Click on the title of this post to read the foundational document of Memorial Day. It was declared by the Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, General John Logan. Logan was one of the more successful "civilian" generals of the Civil War and was a key part of Sherman's march south and the taking of Atlanta.
In these orders, Logan hoped to expand the practice of honoring the war dead by taking proper care of their memories, aims and grave sites. He also hoped to help reconciliation efforts though there were phrases in this document that offended many Southerners. Indeed, most of the states of the former Confederacy did not recognize Memorial Day for decades, preferring to select different days to honor their fallen heroes. Nevertheless, Logan's effort was sincere and noble and the first ceremony, held at the cemetery at Arlington, involved the laying of wreaths and flowers on the graves of both Federal and Confederate soldiers.
Reflecting on General John Logan's orders are a great way to begin your commemoration of this important (but much too neglected) holiday.