It’s Memorial Day.
It is a time for the recognition and remembrance of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Every year at Arlington Cemetery, there is a service performed to honor our fallen. This year’s memorial service will happen at 11 am EST, viewable on C-Span. The Arlington Cemetery website states 10:30 am EST as time for the memorial to begin with a concert as a prelude to the ceremony.
At least twice a year, the Memorial Amphitheater is put to use remembering our fallen and praising our veterans. I knew some basic history about the Memorial Amphitheater, like it the 1920 dedication and Woodrow Wilson being President when it was nearly completion, however there was one bit on their website I wasn’t aware of — a time capsule of sorts.
President Woodrow Wilson placed its cornerstone Oct. 13, 1915.
One copy of the following items is sealed inside the box placed in the cornerstone that day:
- The Bible
- The Declaration of Independence
- The U.S. Constitution
- U.S. Flag (1915)
- Designs and plans for the amphitheater
- L’Enfant’s map design of the city of Washington, D.C.
- Autograph of the amphitheater commission
- One of each U.S. coin in use in 1915
- One of each U.S. postage stamp in use in 1915
- 1914 map of Washington, D.C.
- The Congressional Directory
- Boyd’s City Directory for the District of Columbia
- Autographed photo of President Woodrow Wilson
- The cornerstone dedication program
- The Evening Star newspaper account of the ceremonies, and the campaign to build the Amphitheater
That’s really quite interesting!
The history of Memorial Day stretches back to the Civil war.
The first soldiers were laid to rest in Arlington in May 1864 in an area labeled Section 27. The first soldier was interred on May 13, 1864. The following month it would be designated as the National Cemetery.
Three years following the Civil war, the Grand Army of the Republic declared on May 5, 1868 the creation of “Decoration Day”. Decoration Day was intended to remember those who had fallen in the Civil war on both sides and would later be known as Memorial Day. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan would designate May 30th to be the celebration day via General Order 11. The first observance of Decoration Day was held at Arlington Cemetery. The first ceremony saw 20,000 Union and Confederate graves decorated by the crowd of 5,000 that were in attendance.
Throughout the years following, multiple places in the United States held observance days and claimed to be the ‘birthplace’ of Memorial Day. In 1966, Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo to the be the ‘birthplace’ of Memorial Day due to a service that was held there in 1866.
Since the end of the Civil War and through much of the 1900’s, Memorial Day was observed on May 30th. This shifted after World War I and all of our fallen solders were included in the observance of this day. Memorial Day was made official by Congress in 1971 through the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363).