Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.
Officially proclaimed in 1868 by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, it was first observed on May 30 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I. At this time, the holiday changed from honoring just those who died in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
In 1971 the US Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971 which moved the holiday to the last Monday of the month, ensuring a three-day federal holiday.
Several southern states have additional separate days for honoring the Confederate war dead. It is Jan. 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.