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Memorial Day Celebrations (1868-1869)

1868 1869

The Evening Star, May 30, 1868
Decoration of the Soldiers Graves at Arlington
Honor to the Patriot Dead
   (1st Decoration Day in D.C.)


The decoration of the Union soldiers graves at Arlington Cemetery, over the Long Bridge, took place today at one o'clock, and was a very impressive affair. Yesterday afternoon and this morning, the committees were busily engaged in receiving and arranging flowers and evergreens at the Foundry M.E. Church, corner of 14th and G streets, which were contributed by ladies and gentlemen throughout the city, and from the public gardens under Gen. Michler, the botanical garden under W.R. Smith, Esq., and the President's Conservatory and Treasury gardens. Hundreds of bouquets, wreaths and caskets were beautifully arranged and conveyed to Arlington by ambulance. During the morning hundreds of all kinds of vehicles were passing over the Long Bridge, and by one o'clock the crowd of ladies and gentlemen at the Cemetery was very large.

The exercises were opened at one o'clock in front of the Arlington Mansion, by W.T. Collins, Esq., who read the general order (G.A.R.) designating the 30th of May as a day to be observed throughout the United States in decorating the graves of the Union dead. Rev. Byron Sunderland then offered an impressive prayer, after which an appropriate hymn was sung. Hon. James A. Garfield was then introduced and delivered the oration, which was very appropriate and listened to with marked attention. The lateness of the hour prevents us from giving Mr. Garfield's address. At its conclusion, a patriotic song was sung by the assemblage and an original poem was read by Hon. J.C. Smith. The services at this point concluded with a solemn dirge by the 44th Infantry band.

The procession was then formed as follows: Children of Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphan Asylum, in charge of the officers and managers of the Association, and Committee on Decorations followed by friends generally. The procession marched around the gardens south of the Mansion, the children strewing flowers upon the graves along the line of march as they passed and halted at the tomb of the unknown soldiers, who fell in Virginia during the early years of the war. A fervent prayer was offered by Rev. J.G. Butler, of the Lutheran Church, and an appropriate chorus was sung by the Arion club. The fifth cavalry band then performed a dirge, during which the tomb was decorated with flowers and evergreens. The procession then marched to the flag stand at the principal cemetery where the exercises were opened with prayer by Rev. Chas. V. Kelly, of Chicago, and after a hymn, Hon. Halbert E. Paine, of Wisconsin, read the dedicatory address of the late President Lincoln, delivered at Gettysburg. The committee of Decorations, the orphans and friends, then proceeded to decorate the graves throughout the cemetery, covering the same with flowers while solemn music was performed by the various bands.

During the time of the ceremonies a national salute was fired from the front of the Arlington house. The decorations having been made the visitors returned to the stand, and after a hymn by the Arion Club. Rev. C.B. Boynton, offered a fervent prayer and pronounced the benediction.

The Committee of Arrangements, with Gen. N.P. Chipman, as chairman, the Committee on Reception, with W.H. Brown, Esq., chairman, and the Committee on Decoration, with Mrs. Senator Trumbull, President of the Soldiers and Sailors Orphan Asylum, assisted by a large number of ladies and gentlemen, deserve great credit for the excellent manner in which all arrangements were made and executed. The celebration was in all respects a most solemn and impressive one.


The Evening Star, May 31, 1869
In Memorial -- The Patriot Dead
Decoration of Soldiers Graves
   (1st Decoration Day at Congressional Cemetery.)


On Saturday a number of the employees of the Washington Navy Yard visited the cemeteries in the eastern section of the city, and there decorated several hundred graves of sailors, marines and soldiers whose remains are there interred.

Yesterday the committee who had visited Oak Hill and Glenwood, subdivided at the last named, one portion going to Mount Olivet, and the other to Congressional Cemetery where the graves of the fallen brave were decorated.


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