Fred Wheeler explains:
The worsening lack of historical awareness of our society is saddening and frightening. For a case in point, ask a group of young people what we will be celebrating on the Fourth of July. Or, what we are memorializing on the approaching Memorial Day. Chances are you will get a bunch of blank stares.
What we now call Memorial Day, before World War ll, was officially called “Decoration Day”. While several places claim to be its birthplace, the consensus is that the holiday’s genesis was in Columbus, Mississippi a year after the Civil War ended
Columbus was the location of a Confederate hospital. After the battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) many of the wounded were brought there and by the end of the war, the community’s cemetery was the resting place for thousands of souls of Union and Confederate soldiers.
On Confederate Memorial Day (April 25, 1866) the ladies of Columbus laid flowers on the graves of both the Union and the Confederate dead in the cemetery. A poet, Francis Miles Finch, from Ithaca, New York, happened to be in Columbus at that time and was inspired by the ladies’ actions to write a poem, “The Blue and the Gray”. One of the verses reads,
On a somewhat related note, I’m four chapters into Tom Moore’s “The Hunt for Confederate Gold.”