This weekend we celebrate Decoration Day. Well, most Americans call it Memorial Day. Decoration Day is a day used to remember the men and women who died in military service. Memorial Day became a more common name only after World War II. Although it had been honored since the civil war; It did not become codified into law until 1967.
There have been debates for years on where the idea of this event occurred. I will not go into all of the facets of the debate but I will give you a few snippets. The bottom line, whomever started it, the purpose remains the same: to honor our fallen soldiers.
“How many of our States claim the first memorial organization? What matters if there are no records to prove it? New Orleans claims it; Georgia claims it; Portsmouth, Va.; Richmond, Va., claims it. But the little village of Warrenton, Va., claims, and can prove it, the first Confederate Memorial Day. Killed in skirmish at Fairfax Courthouse, June 1, 1861, Captain John Quincy Marr, Warrenton Rifles, 17th Virginia Regiment, buried in the little village graveyard, June 3rd, with military honors; wept over by the old and young; flowers strewn on his grave, and the first Confederate Memorial Day was observed. After the first battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861, the dead and mortally wounded, numbering many, were brought to this same little village, and again Memorial Day was observed by the women and children (Times-Dispatch, 1906).
Similarly, General John A. Logan issued a General Order in 1868:
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 whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land (New York Times, 2012)
A lot of people confuse Decoration Day and Veteran’s Day. The latter is observed on 11 November of each year. Veteran’s Day honor’s all military veterans who served in United States Armed Forces. Decoration Day is for those we lost in war. Over the years, I have written about the number of military veteran’s in my family. But, I have not written about any that actually died in service. My third Great-Uncle, Matthew D. Sublett was killed during the War Between the States in 1862 at the battle of Manassas. I did write a little bit about him here: https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2018/01/06/william-j-sublett/
Matthew D. Sublett was born about 1835 to William J Sublett and his wife Frances Jennings. I have had a difficult time attributing the correct census records for William. Before the 1850 Census, there were only the head of household listed on the census and a tick mark for the children.
In the 1850 Census, Matthew is living in the Northern District of Dinwiddie County. Matthew (15) lives with his parents and his younger siblings James (12), George (3), and Melinda (1). His father works as an overseer.
In the 1860 Census, taken in Lunenburg County Virginia, Matthew D. Sublett (25) appears to be living with the Hardy family as an overseer. It is still difficult to learn these things about my family. I know it was a time period that we cannot adequately put ourselves in their shoes. As a historian, my main focus is to report the facts. I am not here to judge my ancestors.
Matthew D. Sublett enlists in the Confederate States of America on 1 July 1861 in Nottoway, Virginia. One document indicates that he was substituted for Thomas R. Blandy July 1st by Gov. Letcher. Records also indicate he re-enlisted. Matthew was attached to Company G, 18th Infantry. Company G was known as the Nottoway Grays.
According to his military records, Matthew was sick with Rubeola, more commonly known as Measles, from 3 May 1862 – 18 July 1862. He was initially hospitalized at Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. Four days later he was transferred to Farmville General Hospital. Civil War soldiers faced many dangers in battle. However, the greatest danger waited for them at their camps. Diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, Pneumonia, Measles, Malaria and Tuberculosis were the leading diseases during the war. “In fact it is estimated that nearly 400,000 Civil War soldiers died from disease compared to 200,000 from other causes (Civil War Facts, 2018).”
Matthew was killed in action at Manassas on 30 August 1862. Matthew was killed in the Second Battle of Bull Run. While it was a successful clash for the Confederacy, Matthew lost his life.
I still need to do some more work on Matthew, but I wanted to get this out today. So, remember all of those that died so we could live in the land of the free!
Times-Dispatch, July 15, 1906, retrived on 5/24/18 at
New York Times, Many Claim to be Memorial Birth Place retrieved on 5/24/18 at
Bull Run Image, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1283126 American Civil War Facts,