Confederate Memorial Day
Beech-Grove-Confederate-Cemetery-grave-tn1.jpg
Standard government headstone for unknown Confederate soldier, Beechgrove, Tennessee
Also calledConfederate Heroes Day, Confederate Decoration Day
Observed bySouthern states (United States)
TypeCultural
ObservancesRemembrance of Confederate soldiers who died during the American Civil War
Date
  • January 19 (TX)
  • Fourth Monday in
    April (AL, FL)
  • Last Monday in April (MS)
  • May 10 (NC, SC)
  • June 3 (KY, TN)
Frequencyannual
First timeApril 26, 1866
(156 years ago)
 (1866-04-26)
Related to

Confederate Memorial Day (called Confederate Heroes Day in Texas and Florida, and Confederate Decoration Day in Tennessee) is a cultural holiday observed in several Southern U.S. states on various dates since the end of the American Civil War.[1]

The holiday was originally and is still publicly presented as a day to remember the estimated 258,000 Confederate soldiers who died during the American Civil War.[1] Writers and historians have pointed out that the holiday's official recognition by states often coincided with the height of Jim Crow racism around the United States, decades after the war ended.[2][3] Renewed interest also revived the holiday in some places during the beginning of the civil rights movement in the 1950's.[4] The Southern Poverty Law Center has condemned the holiday as part of a campaign of "racial terror" on the part of white supremacists - "an organized propaganda campaign, created to instill fear and ensure the ongoing oppression of formerly enslaved people."[5]

It is an official state holiday in Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina; while it is commemorated in Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee.[6][7][8][9][10][11] It was also formerly recognized in Georgia, Louisiana, and Virginia.[12] Several states celebrate it on or near April 26, when the last major Confederate field army surrendered at Bennett Place, North Carolina in 1865.[13]

In 1866, General John A. Logan commanded the posts of Grand Army of the Republic to strew flowers on the graves of Union soldiers, which observance later became the national Memorial Day. In a speech to veterans in Salem, Illinois, on July 4, 1866, Logan referred to the various dates of observance adopted in the South for the practice saying "…traitors in the South have their gatherings day after day, to strew garlands of flowers upon the graves of Rebel soldiers..."[14]

Origins

Confederate Memorial Day observance in front of the Monument to Confederate Dead, Arlington National Cemetery, on June 8, 2014
Confederate Memorial Day observance in front of the Monument to Confederate Dead, Arlington National Cemetery, on June 8, 2014

In the spring of 1866 the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia, passed a resolution to set aside one day annually to memorialize the Confederate war dead. Mary Ann Williams, the association secretary, was directed to pen a letter inviting ladies associations in every former Confederate state to join them in the observance.[15] Their invitation was written in March 1866 and sent to all of the principal cities in the former Confederacy, including Atlanta;[16] Macon;[17] Montgomery; Memphis; Richmond; St. Louis; Alexandria; Columbia;[18] and New Orleans, as well as smaller towns like Staunton, Virginia;[19] Anderson, South Carolina;[20] and Wilmington, North Carolina.[21] The actual date for the holiday was selected by Elizabeth Rutherford Ellis.[22] She chose April 26, the first anniversary of Confederate General Johnston's surrender to Union Major General Sherman at Bennett Place. For many in the Confederacy, that date in 1865 marked the end of the Civil War.[15]

The first official celebration as a public holiday occurred in 1874, following a proclamation by the Georgia legislature.[23] By 1916, ten states celebrated it, on June 3, the birthday of CSA President Jefferson Davis.[23] Other states chose late April dates, or May 10, commemorating Davis' capture.[23]

Various writers and historians have pointed out that the holiday's official recognition by states often coincided with the height of Jim Crow racism around the United States, decades after the war ended.[2][3] In some places, the holiday attracted revived interest as a reaction to the early civil rights movement in the 1950's.[4] The SPLC has condemned the observance of Confederate Memorial Day as a symbol "used by white supremacists" as a tool of "racial terror".[24]

Connection to Memorial Day

In their book, The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday in America, Bellware and Gardiner assert that the national Memorial Day holiday is a direct offshoot of the observance begun by the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia in 1866. In a few places, most notably Columbus, Mississippi[25] and Macon, Georgia,[26] both Confederate and Union graves were decorated during the first observance. The day was even referred to as Memorial Day by The Baltimore Sun on May 8, 1866, after the ladies organization that started it. The name Confederate Memorial Day was not used until the Northern observance was initiated in 1868.[27]

While initially cool to the idea of a Northern version of the holiday, General John A. Logan was eventually won over. His General Order No. 11, issued May 5, 1868, commanded the posts of Grand Army of the Republic to strew flowers on the graves of Union soldiers. The Grand Army of the Republic eventually adopted the name Memorial Day at their national encampment in 1882.[28]

Many theories have been offered as to how Logan became aware of the former Confederate tradition he imitated in 1868. In her autobiography, his wife claims she told him about it after a trip to Virginia in the spring of that year.[29] His secretary and his adjutant also claim they told him about it. John Murray of Waterloo, New York, claims it was he who inspired Logan in 1868. Bellware and Gardiner, however, offer proof that Logan was aware of the Southern tributes long before any of them had a chance to mention it to him.[30] In a speech to veterans in Salem, Illinois, on July 4, 1866, Logan referred to the various dates of observance adopted in the South for the practice saying "…traitors in the South have their gatherings day after day, to strew garlands of flowers upon the graves of Rebel soldiers..."[14]

Statutory holidays

Confederate Memorial Day is a statutory holiday in Alabama on the fourth Monday in April, in Mississippi on the final Monday in April, and in South Carolina on May 10.[31][32][33][34] In all of these states, state offices are closed on this day.

In Georgia, the fourth Monday in April was formerly celebrated as Confederate Memorial Day, but beginning in 2016, in response to the Charleston church shooting, the names of Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee's Birthday were struck from the state calendar and the statutory holidays were designated simply as "state holidays".[35] Florida also continues to officially designate Confederate Memorial Day on the fourth Monday in April, although state offices remain open.[36]

North Carolina also designates the holiday on May 10, although state offices remain open and localities may choose whether to observe it.[37][38]

In June 2022, the Louisiana State Legislature voted to remove Confederate Memorial Day, as well as Robert E. Lee Day, from the state's calendar of official holidays.[39]

State Recognized Derecognized Type
Alabama 1901[40] - State holiday
Florida 1895[41] - Commemoration
Georgia 1874[23] 2016[35] 4th Monday in April is now called "State Holiday"
Kentucky ? - Commemoration
Louisiana c. 1925[42] 2022[39]
Mississippi ? - State holiday
North Carolina ? - Commemoration
South Carolina 1896[43] - State holiday (made non-optional in 2000[6])
Tennessee 1903[9] - Annual proclamation required by law
Texas 1973[44] - Optional state holiday,
Virginia 1899[45] 2020[45]

Related holidays

Tennessee

In Tennessee, the governor is required by law to proclaim Confederate Decoration Day each June 3.[9]

Texas

In Texas, Robert E. Lee's birthday (January 19th) was made a state holiday in 1931.[46] In 1973, "Lee Day" was renamed "Confederate Heroes Day", consolidating it with a holiday celebrating Jefferson Davis and putting it the day after Martin Luther King Day.[44][47] The official state description of the holiday states it is held "in honor of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and other Confederate heroes;".[47] State offices remain open but employees may have an optional day off.

Controversy

The holiday has been condemned by the Southern Poverty Law Center as part of a campaign of "racial terror" on the part of white supremacists, "an organized propaganda campaign, created to instill fear and ensure the ongoing oppression of formerly enslaved people".[5] Critics often cite the fact that the Confederacy was formed for the purpose of protecting slavery.[48] Some commemorations have been met with groups of protesters.[49]

Various proposals have been made in the legislatures of the states still recognizing it to remove it from the list of state holidays or commemorations, or to replace it with Juneteenth.[50][48]

The campaign for de-recognition of the holiday overlaps with that for removal of Confederate monuments and memorials, and is often highlighted after incidents of racial violence, such as the Charleston church shooting, the 2017 Charlottesville car attack,[51] and the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Boyer, Paul S., ed. (2001). The Oxford Companion to United States History. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 132. ISBN 0-19-508209-5.
  2. ^ a b Coaston, Jane (April 23, 2018). "Confederate Memorial Day: when multiple states celebrate treason in defense of slavery". Vox. Archived from the original on April 13, 2022. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  3. ^ a b Frank, Lisa Tendrich (July 28, 2015). "Confederate%20Memorial%20day%20became" The World of the Civil War: A Daily Life Encyclopedia [2 volumes]: A Daily Life Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 517. ISBN 978-1-4408-2979-6. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Cox, Karen L. (February 23, 2021). "revived%20in%20response" No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice. UNC Press Books. ISBN 978-1-4696-6268-8.
  5. ^ a b Confederate Memorial Day remains legal holiday in Florida, other southern states
  6. ^ a b "Code of Laws – Title 53 – Chapter 5 – Legal Holidays". www.scstatehouse.gov. Archived from the original on May 18, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  7. ^ "Confederate Memorial Day still recognized in Alabama and across the South". AL.com. Archived from the original on May 18, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  8. ^ "Alabama Code Title 1. General Provisions § 1-3-8". Findlaw. Archived from the original on May 18, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Allison, Natalie (July 12, 2019). "Gov. Bill Lee Signs Nathan Bedford Forrest Day Proclamation, Is Not Considering Law Change." Archived June 10, 2022, at the Wayback Machine The Tennessean (Tennessean.com). Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  10. ^ Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board (April 20, 2021). "Pandering to the base: Florida protects Confederate holidays, makes felons of protesters – Editorial". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on May 12, 2021. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  11. ^ Reimann, Nicholas (April 26, 2021). "State Offices Close For 'Confederate Memorial Day' In Alabama And Mississippi – Here's Why It's (Still) An Official Holiday There". Forbes. Archived from the original on May 11, 2021. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  12. ^ Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Washington, DC: United States Government Publishing Office. 1925. p. 68.
  13. ^ Woolf, Henry Bosley, ed. (1976). Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Co. p. 236. ISBN 0-87779-338-7. OL 5207141M.
  14. ^ a b "Illinois – Gen. Logan on Reconstruction," New York Tribune July 14, 1866 p. 5". Library of Congress. July 14, 1866. Archived from the original on April 30, 2018. Retrieved April 29, 2018.
  15. ^ a b Lucian Lamar Knight (1914). "Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends ...: Under the code duello ..." Books.google.com. p. 156. Archived from the original on January 16, 2016. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  16. ^ "The Soldiers' Graves". Digital Library of Georgia. Atlanta Intelligencer. March 21, 1866. p. 2. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  17. ^ ""Woman's Honor to the Gallant Dead," Macon Telegraph, March 26, 1866, p. 5". Digital Library of Georgia. Archived from the original on June 10, 2022. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  18. ^ ""In Memory of the Confederate Dead," Daily Phoenix, Columbia, SC, April 4, 1866, p. 2". Library of Congress. April 4, 1866. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  19. ^ ""The Southern Dead," Staunton Spectator, Staunton, VA, March 27, 1866 p.1". Library of Congress. March 27, 1866. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  20. ^ ""The Southern Dead," Anderson Intelligencer, Anderson Court House, SC, March 29, 1866, p.1". Library of Congress. March 29, 1866. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  21. ^ ""In Memory of the Confederate Dead," Wilmington Journal, Wilmington, NC, April 5, 1866, p.1". Library of Congress. April 5, 1866. Archived from the original on March 1, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  22. ^ "Lizzie Rutherford (1833–1873) | New Georgia Encyclopedia". Georgiaencyclopedia.org. 2004. Archived from the original on May 11, 2013. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  23. ^ a b c d "Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia". GeorgiaInfo. University of Georgia. Archived from the original on January 22, 2019. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  24. ^ "SPLC Condemns the Observance of Confederate Memorial Day". Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on August 24, 2021. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  25. ^ ""Confederate Soldiers' Dead," Louisiana Democrat, July 18, 1866". Library of Congress. July 18, 1866. Archived from the original on February 25, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  26. ^ "Will They Notice This Touching Tribute". Library of Congress. Columbus, OH: Ohio Statesman. May 4, 1866. p. 2. Archived from the original on February 26, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  27. ^ Bellware, Daniel (2014). The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday in America. Columbus, GA: Columbus State University. p. 87. ISBN 9780692292259.
  28. ^ Beath, Robert B. (1884). The Grand Army Blue-Book Containing the Rules and Regulations of the Grand Army of the Republic and Decisions and Opinions Thereon . Philadelphia: Grand Army of the Republic. p. 118. Archived from the original on February 26, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  29. ^ Logan, Mrs. John A. (1913). "Logan, Mrs. John A., Reminiscences of a Soldier's Wife, C. Scribner sons, 1913, p. 243". Google Books. Archived from the original on February 25, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  30. ^ Bellware, Daniel (2014). The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday in America. Columbus, GA: Columbus State University. p. 144. ISBN 9780692292259.
  31. ^ "Confederate Memorial Day in the United States". time and date.com. Time and Date AS. Archived from the original on October 17, 2017. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  32. ^ "Confederate Memorial Day still recognized in Alabama and across the South". Alabama Media Group. The Associated Press. April 27, 2015. Archived from the original on July 26, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  33. ^ "Confederate Memorial Day". Sos.ms.gov. April 27, 2015. Archived from the original on January 28, 2016. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  34. ^ "Code of Laws - Title 53 - Chapter 5 - Legal Holidays". www.scstatehouse.gov. Archived from the original on May 18, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  35. ^ a b "Why Monday is no longer Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia". April 23, 2018. Archived from the original on February 15, 2020. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  36. ^ staff, News4Jax (April 26, 2021). "Confederate Memorial Day remains legal holiday in Florida, other southern states". WJXT. Archived from the original on May 12, 2021. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  37. ^ "Do Some US States Observe 'Confederate Memorial Day'?". Snopes.com. Archived from the original on March 25, 2022. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  38. ^ Merelli, Annalisa (May 10, 2018). "What the controversial Confederate Memorial Day would be in other countries". Quartz. Archived from the original on May 14, 2018. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  39. ^ a b Canicosa, J. C. "Louisiana Legislature agrees to get rid of Confederate state holidays". Louisiana Illuminator. Archived from the original on June 7, 2022. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  40. ^ Confederate Memorial Day - Encyclopedia of Alabama
  41. ^ 5 things to know about Florida's Confederate holidays
  42. ^ Louisiana Senate Approves Removing Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Memorial Day From State’s Legal Holiday Calendar
  43. ^ How South Carolina observes Confederate Memorial Day and how that could change
  44. ^ a b What is Confederate Heroes Day and why do Texans still celebrate it today?
  45. ^ a b Virginia holiday commemorating Confederate generals won't be celebrated in 2021, for the first time in over 100 years
  46. ^ "TEXAS CONFEDERATE HEROES DAY AND CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL DAY" (PDF). Texas Division United Daughters of the Confederacy. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 7, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2021. “House Bill 126, 42nd Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 8. Approved and Effective January 30, 1931 as Robert E. Lee's Birthday.; Senate Bill 60, 63rd Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 221. Approved June 1, 1973 and Effective August 27, 1973 as Confederate Heroes Day. This bill deleted June 3rd as a holiday for Jefferson Davis' birthday and combined the two into Confederate Heroes Day.”
  47. ^ a b "What is Confederate Heroes Day and why do Texans still celebrate it today?". KSAT - Omne - Graham Media Group. January 19, 2021. Archived from the original on June 7, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2021.
  48. ^ a b Confederate Memorial Day: What is the controversial holiday recognized in Florida?
  49. ^ Civil rights activists protest Confederate Memorial Day at Georgia’s Stone Mountain
  50. ^ A day to celebrate? Confederate Memorial Day is still on the books in FL
  51. ^ Why is today Confederate Memorial Day in Kentucky?

Further reading