The rest of the story


Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, is not a day of celebration. It is the day we honor all the men and women who have died in the service of the United States military. It is a day of solemn contemplation – it is a day to meditate on the price that is paid for our freedom.

As it has been said, “For your tomorrows, they gave their today.

The history of Memorial Day dates back to May 5, 1868, when General John A. Logan issued General Orders No. 11, designating May 30 “for the purpose of sprinkling flowers or decorating the graves of fallen comrades for the defense of their country. “

So, wrote Logan, Americans “would dearly cherish the memory of our heroic deaths, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its enemy.” Logan added: “Let neither vandalism nor greed for neglect, nor the ravages of time bear witness to the present or to generations to come that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic. “And:” May we then, at the appointed time, gather around their sacred remains and garnish the mounds without passion with the most beautiful flowers of spring; let us raise above them the dear old flag which they saved.

These questions have rarely been asked:

  • Why did General Logan issue General Orders # 11?
  • What prompted him to write it?
  • What’s the rest of the story?

It was on a cold day in March 1868 that Logan and his family were invited to take a tour of the war-torn town of Richmond, Virginia. Since Logan was deeply involved in veterans affairs that day, he felt it was his duty to stay in Washington and deal with these matters. The general suggested his wife and children take the tour, which they did. Three years after the end of the war, the town of Richmond still looked like a battlefield; there was devastation everywhere.

As the Logan family drove through the rubble-cluttered city in a horse-drawn carriage, they came across many cemeteries. They saw long rows of headstones decorated with Confederate flags, withered flowers and wreaths, as if they were “laid by loving hands,” Ms. Logan noted. Upon her return to Washington, she told her husband about the beautiful tomb displays and how they impressed her.

“I had never been so touched by what I had seen,” she said.

The general thought about how it looked like ancient times, when the graves of military heroes were covered with flowers.

Logan promised his wife that he would use his power to have the tradition of honoring the war dead applied to Union soldiers as well. He kept his promise and issued General Orders No.11 – and so, Decoration Day came into being.

One hundred years later, Decoration Day would become Memorial Day, honoring all who gave their lives in the service of this nation in the military.

Logan went on to become a United States Senator, wrote several books and became Vice Presidential running mate alongside presidential candidate James G. Blaine. Logan died in 1886 at the age of 60.

Mary Logan, who is 12 years younger than her husband, will live another 37 years. She will become editor-in-chief of Home Magazine, a national publication, author of several books and activist for women’s rights. She died in 1923.

And that’s the rest of the story.

Carl J. Asszony, a longtime New Jersey veterans advocate, can be contacted at [email protected]


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