Confederate Memorial Day

Confederate Memorial Day
Standard government headstone for unknown Confederate soldier, Beechgrove, Tennessee
Also called Confederate Heroes Day, Confederate Decoration Day
Observed by Southern states (United States)
Type Cultural
Date January 19, last Monday in April
Frequency annual
First time April 26, 1866 (1866-04-26)
Related to

Confederate Memorial Day (called Confederate Heroes Day in Texas, and Confederate Decoration Day in Tennessee) is a holiday observed in several Southern states since the end of the American Civil War to remember the estimated 258,000 Confederate soldiers and sailors who died fighting against the Union.[1]

The holiday is observed in late April in many states to recall the surrender of the last major Confederate field army at Bennett Place on April 26, 1865.[2] The holiday is widely but unofficially observed in some Southern states, although it is an official state holiday in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama.[3][4][5]


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.[6] Their invitation was written in March 1866 and sent to all of the principal cities in the former Confederacy, including Atlanta,[7] Macon;[8] Montgomery; Memphis; Richmond; St. Louis; Alexandria; Columbia;[9] and New Orleans, as well as smaller towns like Staunton, Virginia;[10] Anderson, South Carolina;[11] and Wilmington, North Carolina.[12] The actual date for the holiday was selected by Elizabeth Rutherford Ellis.[13] 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.[6]

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[14] and Macon, Georgia,[15] 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.[16]

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 to likewise strew flowers on the graves of Union soldiers. The Grand Army of the Republic eventually adopted the name Memorial Day at their national encampment in 1882.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19] 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...”[20]

Statutory holidays for state employees

Confederate Memorial Day is a statutory holiday in Alabama on the fourth Monday in April.[21][22] In Mississippi it is observed on the last Monday in April.[21][23] In South Carolina it is a legal holiday, observed on May 10.[24] In Texas it is called Confederate Heroes Day and held on January 19 each year. Only one day off is given to workers if it coincides with Martin Luther King Day.[21][25]

See also


  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. 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. "Code of Laws - Title 53 - Chapter 5 - Legal Holidays". Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  4. "Confederate Memorial Day still recognized in Alabama and across the South". Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  5. "Alabama Code Title 1. General Provisions § 1-3-8 | FindLaw". Findlaw. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  6. 1 2 Lucian Lamar Knight. "Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends ...: Under the code duello ..." p. 156. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  7. "The Soldiers' Graves". Digital Library of Georgia. Atlanta Intelligencer. March 21, 1866. p. 2. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  8. ""Woman's Honor to the Gallant Dead," Macon Telegraph, March 26, 1866, p. 5". Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  9. ""In Memory of the Confederate Dead," Daily Phoenix, Columbia, SC, April 4, 1866, p. 2". Library of Congress. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  10. ""The Southern Dead," Staunton Spectator, Staunton, VA, March 27, 1866 p.1". Library of Congress. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  11. ""The Southern Dead," Anderson Intelligencer, Anderson Court House, SC, March 29, 1866, p.1". Library of Congress. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  12. ""In Memory of the Confederate Dead," Wilmington Journal, Wilmington, NC, April 5, 1866, p.1". Library of Congress. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  13. "Lizzie Rutherford (1833-1873) | New Georgia Encyclopedia". 2004. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  14. ""Confederate Soldiers' Dead," Louisiana Democrat, July 18, 1866". Library of Congress. July 18, 1866. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  15. "Will They Notice This Touching Tribute". Library of Congress. Columbus, OH: Ohio Statesman. May 4, 1866. p. 2. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  16. Bellware, Daniel (2014). The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday in America. Columbus, GA: Columbus State University. p. 87. ISBN 9780692292259.
  17. Beath, Robert B. (1884). The Grand Army Blue-Book Containing the Rules and Regulations of the Grand Army of the Republic and Decisions and Opinions Thereon . Google Books. Philadelphia: Grand Army of the Republic. p. 118. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  18. "Logan, Mrs. John A., Reminiscences of a Soldier's Wife, C. Scribner sons, 1913, p. 243". Google Books. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  19. Bellware, Daniel (2014). The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday in America. Columbus, GA: Columbus State University. p. 144. ISBN 9780692292259.
  20. "Illinois - Gen. Logan on Reconstruction," New York Tribune July 14, 1866 p. 5". Library of Congress. July 14, 1866. Retrieved April 29, 2018.
  21. 1 2 3 "Confederate Memorial Day in the United States". time and Time and Date AS. n.d. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  22. "Confederate Memorial Day still recognized in Alabama and across the South". Alabama Media Group. The Associated Press. April 27, 2015.
  23. "Confederate Memorial Day". April 27, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  24. Merelli, Annalisa (May 10, 2018). "What the controversial Confederate Memorial Day would be in other countries". Quartz.
  25. "State Holiday Schedule for Fiscal Year 2017" (PDF). Texas State Auditor's Office. n.d. Retrieved April 28, 2017.

Further reading

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