San Diego’s First Memorial Day

San Diego Union May 27, 1882

Memorial Day was marked for the first time in San Diego in 1882.  As was true elsewhere across the country, the commemoration  originated in the last decades of the 19th century with people decorating the graves of Civil War soldiers. A national organization of Civil War veterans, the Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR, played a strong role in honoring its fallen comrades, as shown in the notice above. As preparations for the San Diego commemoration were made, the GAR also invited veterans of an earlier conflict, the Mexican War, to participate.

On May 30th, veterans of both wars decorated the graves of their fallen compatriots, then marched to Armory Hall for a commemorative ceremony that included prayers, a concert by the City Guard Band and poetry readings before ending with the singing of “America the Beautiful.”


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