In April and May of 1866, businesses closed, flags were at half-staff and Decoration Day or Memorial Day events for Civil War dead took place in numerous locations connected with the origins of Memorial Day. The Grand Army of the Republic established May 30 as Decoration Day in 1868, a day to decorate graves of Civil War dead with flowers, and state legislatures designated that date across the nation by 1900. After World War I, the day was expanded to include all who died in American wars, and in 1971, it became a national holiday and placed on the last Monday in May.
The National Cemetery Administration originated during the Civil War, and the US now has 147 national cemeteries. The VA administers 131; 14 are maintained by the Department of the Interior, and two – Arlington and Soldiers Home – are administered by the US Army. More than 3.7 million war dead and veterans from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan are buried on more than 19,000 acres.
Illinois has seven national cemeteries:
- Springfield: Camp Butler National Cemetery 1862
- Rock Island: Rock Island National Cemetery 1863
- Mound City: Mound City National Cemetery 1864 (pictured above)
- Danville: Danville National Cemetery 1898
- Quincy: Quincy National Cemetery 1899
- Alton: Alton National Cemetery 1948
- Elwood: Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery 1999
And three Confederate cemeteries and plots in private cemeteries:
- Rock Island: Rock Island Confederate 1863
- Chicago: Confederate Mound Oak Woods 1866
- Alton: North Alton Confederate 1867
Does your family have relatives buried in one of our national cemeteries? You can search for them by cemetery, name, date of birth and date of death: gravelocator.cem.va.gov.
Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime.
In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty. (from the VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs)
Learn more here: http://www.cem.va.gov/index.asp