December 4, 2020

Confederate Memorial Day

Written by Mary Lane, President Heard County Chapter 2587

Between 1861 and 1865, there was a war between the Union and the Confederate States of America. As slavery disappeared from the northern states, but remained viable in the south, two very different ways of life arose in these sections.

Compromises regarding slavery, especially its extension to the new western territories, became more difficult to achieve. Social, political and economic power was at stake for both the north and the south.

The divisions began in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln, who opposed slavery, was elected as president of the United States. Seven states in the south declared their secession from the United States before he took office.

CMDSouthern states maintained various concerns regarding political deals, property and homes, protection for their families, and economic loss.

The actual war started on April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The last cease-fire was signed at Fort Towson, Oklahoma, on June 23, 1865, although the naval forces on the CSS Shenandoah did not surrender until November 4, 1865 in Liverpool, Great Britain.

It is estimated that more than 600,000 soldiers died during the American Civil War and that about 260,000 of these were Confederates. In addition, an unknown number of civilians died in the hostilities.

Those who died fighting for the Confederate States during the American Civil War are remembered on various dates in their respective state, each commemorating some special observance for their area. In 1874, the Georgia General assembly approved legislation adding a new public holiday – the 26th day of April in each year – commonly known as Confederate Memorial Day.

April 26th marks the anniversary of the end of the Civil War for Georgia, for it was on this day in 1865 that Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender to General William T. Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina became official. Johnston had been in charge of Georgia’s defense. So this day marked the end of the war for Georgia.

Georgia observed April 26th as Confederate Memorial Day, an official state holiday, until 1984, when the General Assembly changed state law with respect to public and legal holidays observed in Georgia. The result of that 1984 legislation was to drop the names of all official holidays from the Georgia Code.

This eliminated all state holiday including Confederate Memorial Day and having Georgia observe whatever federal holidays were observed as of January 1, 1874.

The 1984 act of the General Assembly charged the governor with the task of selecting an alternative date more suitable for commemorating any or all of the persons or events formally recognized on those eliminated state dates.

The governor is to issue an executive proclamation each year designating one day to celebrate what were formally Georgia state holidays. Governors Joe Frank Harris and Zell Miller selected April 26th as Confederate Memorial Day.

On March 12, 2003, Governor Sonny Perdue proclaimed April 2003 as Confederate History Month and designated April 26, 2003 as Confederate Memorial Day.

While one governor’s proclamations are not binding on the governor that follows, the tradition of celebrating Confederate Memorial Day on April 26th seems secure.

Since 2009, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation designating April of each year as Confederate History and Heritage Month.

Let all of us who have Confederate ancestors celebrate the heritage and keep the past history of our great section of the country alive.

We are proud of our southern heritage and the terrible times our ancestors had in reconstructing this part of our great nation. We are now a nation united for the betterment of all mankind, striving for peace, harmony love, joy and kindness for all.

 

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