General Order Number 11
General Order Number 11 of the Grand Army of the Republic was the document that established Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it has been also called, as a nationwide observance.
On the 5th of May 1868 as commander in chief of the Grand Army of the republic, I issued to our comrades throughout the land the following order:
"Head quarters Grand Army of the Republic. Adjutant Generals office No 444, 14th Street Washington, D.C. May 5th 1868.
General Orders No 11.
I. The 30th day of May 1868 is designate 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, church yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us for the purpose, among other things ' of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings, which have bound together the soldiers, sailors and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.' What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their hearts a barricade between our country, and its foes, their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom, to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance, all that the consecrated wealth and toils of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice, or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present, or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people the cost of a free and undivided Republic.
If other eyes grow dull, and other hands black, and other hearts cold, in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light, and warmth, of life remain to us. Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of Springtime: let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor. Let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us, a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude the soldiers and sailors widow and orphan.
II- It is the purpose of the commander in chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year, to year, while a survivor of the war remains, to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
III- Department commanders will use every effort to make this order effective"
By order of John A. Logan. “ Commander in Chief"