A special to the Oakland Press
For most people, Memorial Day was Monday.
They've taken down the patriotic decorations and put them away until next year. The cemeteries, which were alive with people and the sound of bugles, have returned to their long slumbers. But that's not the case for the General Israel B. Richardson Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. For them, Memorial Day always falls on May 30. They'll be marking the occasion today.
They can trace the observance back to an order issued in 1868 by Gen. John A. Logan, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, mandating that Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was called then, would be observed May 30.
The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization made up of Union veterans of the Civil War. Their May 30 Decoration Day, when they decked the graves of their fallen comrades with flowers and flags, evolved over the years into Memorial Day. "The veterans wanted their good works to live on," Bruce Miller, 55, of Bloomfield Hills said. "So they created the Sons of Union Veterans in 1881."
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, now a national organization, has more than 27 camps in Michigan and about 500 members. Nationally, the group totals about 6,300 members. Miller, who works as the director of marketing consultation for an automotive supplier, is the camp commander for Pontiac. Miller said members can trace their lineage back to Civil War veterans of the Union Army. They still follow the observances of their parent organization.
He said Memorial Day was always celebrated on May 30 until 1971 when the regular Monday observance was officially recognized by the federal government. "We certainly don't have any prejudice against the Monday holiday," Miller said, "However, the original Decoration Day will always be, for us, May 30."
The organization will honor Gen. Israel B. Richardson, who was killed at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, and others during a ceremony at 6 p.m. today at Oak Hill Cemetery, on University Drive just east of the Woodward Avenue Loop.
Richardson, namesake of the Pontiac camp, was a Pontiac resident, and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.