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Confederate Memorial Day

Confederate Memorial Day 2019 and 2020

Confederate Memorial Day, sometimes also called Confederate Heroes Day or Confederate Decoration Day, is not a federal holiday. Instead, it is celebrated in various states of the southeastern United States.

Year Date Day Holiday States
2019 19 Jan Sat Confederate Heroes Day TX
22 Apr Mon Confederate Memorial Day AL & GA
29 Apr Mon Confederate Memorial Day MS
10 May Fri Confederate Memorial Day SC
2020 19 Jan Sun Confederate Heroes Day TX
27 Apr Mon Confederate Memorial Day AL, GA & MS
10 May Sun Confederate Memorial Day SC

Regardless of where or when these holidays are observed, they are marked by ceremonies meant to honor the soldiers who died or were injured while fighting for the South during the American Civil War.

Late April is the most common time when Confederate Memorial Day is observed. In Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, the occasion is a state holiday during which state offices cease operation. This date was originally chosen because of its relation to the surrender of southern General Joseph Johnston to northern General William Sherman in North Carolina on April 26, 1865.

In fact, observation of Confederate Memorial Day began the very next year as the Ladies’ Memorial Association in Columbus, Georgia decided to find a way to honor the lives lost in service to the south. Leaders from that organisation sent letters to similar organisations in other states, suggesting that a “Decoration Day” should be formally observed.

A massive movement was already underway to move the bodies of the Confederate dead from mass burials to proper graves in their hometowns. The observation of Decoration Day was an opportunity for surviving veterans to march in their uniforms, for wreaths and flowers to be laid upon graves and for family members to hear eulogies and songs honoring their fallen loved ones.

Modern observation of Confederate Memorial Day is much the same as it was just after the end of the Civil War. It’s likely that far fewer people attend some of the events than they once did. In fact, many people who live in the southern states do not realise that Confederate Memorial Day exists. For those who know about the holiday it is an important part of the calendar.

There are no more living veterans from the Civil War, but they have been replaced by re-enactors who may participate in an encampment or the recreation of a famous battle to mark the occasion. They frequently present ceremonies to honor the southern dead, and wreaths are still placed on the graves of Confederate soldiers.

North and South Carolina observe a similar holiday on May 10 each year. They chose this date to commemorate the death of General Stonewall Jackson in 1863 as well as the 1865 capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The states call this date Confederate Memorial Day, and it is observed in much the same way that the holiday is celebrated in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

Tennessee refers to the holiday as Confederate Decoration Day. Governor Bill Haslam instituted the holiday in 2012, declaring it as a day to remember Confederate soldiers “for their loyalty to comradeship and country …” The occasion is marked by memorial ceremonies and the participation of re-enactors.

Yet another version of the holiday is celebrated on January 19 in Texas. Known as Confederate Heroes Day, the holiday was created in 1973 as a combined celebration of the birthdays of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. State offices are not necessarily closed on this day, but they may be running with a reduced staff. Re-enactments and parades are planned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy each year.

There is controversy surrounding each of these holidays. Most of them are not celebrated or observed widely, and many of the states that have some form of Confederate Memorial Day holiday have dealt with protests and suggestions for alternative holidays. Nonetheless, it seems likely that a segment of the population will always want to commemorate this chapter of southern history.