A Look Back at #MemorialDay #history

Memorial Day graphic

When we have a three-day weekend, it’s easy to ignore the reason for the day off, but in the case of Memorial Day, we should remember why we celebrate.

The holiday started in the years immediately following the Civil War, the most destructive conflict in our country’s history. Hardly a family or community went unaffected by that terrible war. Two of my ancestors fought for the Union. One was wounded at Gettysburg, the other at the Battle of the Wilderness. The latter lived into his 80’s with a bullet lodged in one knee.

His rifle stayed in the family and was eventually passed down to me. I display it proudly in my family room.

1859 Sharps Rifle

Model 1859 Sharps Rifle carried by my ancestor throughout the Civil War

As early as 1866, people gathered flowers in spring to decorate the graves of the fallen. For decades the holiday was knows as Decoration Day, but after World War II, Memorial Day stuck. In 1866, President Johnson declared the town of Waterloo, New York to be the beginning of the Memorial Day holiday, but other cities make competing claims.

In the South, states set aside alternate dates to honor the Confederate dead. It wasn’t until after World War I that all states began celebrating on the same day, May 30, and people began honoring the dead of all American wars, not just the Civil War.

In 1968 Congress passed the law that created three-day weekends, and since then Memorial Day has been celebrated on the last Monday in May. This year the last Monday happens to be May 31st.

Ceremonies take place at veteran’s cemeteries across the nation, including the big event at Arlington National Cemetery, which I visited in April 2019. The trees were in bloom, and the cemetery was lovely and peaceful.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, April 2019

History.com has an interesting article about Memorial Day, including a video showing the ceremony in 1936 presided over by FDR and with prescient remarks from General John Pershing that foreshadowed WWII.

Have fun, but don’t forget why we celebrate.

Linda

Dublin’s Easter Rebellion Redux #TuesdayTravels #Ireland

Tuesday Travels

I haven’t done a Tuesday Travels post in a while but today we’re revisiting Dublin in honor of the 105th anniversary of Ireland’s Easter Rebellion.

The uprising began on April 24, 1916 while the United Kingdom was in the midst of World War I. Rebels from the secretive Irish Republican Brotherhood, led by Patrick Pearse, streamed into Dublin from the countryside. The armed men attacked government buildings and seized the General Post Office. After initial success, they declared Irish independence.

Dublin post office

The historic General Post Office, Dublin, Ireland.

However, the British launched a counteroffensive and the rebellion was crushed after only five days. The Irish people were initially not supportive of the rebellion, but the harsh measures meted out to the rebels stirred public resentment. The leaders of the uprising, including Pearse and James Connolly, were executed and became instant martyrs. When I visited Dublin Castle, we learned about the execution of the prisoners and visited a room dedicated to their memory.

Armed protests broke out and in 1921, a vote was held. 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties voted for independence and the Irish Republic was born. The other counties remain part of Northern Ireland, in the United Kingdom.

Statue of Michael Collins

When I was in Ireland, we took a day excursion to west County Cork where I saw this statue of Michael Collins, who participated in the Easter Rebellion and went on to be a leader of Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army. In Jan. 22, he became Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State until his assassination in August 1922.

Irish history is turbulent and disturbing, but quite fascinating. I’d love to see more of the Emerald Isle some day.

Linda