I’m old enough to remember when Memorial Day was on the 30th of May, not the last Monday in May, which was a change that took place in 1971. I’m not sure when the holiday changed from being called Decoration Day to Memorial Day, though I recently saw a 1902 Library Journal making reference to the former name.
The holiday was designed to remember the dead from the American Civil War (or however it was called by others) on both sides of the battle. According to the Wikipedia, “General John A. Logan, who helped bring attention to the event nationwide, was likely a factor in the holiday’s growth. On May 5, 1868, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic – the organization for Northern Civil War veterans – Logan issued a proclamation that ‘Decoration Day’ should be observed nationwide. It was observed for the first time on May 30 of the same year; the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of a battle.” (Emphasis mine.)
This year, of course, is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. Sometimes, looking at discussion boards about the war, I get the impresssion that we in the United States are STILL fighting it.
One can surely question the wisdom of wars, which, after all, are generally instigated by the civilian leaders who don’t actually FIGHT in the wars, and still appreciate the ultimate sacrifice many have made over the years fighting them.