Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day: Freedmen's gift to the nation

Hillside Cemetery's GAR Bivouac is a circle where Union veterans
of the Civil War are buried, including four Plainfielder who served in the U.S. Colored Infantry.
As Plainfield prepares to honor once again its war dead, it bears remembering that we owe this national day of reflection to the custom begun by Black freedmen in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865.

David W. Blight, a history professor at Yale, has written up the story of the first Decoration Day (as Memorial Day was once known), in which 10,000 freed Blacks in Charleston rallied at the former slaveholders' race track to honor the Union soldiers who died there when it had been made an outdoor prison. You can read Blight's telling of the story here or watch the YouTube video below.

Though there were 'Decoration Days' celebrated at various cemeteries on various dates in the spring of each year, the Charleston celebration seems to have been the impetus to which we can trace our Memorial Day.

Hillside Cemetery has a GAR Circle, where Plainfielders who served in the Civil War are laid to rest, among them Prince Carmen, Martin Herling, Enoch Milford and George Sutphen, all members of the 'U.S. Colored Infantry'.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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