May 30, 1868 was the first Federal national celebration of a holiday commemorating soldiers that had died at war. It was created by Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic with the issuance of General Order Number 11 and held at the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA with a speech from General James Garfield. The order stated that May 30th would be a memorial day "“for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
The women of the south had been decorating the graves of soldiers as early as 1863 and on April 25, 1866 the Women's Memorial Association in Columbus, Mississippi held a day to commemorate the fallen soldiers of both the USA and CSA in Confederate cemeteries. By 1874 the citizens of the CSA informally adopted May 30th as Decoration Day to show respect to the fallen of both nations.
Now the USA and CSA both recognize Decoration Day as an observance held to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the late war.”
Credits: Image “Soldier’s Memorial Day External.” Mary B. C. Slade, words; W. O. Perkins, music; Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co., 1870. Historic American Sheet Music