April is here! Not only is everything finally starting to bloom after a long, cold weather, April also marks one of the most important months in the history of our nation. In 1861, April marked the beginning of the Civil War, and in 1865, it marked the end of the war. For that reason, April is now Confederate History and Heritage Month, a time to remember the sacrifices of those who fought for the Southern cause.
April 26 has come to be recognized as Confederate Memorial Day in many Southern states. For more than 100 years, the Ladies’ Memorial Association, United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans have held memorial services on or near this day. Other Southern States recognize this day, which began as Decoration Day, on May 10 and June 3.
The history of Decoration Day is said to have begun with Mrs. Charles J. Williams, whose husband served as Colonel of the 1st Georgia Regiment during the war. He died of disease in 1862, and was buried in his home town of Columbus, Georgia.
Mrs. Williams and her daughter visited his grave often and cleared the weeds, then placed flowers upon it. Her daughter also pulled the weeds from other Confederate graves near her Father. After the daughter died, Mrs. Williams visited the graveyard and noticed the unkept soldiers’ graves. She wrote a letter that was published in Southern newspapers asking the women of the South for their help. She requested that memorial organizations be established to take care of the thousands of Confederate graves from the Potomac River to the Rio Grande. She also asked the state legislatures to set aside a day in April to remember the men who wore the gray. With her leadership, April 26 was officially adopted in many states. Mrs. Williams died in 1874, but not before her native state of Georgia adopted it as a legal holiday.
Many are not aware that those who served the Confederacy came from many races and religions. There was Irish born General Patrick R. Cleburne, black Southerner Amos Rucker, Jewish born Judah P. Benjamin, Mexican born Colonel Santos Benavides, and American Indian General Stand Watie.
Find out more by visiting Confederate History Month.