Memorializing the Civil War
Although there's some disagreement (isn't there always?) as to exactly when and where the first Memorial Day was observed in America, it's generally agreed that the first observance was May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, New York. Its purpose, of course, was to honor the fallen of the Civil War.
Back then the holiday was called Decoration Day, but it was observed pretty much the way we do today: with flags at half-staff, parades, and placing flowers on graves. The first national Decoration Day was held on May 30, 1868 (almost three years to the day the last Confederate army surrendered).
Southern states thought Decoration Day was really just a Union observance, and created Confederate Memorial Days (the date differed among states) as a response. After World War I, however, every state but Alabama combined their observances into one national Memorial Day, which we celebrate this Monday to honor all American fallen soldiers.
What is often neglected in discussions of the Civil War,however, is the Christian story of the war. Even the lengthy and laudable Ken Burns series left out any mention of the revivals and religious background of the war.
Here are 10 interesting facts about Christianity and the Civil War, reprinted from our issue entirely devoted to the subject. If you're interested, you can buy a copy of the issue (CH033) by visiting the CH store.
- Major revivals broke out in the Civil War armies. In the Union Army, between 100,000 and 200,000 soldiers were converted; among Confederate forces, approximately 150,000 troops converted to Christ. Perhaps 10 percent of all Civil War soldiers experienced conversions during the conflict.
- Abraham Lincoln, though he knew the Bible thoroughly and spoke often of an Almighty God, was never baptized and was the only United States president never to join a church.