The first public occurence of a Memorial Day-like observance occured in Charleston, SC on May 1, 1865. At least 257 Union soldiers had died in a Confederate prison camp and were unceremoniously thrown into a mass grave. A group of former slaves along with teachers, missionaries, and other Charleston residents took it upon themselves to dig up the mass grave and give the Union soldiers a proper burial in gratitude for fighting for their freedom. Nearly 10,000 people, including freedmen, Union troops, and black schoolchildren held a march to commemorate the fallen soldiers.northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field.
By 1868 the holiday was known as Decoration Day, and was a day to place flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The title Memorial Day did not come about until 1971, when the day became a federal holiday that is observed on the last Monday in May.
The Portland Rose Festival is a great place to spend the afternoon reflecting on the history of this holiday, and they are giving free admission to Veterans, Reservists, and active military members with a military ID, plus one free guest. A moment of remembrance will be observed at 3 pm, and the festival runs until about 10 pm every night. Located in Tom McCall Waterfront Park.