→Origins of Memorial Day
A key turning point in making the end of May, and eventually the last Monday of May, the official holiday was General James Garfield, a prominent Civil War general and later US president who was assassinated in office, to declare May 30th as a day to decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers. He did this in 1868, by which time many had already been decorating graves of fallen loved ones during the month of May. General Garfield made the first semi-official speech in 1868 on May 30th at Arlington Cemetery. There, over 5000 people came and who were relatives for both sides of the conflict.
While already the early celebrations of what initially became called Decoration Day were celebrated by many Northern states, the tradition did not catch on as prominently in the South. In fact, Southern states often had similar celebrations but they held them on different days. In the North, individual states adopted May 30th as official state holidays, but at a federal level it was not recognized. Perhaps this was due to lingering bitterness between the North and South, where states in the South preferred to have their own Decoration day.The bitter years of Reconstruction and white bitterness towards freed slaves did not help, and animosity such as derision of so-called Carpetbaggers from the North moving to the South reflected the years after the Civil War, reflected a socially divided country. Decoration day, nevertheless, developed as a specific holiday devoted to the lost in the Civil War rather than other conflicts, as that war was by far the bloodiest in the United States history at that point.