Memorial Day Proclamation May 5, 1868

Built after the end of the first world war, Nebraska’s Capitol is dedicated to those who fell in service of their country. It is important to recall, however, another act of remembrance which the Nebraskans who built our Capitol would have known. Nebraska was the first state admitted to the Union following the Civil War, and was settled by veterans of that conflict. One year after Nebraska’s 1867 statehood John A. Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30, 1868 Memorial Day for the purpose of decorating the graves of those who died in defense of their country. The Memorial Hall on the 14th floor of the Nebraska State Capitol is dedicated to public service and features a bronze plaque added during the construction of the Capitol and dedicated on April 6, 1929, in grand honor of the Grand Army of the Republic by its auxiliary, the Women’s Relief Corps Department of Nebraska. This plaque contains the words of the 1868 Memorial Day Proclamation, reprinted below.  The Capitol will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday May 27th for the Memorial Day Holiday.
The Women’s Relief Memorial Day Order
General Orders, #11
Grand Army of the Republic
Washington, D.C.  May 5, 1868   I.  The 30th Day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and those bodies lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.  In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
    We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, of the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.”  What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains and their deaths a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders.  Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds.  Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners.  Let no vandalism or avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
    If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remains in us. Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of springtime; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the nation’s gratitude—-the soldier’s widow and orphan.
  II.  It is the purpose of the commander in chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades.  He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
  III.  Department Commanders will use every effort to make this order effective.
By Command of—N.P. Shipman, Adjutant General John A. Logan
Commander in Chief