Friday, May 13, 2011

Memorial Day History

It was not until I started reading some of the news releases being circulated about the sesquicentennial (150 years) of the Civil War, that I found out the origin of the Memorial Day holiday. I knew that when I was growing up, my relatives would refer to it as "Decoration Day", and decades ago, "Decoration Day" was also a time they would have "dinner on the grounds" at some small rural church with a cemetery beside it. This month I learned that the holiday we now call Memorial Day, had its origin immediately following the end of the Civil War. (As you may recall, the Civil War was fought from 1861 - 1865; hence the sesquicentennial will run from 2011 - 2015.) The first known observance in the north was May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, New York. In the South, there is a record that a Decoration Day was celebrated on April 25, 1866, in Columbus, Mississippi. By 1868, general John A. Logan (Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic) issued a proclamation that "Decoration Day" should be observed nationwide. It was observed nationwide for the first time on May 30 in that same year. May 30 was chosen because is was NOT the anniversary of a battle. I had always felt a connection with the Civil War, because of the many oral traditions passed down in my family, telling of our relatives who fought in the Civil War. I knew my mother had been instrumental in working with a veterans organization to get an official marker for the grave of her grandfather who fought in the civil war, so I decided I needed to make a pilgrimage to that cemetery to see the marker for myself. My sister and I traveled to Pickins Cemetery near Green Forest, Arkansas, recently, and photographed the Rudd family grave sites, including the special bronze marker shown in the top photograph of this collage. The lower photo shows the educational tool that is being used in the state of Arkansas to teach Civil War history. You can get a passport of your very own (along with directions on how to use it to "earn" a commemorative coin or patch of the Civil War Sesquicentennial) by visiting .

Even though my great grandfather, Civil War Veteran Benjamin Rudd, died long before I was born, I always felt a tangible connection to him because of the hand-woven items his wife made that have been used in our family's homes for generations. When Benjamin Rudd returned home after the civil war ended, he married a woman almost twenty years younger than him, which explains why she was still alive when I was born. She was a prolific weaver, and made the woven rug and pillow case shown in this photo collage, as a baby gift for me, shortly before her death in 1950. My mother often told the story of how her Granny Rudd received a small government pension (I think it was $25/month), because she was the widow of a Civil War Veteran. What is interesting about this, I think, is that her husband had been a soldier for the side that "lost"; yet, when the nation came together at the end of the war, all soldiers were considered veterans of the United States of America---not just those soldiers who fought on the side that "won". Furthermore, mom said that each month, her Granny Rudd would give a portion of that check to my grandmother, Mrs. Grover Parrish, (the former Effie Rudd). The top photo of this collage shows me, my daughter-in-law Stacy Shipman, and my son Grover Shipman (named after his maternal grandfather) holding the hand woven rug and pillow case made by Julia Rudd, the widow of a civil war veteran. Julia's tombstone (also at Perkins Cemetery) is shown in the lower photo of the collage.

This photo collage shows some of the many woven items that Julia Rudd made, that I have scattered around my home. Last year, I had a professional in the field of textile art, look at some of the items to teach me more about them. She seemed to be most fascinated by the history of the fabrics that were used to make the multi-colored rugs. (see middle left photo for a close up of these strips). She said these were most often made from old clothes that were no longer wearable, and hence were torn into strips that became the "yarn" that makes up the body of the woven item. I recall visits to the home of my great grandmother, Julia Rudd, and climbing the steep stairs to the second story room that contained the wooden loom where she made these items. I remember as a child, the loom seemed huge to me, appearing to take up an entire room with its framework.

There is a verse in the Old Testament (Joshua 4:6a) that starts out: For your children will ask in time to come, "What do these stones mean to you?" And you will say to them............. the words I have written above to tell the story of THEIR connection to the Civil War through their ancestors, Benjamin Rudd and Julia Rudd. Thanks to the Christian foundation laid by these ancestors, I have had an abundant life, full of God's many blessings. Why not use the 2011 Memorial Day holiday to discover the meaning of some of your "family stones"??!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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