and sent to all of the principal cities in the South, including Atlanta, Macon, Montgomery, Memphis, Richmond, St. Louis, Alexandria, Columbia, New Orleans, et al.

The date for the holiday was selected by Mrs. Elizabeth Rutherford Ellis.[3] She chose April 26, the first anniversary of Confederate General Johnston's final surrender to Union General Sherman at Bennett Place, NC. For many in the South, that marked the official end of the Civil War.[4]

On April 26, 1866, tens of thousands of Southern women commemorated the first Confederate Memorial Day. Some, however, in the northernmost portions of the South did not participate because their flowers were not yet in bloom. Consequently, they selected dates later in the spring to hold their first Confederate Memorial Days. For example, parts of Virginia chose May 10, commemorating Stonewall Jackson's death. Near Petersburg, VA, they chose June 9, the anniversary of a significant battle there. Others opted for Jefferson Davis' birthday, June 3.

To the present, Southern states continue to have Confederate Memorial days. Though most are still on April 26, others continue to be later in the year.

Relationship to current national Memorial Day[edit]

In 1868, General John A. Logan, who was the commander in chief of the Union Civil War Veterans Fraternity called the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), launched the Memorial Day holiday that is currently observed in the entire United States. According to General Logan's wife, he emulated the practices of Confederate Memorial Day. She wrote that Logan "said it was not too late for the Union men of the nation to follow the example of the people of the South in perpetuating the memory of their friends who had died for the cause they thought just and right."[5]

States and dates observed[edit]

State Date Variable? Remarks 2014 2015 2016
Alabama Fourth Monday in April [6] Y The surrender of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston to Union General William Sherman on April 26, 1865. April 28 2014 April 27 2015 April 25 2016
Arkansas Third Monday in January [7] Y Robert E. Lee's birthday (state holiday combined with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day). January 20 2014 January 19 2015 January 18 2016
Florida April 26 [8] [9] N See remarks at Alabama. April 26 2014 April 26 2015 April 26 2016
Georgia April 26 [10] N See remarks at Alabama. April 26 2014 April 26 2015 April 26 2016
Kentucky June 3 [11] N Jefferson Davis' birthday. June 3 2014 June 3 2015 June 3 2016
Louisiana June 3 [10][12] N Jefferson Davis' birthday. Set by state law, Louisiana Revised Statues 1:55 June 3 2014 June 3 2015 June 3 2016
Maryland First Saturday of June Y June 7 2014 June 6 2015 June 4 2016
Mississippi Last Monday in April [13] Y See remarks at Alabama. April 28 2014 April 27 2015 April 25 2016
North Carolina May 10 [10] N The death of Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson in 1863 and the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1865. May 10 2014 May 10 2015 May 10 2016
Pennsylvania Second Saturday in May Y Observed by the Pennsylvania Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. May 10 2014 May 9 2015 May 14 2016
South Carolina May 10 [14] N See remarks at North Carolina. May 10 2014 May 10 2015 May 10 2016
Tennessee June 3 [10] N Jefferson Davis' birthday. June 3 2014 June 3 2015 June 3 2016
Texas January 19 [10] N Confederate Heroes Day. In 1973, the Texas legislature combined the previously official state holidays of Robert E. Lee's and Jefferson Davis' birthdays into a single "Confederate Heroes Day" to honor all who had served the Southern Cause. In some years, this date may coincide with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. State offices are partially staffed in recognition of this day. January 19 2014 January 19 2015 January 19 2016
Texas April 26 [10] N Confederate Memorial Day. Texas' official holiday is named Confederate Heroes Day and is celebrated on January 19. However, many local communities and Southern historical organizations within the state also observe a separate "Confederate Memorial Day" on April 26. April 26 2014 April 26 2015 April 26 2016
Virginia Last Monday in May [10] Y Memorial Day. May 26 2014 May 25 2015 May 30 2016

References[edit]