Confederate Memorial Day in the United States Date in the current year: April 22, 2024

Confederate Memorial Day in the United States Confederate Memorial Day, also known as Confederate Heroes Day or Confederate Decoration Day in some states, is observed in the Southern United States to honor the memory of Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. It was originally observed on April 26 to commemorate the surrender of the Army of Tennessee at Bennett Place, but these days, its dates in different states vary from January 19 to the second Saturday of October.

The American Civil War was fought between the northern United States (the Union) and the southern United States (the confederacy). Its primary cause was the long-standing controversy over the practice of slavery, as well as the economic, political and social differences between northern and southern states.

The war lasted for four years and ended with the Union victory in May 1865. A year later, the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia passed a resolution to create an annual memorial day for Confederate soldiers who had died in military service. Secretary of the Association Marry Ann Williams (née Howard) was tasked with penning a letter to other associations in former Confederate states, inviting them to set aside a day to commemorate Confederate soldiers and decorate their graves.

The date of the observance was chosen by Williams’s cousin, Lizzie Rutherford. She selected April 26 to commemorate the anniversary of the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Army of the Tennessee, to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman at Bennett Place in 1865. For many in the Confederate States of America, this was the day when the war ended, although the official date is May 9, as declared by President Andrew Johnson.

Confederate Memorial Day was originally named simply Memorial Day. The word “Confederate” was added to its name after the inauguration of a Northern version of the observance, celebrated in May (which would later transform into the federal Memorial Day for the U.S. military personnel that died in service).

The first official celebration of Confederate Memorial Day as a public state holiday occurred in 1874 in Georgia. By 1916, it was celebrated on June 3 by ten Southern states; they chose the date to commemorate the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America. Other Southern states celebrated it either on April 26 or on May 10 (the anniversary of Davis’s capture by the Union).

Confederate Memorial Day is observed in most of the Southern States, albeit unofficially (the only states where it is an official state holiday are Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee). As we’ve already mentioned above, its dates vary from state to state: January 19 (Robert E. Lee’s birthday) in Texas, the fourth Monday in April in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, the last Monday in April in Mississippi, May 10 in North Carolina and South Carolina, May 30 in Virginia, June 3 in Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee, and the second Saturday in October in Arkansas.

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Confederate Memorial Day, Confederate Decoration Day, Confederate Heroes Day, observances in the US, official state holidays