By Paige Nash
On Memorial Day weekend, Jessica Stewart Gorman, a local cemetery preservationist, gathered volunteers at Minden Cemetery to place American flags at the graves of the soldiers buried within the grounds, including the 21 unnamed Confederate soldiers who died of wounds at the Battle of Mansfield in 1864.
“It’s an honor to place those flags on the graves of true hometown heroes,” said Schelley Brown Francis, Executive Director of the Dorcheat Historical Museum Association and Minden Cemetery board member. “I am grateful for the work Jessica Gorman puts into this every year.”
Memorial Day has been observed in the United States since the 1860s. During the Civil War, with the country largely led by women during this time while the men were at war, decorating graves became a popular practice. With more than 600,000 soldiers from both sides losing their lives during the war, commemorations became widespread.
The first national commemoration took place at Arlington Cemetery near Washington, D.C. Around 5,000 people gathered with former Union General and sitting Ohio Congressman, James Garfield to help place flags and wreaths on the graves of more than 200,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
This event inspired several towns throughout the United States to follow suit and pay tribute to the fallen soldiers in their own ways, much like Minden.
It was only after World War I, that Memorial Day became an established National Holiday to memorialize and mourn the soldiers who selflessly served our country in the armed forces and in doing so, paid a debt with their lives. On the last Monday of every May we remember their sacrifice.
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