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Decoration Day

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

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2001.05.0293%3Achapter %3D1.73

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,


4 thoughts on “Decoration Day

  1. Hi KristaGood job.You have another uncle who died in the Civil War, also on the Confederate side. If you have a copy of the Stevens family history, see p44. If not, I have two and will send you one. WW (Walt) Stevens second son of Obadiah and Martha (Watkins) Stevens and older brother of “third son”, our ancestor, Columbus Augustus Stevens (Grandpa Gus). Claude Stevens says WW was born March 29 1839 in Oglethorpe County GA.He was a private in the Gilmer Blues, organized in Lexington GA in 1860 and mustered to service as Company K, Sixth Georgia Regiment. They began service at Yorktown, VA in 1861. He, too, was sick and at some point captured by Union forces and interned, later exchanged. In 1864 he was found serving at James Island near Charleston SC and later in Florida, near Lake City, but back to Virginia for the the battle at Drury’s Bluff near Petersburg (but that was May 1864). He was NOT on the last payroll three or four months before surrender (Appomattox Court House, April 1865).   Claude says he died “as a result of injuries suffered in his army service” on March 31 1864. He is buried in the Stevens cemetery near our family. In This They Remembered WW Stevens was listed wounded at Sharpesburg (Antietam, in Northern annals, Sept 1862), taken prisoner, and then exchanged.  Claude’s book has ten pages of letters WW wrote home. In the last one, Claude says “it seems likely” WW was on detail to catch deserters and draft dodgers in North Carolina, providing a letter about this detail written June (no year) from Yadkin Co. NC in which WW says the people of that county would much rather see the Yankees come through than “us”. So sad. WW said he had never seen the like of the poor whites in that area and noted there were no negroes. There is a tension in my heart for these soldiers of the “lost cause”. Thank you for not judging too harshly.  My Sweeny side has few records, none that I can put my hands on, of those who fought in the Civil War. They lived in Maryland and Pennsylvania, so could have fought on either side.  My Grandmother Porter’s side, her grandfather was a doctor who served as Lt Col. in the Medical Corps of 2nd Maryland Regiment, Potomac Home Brigade. From a cursory search, these were Union volunteers. His children were too young to serve (two became doctors and one, my ancestor, a Methodist minister). “Dr. Kin’s” younger brother served in the Pennsylvania Cavalry (and survived the war to become an attorney in Mt Pleasant PA). Their youngest brother moved to Yakima, Washington, and became a physician out there! Blessings and thanks for the commemoration.Sara 

  2. I so enjoy your stories ! I also am a Sublett. The Matthew in today’s blog had an Uncle named Benjamin Branch Sublett ( who is my 2nd great grandfather through his son, Benjamin Venable Sublett).
    Incidentally, while visiting Appomattox I discovered on a roster that there were 3 Sublett brothers and their uncle which surrendered with General Lee.

  3. Krista, I think I told you I joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans, General TRR Cobb camp in Athens.

    Sent from my iPhone


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