These freed slaves had exhumed Union soldiers buried in a mass grave at the site of a Confederate prison camp for captured union soldiers. They reinterred them in individual graves at that site, then built a fence and an entry arch declaring it a Union graveyard. On May 1st 10,000 mostly black residents of Charleston went to the new cemetery to participate in songs, speeches and picnic.
On May 5th of 1868 General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issue a proclamation that "Decoration Day" should be observed nationwide on May 30th. That date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle.
Events were held in 183 cemeteries in 27 states that same year. These events were sponsored by The Women's Relief Core, which at the time was 100,000 strong.
In 1871 Michigan was the first state to make "Decoration Day" a state holiday. By 1890 every northern state had followed suit.
The name "Decoration Day" continued to be used for many years, but slowly "Memorial Day" began to be favored. After World War II it became the preferred name for the holiday.
The nation would continue to celebrate the Holiday on May 30th until 1971 when "The Uniform Holidays" bill took affect moving 4 national holidays from their date based observance to a Monday observance making four 3-day holidays. Memorial Day became the last Monday of May.
Today we celebrate Memorial Day in many ways, most concern the welcoming of summer and not our fallen heroes. A few somber traditions continue. For example veterans across America place flags on graves of soldiers at national cemeteries. There is also a national moment of silence at 3:00 pm local time. Finally many fly flags at half-mast from dawn until noon.
It doesn't truly matter how we honor those that gave so much, as long as we do honor them with our thoughts and prayers. We should also honor the living heroes of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard and Coast Guard. All currently serving are dedicated to keeping the freedom our forbarers secured with so much blood, sweat and tears.
Our nation remains a better place because of the sacrifices made by all of them yesterday and today as wells as the sacrifices yet to be made tomorrow.