By the time the War Between the States ended, more than 600,000 combatants had died. With the war still in process, mothers, wives, sweethearts, sisters and daughters began the practice of “decorating” the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers with flowers.

Before long, these informal acts of remembrance spread across the reunited nation. On May 5, 1868, the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic called for “Decoration Day” to be formally observed each year. May 30 was chosen as the date of remembrance, since this was considered to be the optimal time for fresh-cut flowers.

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