The History of Memorial Day | WYPR

The History of Memorial Day

May 26, 2014

Credit Joe Shlabotnik/flickr

This conversation originally aired May 23, 2008.

Today is the 146th anniversary of Memorial Day. First known as Decoration Day, thousands of civilians and veterans gathered in cemeteries to honor those fallen in combat.

Today we revisit a conversation that Sheilah Kast had with amateur historian Peter Johnston about the origins of Memorial Day, how they were first celebrated in Baltimore, and its meaning today.

Johnston is a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. He served as Chair of the Memorial Day Committee at Loudon Park National Cemetery for many years. 

Johnston told us that "We are in the midst of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. By 1864, President Lincoln had dedicated the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, our early National Cemeteries, like Loudon Park National Cemetery, were the sight of daily burials and our Nation was entering the final deadly stages of a terrible war. In 2014 Arlington National Cemetery observes its 150th anniversary."

Johnston went on to share that "The Department of the Army and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will have a special program at the tomb of the Civil War Unknown Soldiers at Arlington the evening of Friday, May 30th to recognize this anniversary and honor our nation's dead."

Chesapeake Family has compiled a list of Memorial Day events, you can see them here.