Confederate Memorial Day

April 26

“Spring comes early in the Gulf States, and April 26 has been made Confederate Memorial Day by Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia.

North and South Carolina have selected May 10.

“In Tennessee, the second Friday in May has been made Confederate Day.

Virginia keeps Confederate Memorial Day on May 30.

“So that as the spring advances, there are several observances of memorial day, beginning with the lower South, and following on, in the later spring, of States to the North, until Virginia and at the national capital both sides honor their departed heroes upon the same day.”

The South’s Care for her Confederate Veterans – William H. Glasson, American Monthly Review of Reviews, 1907

Confederate Memorial Day remembers the Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War, and is the predecessor of the national Memorial Day holiday. It’s observed on different dates throughout the South. In some states it’s a statutory holiday; it others it’s a holiday by proclamation.

Georgia law, for example, obliges the governor to proclaim a holiday on either January 19, April 26, or June 3 (Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia). Meanwhile, Mississippi observes Confederate-related holidays on the Mondays closest to all three of those dates.

Why January 19, April 26, and June 3?

January 19: the birthday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. From 1983 to 2000, Virginia combined Lee’s birthday and General “Stonewall” Jackson’s birthday with, ironically enough, the national holiday of Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday (January 15) to form Lee-Jackson-King Day.)

June 3: the birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

April 26: the anniversary of the single largest surrender of Confederate troops in 1865…General Johnson’s surrender to General Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina.

The End of the Civil War

Johnson’s surrender on April 26 was neither the first nor the last surrender of the Civil War.

General Lee had already surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865.

Jefferson Davis, meanwhile, wasn’t captured until May 10. (Also the anniversary of the 1863 death of “Stonewall” Jackson.

And technically, the last surrender wasn’t until November 6, when the crew of the CSS Shenandoah (who didn’t receive word of the war’s end until August) arrived in Liverpool, England. (They didn’t want to surrender to the Yanks.)

But General Johnson’s surrender entailed the Army of Tennessee as well as all active forces in Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. Nearly 90,000 soldiers in all.

+  +  +

The impetus for Confederate Memorial Day, and Memorial Day in general, came from Ladies Memorial Associations, which grew out of women’s groups that supported the troops and cared for the wounded during the war.

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War:

“The first LMAs assumed the grisly task of overseeing the reinterment of Southern soldiers from mass graves to individual graves in newly designated Confederate cemeteries… These same same women originated Confederate Memorial Day, an annual observance held each spring that paid homage to the soldiers who had died for the Southern cause.”

By 1865, it had become a tradition to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers with flowers.

As early as 1867 a song entitled Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” was dedicated to “The Ladies of the South Who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.”

Kneel where our loves are sleeping
They lost but still were good and true
Our fathers, brothers fell still fighting
We weep, ’tis all that we can do

Several towns claims to have held the first Decoration Day ceremonies, on or around the first anniversary of Johnson’s surrender, including two towns named Columbus.

In Columbus, Mississippi, a group of women who were decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers also stopped to place flowers on the neglected graves of Union soldiers. The event made national news.

In Columbus, Georgia, meanwhile…

“The ladies are now and have been for several days engaged in the sad, but pleasant duty of ornamenting and improving that portion of the City Cemetery sacred to the memory of our gallant Confederate dead, but we feel it is an unfinished work unless a day be set apart annually for its especial attention…

“Therefore, we beg the assistance of the press and the ladies throughout the South to aid us in the efforts to set apart a certain day to be observed, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, and be handed down through time as a religious custom of the South, to wreathe the graves of our martyred dead with flowers; and we propose the 26th day of April as the day…

“…the veriest radical that ever traced his genealogy back to the deck of the Mayflower, could not refuse us the simple privilege of paying honor to those who died defending the life, honor and happiness of the Southern Women.”

Mrs. Charles Williams, Ladies Memorial Association, March 12, 1866 (History of the Confederate Memorial Associations of the South)

To this day, in accordance with Georgia law stated above, Georgian state workers get this day off, although not all are of one mind. Writes one blogger:

“Who knew the honor of Southern women was at stake during the Civil War?

“As a black woman,  I don’t really subscribe to celebrating the Confederacy in any way, shape, or form.  So I thought about showing up for work in protest, but then… I decided instead that I am going to celebrate my FREEDOM and reflect on my ancestors who endured the Middle Passage, slavery, and the Civil Rights Movement.”

Either way, the song rings true.

Here we find our noble dead
Their spirits soar’d to him above
Rest they now about his throne
For God is mercy, God is love
Then let us pray that we may live
As pure and good as they have been
That dying we may ask of Him
To ope the gate and let us in

— “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping”, 1867

Origin of Confederate Decoration Day – from the files of Alan Doyle

Ellis Island Family History Day

April 17

Emigrants Arriving at Ellis Island

On Thursday evening, December 31, 1891, the S.S. Nevada arrived in New York Harbor. Among its passengers were 14 year-old Annie Moore of Cork County, Ireland, and her two younger brothers, Anthony and Phillip. They had sailed to America to join their parents in New York City’s Lower East Side.

On the morning of January 1, 1892, Annie’s 15th birthday, a barge transported the three Moores and the 145 other steerage passengers to a brand new federal immigration center called Ellis Island, where the rosy-cheeked Annie became the first immigrant of the twelve million who would enter the United States through its doors.

“As soon as the gangplank was run ashore, Annie tripped across it and was hurried into the big building that almost covers the entire island. By a prearranged plan she was escorted to a registry desk which was temporarily occupied by Mr. Charles M. Hendley…” “Landed on Ellis Island” NY Times 1/2/1892 (pdf)

Over 100 million Americans — roughly a third of the U.S. population — can trace their roots back to the immigrants of Ellis Island, starting with Annie Moore.

That first day, Ellis Island welcomed three steamships and 700 passengers. Nothing to compare with the thousands who would soon be entering the country through the island each day.

April 17 (Ellis Island Family History Day) marks the anniversary of the date in 1907 when more immigrants passed through Ellis Island than on any other day: 11,747, more than twice the usual number. 1907 alone saw the arrival of over a million immigrants.

Though the first immigrants were Irish, about half of all those who passed through Ellis Island in its heyday were of German descent.

The “Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” (the statue’s official name) was completed four year prior to Ellis Island’s opening. The statue was the first glimpse of America for the millions of immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor on the way to Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924. After 1924, quotas and restrictions greatly reduced emigration to America. Still, Ellis Island served as an entry point for war refugees and displaced persons until its closure in 1954.

The Island reopened as a museum in 1990 which is now run by the National Park Service as part of the Statue of LIberty National Monument.

It generally took arrivals three to five hours to go through the immigration process, longer for those suspected of or diagnosed as being ill. Hopefuls had to pass literacy tests and “examinations as to moral and physical fitness.” (NYTimes 6/27/1920)

About 2% (250,000) were sent back to their home countries on account of incurable illnesses. For curable illnesses, Ellis Island was the site of the one of the largest public healthcare operations in early 20th century America. The medical complex occupied 22 buildings, and in 1914 alone it treated over 10,000 patients from 75 countries.

The first Ellis Island Family History Day was observed in 2001. The holiday has been officiated via proclamations by state governors.

The Ellis Island Immigration Museum has received 20 million visitors since its opening in 1990, more than the number of immigrants it naturalized during its 62-year career.

Famous immigrants who entered through Ellis Island:

  • comedian Bob Hope
  • actor Cary Grant
  • songwriter Irving Berlin
  • author Isaac Asimov
  • Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter
  • Father Flanagan

More Annie Moore –

Ellis Island’s Forgotten Hospital

America At Last! Ilona’s Arrival at Ellis Island, 1909 – 100 Years in America

Father Damien: Patron Saint of Outcasts

April 15

Here it’s been over a year and we’ve yet to celebrate any holidays devoted to Belgians. Today, April 15, ends all that. No, the Belgians didn’t invent taxes, but they did produce a priest by the name of Father Damien, and not the demon-exorcising priest of horror movie fame.

Our Father Damien was a very real, breathing human being from Flemish Brabant. He was born in 1840 and became a Picpus Brother in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1860. In 1864 he was sent to the far off Kingdom of Hawaii where he served on the island of Oahu. And it’s in Hawaii, not in Belgium, that people celebrate Father Damien Day.

Our Lady of Peace, Molokai, Hawaii
Our Lady of Peace, Molokai, Hawaii

In the mid-18th century Hawaii underwent a horrible epidemic of several diseases, brought to the islands by foreigners—diseases to which the Hawaiian islanders had no immunities. Chief among these illnesses was the devastating and very contagious disease of leprosy.

King Kamehameha V established a colony on the island of Molokai where all those suffering from leprosy were quarantined. “Kalaupapa” was designed by necessity to be a self-sustaining colony, for few healthy people would go near it. However, because of the debilitating effects of leprosy, many of the inhabitants had difficulty farming and fending for themselves, and word spread of a Lord of the Rings society—wait, no—Lord of the Flies society developing there. (More anarchy, less hobbits.) The Church knew a priest should be sent to the island, but also knew such an assignment would effectively be a death sentence because of contagious nature of the disease.

In 1873 the 33 year-old Father Damien asked to be transfered to Kalaupapa and be priest to the lepers. There, Father Damien did more than pray:

“He washed their bodies, bandaged their wounds, tidied their rooms and made them as comfortable as possible. He encouraged those who were well to work alongside him by building cottages, coffins, a rectory, an orphanage for the children and repairing the road. He also taught them to farm, play musical instruments, and sing…Even before he was diagnosed as having leprosy he used the term “we lepers” in his sermons for he wished to identify with them as a means of bring them to Christ.” — Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace

Father Damien felt the first symptoms of leprosy in 1884. He continued working with the people of Kalaupapa another five years. As word spread of his deeds across the Christian world, much-needed donations and supplies finally flowed into the colony.

Father Damien died on April 15, 1889.

Despite all his deeds, Father Damien was not your steroetypical hero. He was derided by his detractors as “a coarse, dirty man, head-strong and bigoted.” (Reverend C.M.Hyde, 8/2/1889) In short, they say, he was no saint.

However, this October those detractors will be proven wrong. On October 11, 2009, 120 years after his death, Father Damien will officially become a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. He is the patron of those with leprosy and HIV/AIDS, and of ‘outcasts’.

Father Damien
Father Damien (1840-1889)

Tax Day: Know Your 16th Amendment Rights

April 15

Beware the Ides of April.

Okay, actually, technically, April 15th isn’t the Ides; April 13 is.

But the 15th of April is a day all Americans dread. It is, of course, Kim Il-Sung’s birthday. This guy was leader of North Korea from the time Truman was President all the way through to the Clinton Administration, and transformed North Korea into the thriving open-minded society it is today.


In addition to that, it’s Tax Day. That means if you’re headed to the post office—forget it, you should’ve left yesterday.

And if you’re filing online today expect DSL gridlock well through midnight.

You’ll be glad to know you’re following in a well-established American tradition.

The first U.S. income tax was levied in 1861 to help finance the Civil War. It taxed 3% of net incomes over a whopping $600 a year. The income tax was dismantled eleven years later.

Harper’s ran this prophetic cartoon in 1878 during one of several proposals to reinstate the income tax:

The Ron Paul Revolution of 1878

Income taxes were intermittently levied over the next three decades until the 1894 Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act attempted to claim a 2% tax on incomes over $4000. Opponents declared the act “unDemocratic, inquisitorial, and wrong in principle.” And the Supreme Court agreed, declaring the federal income tax unconstitutional.

Then came good ol’ Amendment 16:

“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without appointment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

ie. Yours is Mine.

Yes, you have no 16th Amendment rights.

It took over two years (from 1911-1913) for the amendment to rack up the required 2/3’s majority–from 36 of the 48 states, and finally passed in 1913.

So whatever your taxes amount to, you can’t blame Connecticut, Florida, Rhode Island, Utah, Pennsylvania or Virginia. They’re the only states (of the 48 at the time) that never ratified the amendment.

Oh and what was state #36?

New Mexico.

Yeah, and New Mexico was not a state until 1912. Thanks New Mexico, thanks for your brilliant contribution. Really, we’re not bitter.

Can we get a recount?

the Promised Land

April 4, 1968

Early Morning – April 4
A shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

— Pride (In the Name of Love), U2

40 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. looked off the balcony of his room on the second story of the Lorraine Hotel.

King had given what would be his last address the day before. The Mountaintop speech. King was used to death threats, but their increasing frequency and vindictiveness had reached a point that even King himself may have known he was on borrowed time.

In his last speech King alluded to the journey of Moses and the Hebrew slaves who escaped from bondage in Egypt, only to wander for 40 years in the desert.

After four decades, God called to Moses and told him to stand on the mountaintop, to look over the land God would bestow on the Israelites.

Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

— Deuteronomy 34:4

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., April 3, 1968

Tweed Day

April 3

Tweed is so awesome,
Woolen clothing from Scotland
That’s fashionable.

— Tweed Haiku, blahblahblahger

Today we sing the virtues of that most durable fabric, tweed.

Wait, no, wrong tweed.

Tweed Day remembers the corrupt politician who held New York City in the palm of his hand in the mid-1800s.

'Boss' Tweed
'Boss' Tweed

William Magear Tweed was “Boss” Tweed of Tammany Hall, the Democratic political machine that essentially ran New York. Tweed was born on this day (April 3) in 1823. The son of a Scottish-American chair-maker on the Lower East Side, he began his political career by organizing volunteer fire departments. He and Tammany Hall earned the support of New York’s working-class Irish immigrants, granting citizenship to potential constituents at the rate of 2,000 voters a day. (It Happened on Washington Square, Emily Kies Folpe)

He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives at the tender age of 29, to the New York State Senate in 1867, and in 1868 was made “grand sachem” (Big Poobah) of Tammany Hall.

It’s estimated that Tweed stole—I mean “misappropriated” between $40 and$200 million dollars from the public during his tenure, which back in the 1860s was considered a lot of money. (We’re talking 1860’s dollars here, so billions by today’s standards.)

Boss Tweed’s downfall is often attributed to the satirical political cartoons of Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly starting in 1868. Legend has it, Tweed said of the cartoons, Stop them damn pictures. I don’t care what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see the pictures.”

Boss Tweed cartoon

But in truth Tweed was still at the height of his power in late 1870 when an investigation by “six businessmen with unimpeachable reputations” found that Tweed’s books had been “faithfully kept” and could find no wrong-doing. Tweed was expected to run for and win the New York U.S. Senate seat in 1872.

Tweed’s real downfall wasn’t the papers. It was a holiday: the Glorious Twelfth. No, not Grouse-hunting day, the other Glorious Twelfth. July 12th is a Northern Irish Protestant holiday celebrating King William of Orange’s victory over the largely Irish Catholic forces of King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

In July 1871, Irish Protestants in New York City (the Loyal Order of Orange) sought permission to throw an Orange Parade.

“Irish Catholic organizations protested that the parade would be an insult to their community and pointed to the Orangemen’s behavior the previous July 12, when they had marched up Eighth Avenue…”

— Gotham, by Edwin Burrows & Mike Wallace

The marchers the previous year had the ingenious idea of hurling epithets at Irish workers who were laying pipe along the streets they passed, and sang such rousing hits as “Croppies, Lie Down.” Eight people were killed in the violence that ensued.

Tweed nixed the 1871 parade, and the Protestants, fearing that Irish Catholics had taken over their city, laid into Tweed. Public tide rapidly turned against him until Tweed and the Governor were forced to reverse the decision and allowed the parade to take place.

In the infamous “Orange Riots of July 12th” that started as a parade, between thirty and sixty people were killed, including two police officers. Over a hundred citizens were wounded, and twenty policemen.

Orange riots
Orange riots

After the riot, both sides were fed up with the Boss. And someone upset at Tweed for the whole parade debacle supplied the Times with the incriminating evidence they needed to convict him in the court of public approval.

“On July 22, ten days after the Boyne Day battle, the Times began publishing solid evidence of Ring rascality, turned over to the paper by an aggrieved insider. Day after Day, publisher George Jones reproduced whole pages from the cooked account books of James Watson, who until his recent death in a sleighing accident up in Harlem Lane had been the Ring’s trusted bookkeeper.” (Gotham)

The investigation revealed a plague of graft and corruption unprecedented in American politics.

In one example, New York City paid more for a single courthouse under Tweed than Secretary of State Seward had just paid for the territory of Alaska.

In fact the courthouse cost twice as much as Alaska, and four times as much as Britain’s Houses of Parliament. [Now that’s fiscal stimulus!]

When news of New York City’s debt spread overseas, European officials cut off the city’s line of credit and removed NYC bonds from the Berlin Stock Exchange.

The rest of the Tweed timeline goes like this:

  • October 1871: Tweed arrested
  • November 1871: Tweed wins re-election
  • December 1871: Tweed booted out as “grand sachem” of Tammany Hall
  • January 1873: First trial results in hung jury, possibly bribed
  • November 1873: Tweed convicted, sentenced to 12 years
  • 1875: Conviction overturned, Tweed is released
  • 1875-1878: Tweed is immediately sued for 6 million by creditors. Unable to repay the debts, he’s re-incarcerated. He escapes to Cuba, but is returned by Spanish authorities.
  • 1878: Boss Tweed, once the third largest property owner in New York City, dies in prison, a broken man. He is 55.

Moral of the story: You can lie, cheat, and steal, but don’t mess with people’s parades. Or their holidays.

Today is Tweed Day.

I’ve no idea who started this holiday, or why we remember a corrupt politician. The earliest references I’ve found are only a few decades old, in Chase’s Calendar of Events. But for the record, neither condones nor condemns this holiday, and we wholly support the right of the God-loving people of this land to celebrate the durable Scottish fabric we call Tweed.

“If everyone wears a tweed cap on April 3rd, after having endured the proper amount of ridicule from co-workers, you can all meet up in State House Square and re-enact the big dance scene from Newsies in celebration of Tweed.”