30
May
09

On This Day, May 30: Decoration Day

May 30, 1868

Civil War dead honored on Decoration Day

By proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, the first major Memorial Day observance is held to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Known to some as “Decoration Day,” mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

The 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances that had taken place in various locations in the three years since the end of the Civil War. In fact, several cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Mississippi; Macon, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Carbondale, Illinois. In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon B. Johnson, declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo–which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866–because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

By the late 19th century, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day, and after World War I, observers began to honor the dead of all of America’s wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. It is customary for the president or vice president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. More than 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually. Several Southern states continue to set aside a special day for honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day.

“Civil War dead honored on Decoration Day,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5048 [accessed May 30, 2009]

On This Day

1416 – Jerome of Prague was burned as a heretic by the Church.

1431 – Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France, at the age of 19.

1539 – Hernando de Soto, the Spanish explorer, landed in Florida with 600 soldiers to search for gold.

1854 – The U.S. territories of Nebraska and Kansas were established.

1883 – Twelve people were trampled to death in New York City in a stampede when a rumor that the Brooklyn Bridge was in danger of collapsing occurred.

1911 – Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis Sweepstakes. The 500-mile auto race later became known as the Indianapolis 500. Harroun’s average speed was 74.59 miles per hour.

1913 – The First Balkan War ended.

1922 – The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC.

1958 – Unidentified soldiers killed in World War II and the Korean conflicts were buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

1967 – The state of Biafra seceded from Nigeria and Civil war erupted.

1989 – The “Goddess of Democracy” statue (33 feet height) was erected in Tiananmen Square by student demonstrators.

 

May 30, 1971

Mariner 9 departs for Mars

The U.S. unmanned space probe Mariner 9 is launched on a mission to gather scientific information on Mars, the fourth planet from the sun. The 1,116-pound spacecraft entered the planet’s orbit on November 13, 1971, and circled Mars twice each day for almost a year, photographing the surface and analyzing the atmosphere with infrared and ultraviolet instruments. It gathered data on the atmospheric composition, density, pressure, and temperature of Mars, and also information about the surface composition, temperature, and topography of the planet.

When Mariner 9 first arrived, Mars was almost totally obscured by dust storms, which persisted for a month. However, after the dust cleared, Mariner 9 proceeded to reveal a very different planet–one that boasted enormous volcanoes and a gigantic canyon stretching 3,000 miles across its surface. The spacecraft’s cameras also recorded what appeared to be dried riverbeds, suggesting the ancient presence of water and perhaps life on the planet. The first spacecraft to orbit a planet other than earth, Mariner 9 sent back more than 7,000 pictures of the “Red Planet” and succeeded in photographing the entire planet. Mariner 9 also sent back the first close-up images of the Martian moon. Its transmission ended on October 27, 1972.

Mariner 9 departs for Mars,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5050 [accessed May 30, 2009]

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