Decoration Day History

In Lamar County Decoration Days are special. Relatives and friends come together and remember those who have lived with and among us.  Remembering times past, memories that will never be forgotten, stories of generations gone are told and handed down to other generations.

History of Decoration Day

In 1866 a few women of Columbus, Mississippi decided to honor the graves of the soldiers, who had given their lives in the war between the states. Gathering in the parlor of Twelve Gables, 200 Third Street South, home of Miss Matt Morton, to make plans, were mothers, sisters, widows and friends.  The date chosen to honor the fallen heroes, by decorating the graves with flowers, was April 25, 1866.

The women cut flowers from their gardens and went to Oddfellows Cemetery, decorating the graves of the Confederate soldiers .  After noticing that the Union soldiers’ graves looked barren and sad, one of the women said that Union soldiers had wives and mothers too, she began decorating their graves and other women followed and soon all the graves were decorated with beautiful flowers.

Francis Miles Finch, of Ithaca, New York, read of this generous deed in the New York Tribune.  He was so moved by the graciousness of the Southern women that he wrote the poem “The Blue and the Gray”, which first appeared in the September 1867 issue of Atlantic Monthly and is credited with helping to heal the nation’s war wounds.

The Oddfellows Cemetery was re-named Friendship soon after, and the few Union soldiers graves were moved to a national cemetery.  The Confederate soldiers graves remain at Friendship Cemetery and Decoration Day, which later became the nation’s Memorial Day, is still a local custom. A ceremony is held each April 25, where flowers are placed on graves and “The Blue and Gray” is read.  Source: The Commerical Dispatch, Columbus, Mississippi March 31, 2002.