By Linda Rosenkrantz
Before you fire up the barbie or pack up the picnic basket, why not take a minute to think about what Memorial Day memorializes.
The holiday—originally called Decoration Day—was first commemorated on May 30, 1868, not long after the Civil War had ended, and was given that name because it was when flowers were placed on the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In the course of this brutal war that tore the country apart, over a thousand soldiers reached the rank of general, several of whom went on to reach high offices in government, including six presidents– Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Harris, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield and Chester A. Arthur.
And of course this mid-nineteenth century period was one of remarkable names in America—elaborate Latinate appellations, multi-syllabic Old Testament examples, unusual word names such as Speed and Zealous and Strong. It’s interesting to note that, particularly on the Union side, a great many of these young soldiers had been given aspirational hero names as their two middles—so there were a number of them who had had Christopher Columbus, Americus Vespucius, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry or Ethan Allan inserted between their first and second names. There was even one general named States Rights Gist. Looking through the lists of records of these high officers on both sides, the following names stood out:
Raleigh (known as Parlez)
Theopholus (nicknamed Granny)
…And a few cool surnames from both sides:
Find any inspiration here?
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