Almost two dozen communities claim the honor of having observed the first Memorial Day. With the Civil War recently over, it is likely that there were many local memorial days honoring those that had given their all for their country. Yet it is General John A. Logan who is most closely association with the holiday and given the most credit for making it a national holiday.
General Logan has this honor due to his official proclamation, as national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, to designated 30 May 1868 for the “purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”
Logan’s call for remembrance was issued on 5 May 1868 in his General Order No. 11.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).
Logan believed that the role he played in establishing this national holiday “was the proudest act” of his life. And it remains his greatest legacy.
General Logan died on December 26, 1886. His final resting place is just inside the gates of the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery on Harewood Road, just north of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. His tomb is easy to visit for anyone in the surrounding neighborhoods.