Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Facts

War Statistics and Veteran Research

Memorial Day is upon us and every American has a reason to honor a veteran.  Names of our ancestors and family members are most likely among the statistics of battle deaths, nonmortally wounded veterans, and service members who served in wars from 1775 to the current Global War on Terror, according to the Veterans Administration (VA).  There are 17,456,000 living war veterans and 23,442,000 living veterans. Approximately 1,065,000 veterans served in multiple conflicts.  See American Wars: US Casualties and Veterans website. 

From Civil War to Civility 
"If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other ears cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us." -- General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868  
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by the National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR),  General John Logan. The GAR was founded to honor discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865.  You can review the full GAR Order No. 11, 5 May 1868 at the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) website. Among our many ancestors, five American Presidents were GAR members - Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison, and McKinley.

Memorial Day Facts:
  1. Memorial Day was first observed on 30 May 1868 with flowers placed on the soldiers' graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
  2. By 1890 Memorial Day was recognized by all of the northern states.
  3. After World War I, southerners joined in honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
  4. The National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) officially recognized Memorial Day.
  5. Several southern states still have a separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
Veteran Memorials and Research
There are memorial parks, 131 veteran cemeteries, Confederate and Union organizations, and museums to further your veteran research.  A good place to start may be the Memorial and Casualty files.

But don't limit your search. I was able to confirm Willis Cox and other veterans as GAR involved veterans via  the Coldwater, Kansas newspaper, Western Star. Cox, the sole African American veteran of this contingency, and other veterans were traveling to a GAR Encampment held in Wichita KS. The annual GAR Encampment, was an elaborate multi-day gathering that often included formal dinners and memorial events. For more GAR Research visit the Library of Congress GAR website:

Have a safe and memorable Memorial Day Weekend
Kathleen Brandt
a3Genealogy@gmail.com


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