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The First Decoration Day
Episode 91429th May 2023 • A Minute at RepcoLite • Dan Hansen
00:00:00 00:00:59

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We usually say the first Decoration Day, later called Memorial Day, took place in 1868. However, recently unearthed evidence suggests there was an earlier one. I’m Dan Hansen and this is a Minute at RepcoLite.

It happened in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865–the same city where the Civil War started 4 years earlier. The Washington Race Course was a horse racing track that was the pride of Charleston, but during the Civil War, it became a makeshift prison for Union Soldiers.

The conditions were so terrible that over time, almost 260 soldiers died there and were buried in unmarked graves. When the war ended, freed slaves exhumed all those soldiers and gave each one a proper burial in a new cemetery that they constructed nearby. Then, on May 1 of 1865, almost 10,000 people–many of them freed slaves and their families, came with flowers. They paraded around the race track, sang hymns and patriotic songs, and honored the fallen Union Soldiers. In heart and spirit, it was the first Decoration Day. I’m Dan Hansen and that’s a Minute at RepcoLite.