Reasonable people disagree on the exact origins of what is now called Memorial Day. But most accept that the practice of decorating the graves of Americans who died defending their country began in earnest by women of the South during and following the Civil War.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, National Commander of the Army of the Republic, was the first to make Memorial Day official with General Order No. 11, which stated in part that, “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.”
Since then, other than Congress making it a national holiday and changing the date to the last Monday in May, America has honored its fallen heroes from all conflicts in pretty much the manner that General Logan anticipated with the language of his order, whereby “posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”