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Its first parade was held May 5, 1868, and the town has held it every year since; however, the Memorial Day parade in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, predates Ironton's by one year.
The tradition of observances which emerged in the South were linked to the "Lost Cause" and, before evidence emerged of Union-related observances that predated them, they were believed to have served as the prototype for the national day of memory embraced by the nation in 1868.
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During the war, Blight writes, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club (now Hampton Park) in the Charleston "Neck." At least 257 Union prisoners died there and were hastily buried in unmarked graves.
At the war's end, the African American residents of Charleston reinterred the dead, cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground within an enclosure, and erected an arch with the legend "Martyrs of the Race Course." They followed this with a ceremony of commemoration that was covered locally and by national papers.
There often is a religious service and a picnic-like "dinner on the grounds," the traditional term for a potluck meal at a church. Following President Abraham Lincoln's assassination in April 1865, there were a variety of events of commemoration.
It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the "memorial day" idea. The sheer number of soldiers of both sides who died in the Civil War (more than 600,000) meant that burial and memorialization took on new cultural significance.
Despite this ongoing lively debate, there is an "official" birthplace. Johnson signed the presidential proclamation naming Waterloo, New York, as the holder of the title.
This action followed House Concurrent Resolution 587, in which the 89th Congress had officially recognized that the patriotic tradition of observing Memorial Day had begun one hundred years prior in Waterloo, New York.
The 1863 cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was, of course, a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers.
In addition, local historians in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claim that ladies there decorated soldiers' graves on July 4, 1864, But more recent researches have also pointed to the birthplace of Confederacy as the location of the first post-war "Memorial Day" type observance. Blight, citing an observance after the end of the Civil War in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865, has claimed that "African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina," based on accounts in the Charleston Daily Courier and coverage by the New York Tribune.
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U. Under the leadership of women during the war, an increasingly formal practice of decorating graves had taken shape.