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Memorable Memorial Day Names: Marcellus, Maxcy and Moonlight

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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:

UNION GENERALS

Absalom

Albion

Alonzo

Alpheus

Ambrose

Amiel

Amos

Augustus

Cadwallader

Cassius

Catharinus

Cyrus

Darius

Delevan

Ebenezer

Eleazer

Erasmus

Gershom

Green

Gustavus

Hiram

Horatio

Isham

Justus

Llewellyn

Lorenzo

Lucius

Lysander

Marcellus

Mosby

Orlando

Pleasant

Regis

Rufus

Speed

Strong

Sullivan

Ulysses

Winfield

Zealous

CONFEDERATE

Alpheus

Armistead

Braxton

Cadmus (known as Billy Fixin’)

Carnot

Claudius

Collett

Cullen

Ellison

Evander

Goode

Gustavus

Johnson

Jones

Jubal (known as Jube and Jubilee)

Junius

Leonidas

Marcellus

Maxcy

Raleigh (known as Parlez)

Theopholus (nicknamed Granny)

Turner

Tyree

Zachariah

Zebulon

…And a few cool surnames from both sides:

Ashby

Baird

Bee

Cullum

Duncan

Eaton

Egan

Frost

Kenly

Maxby

Moonlight

Paxton

Poe

Quinby

Ripley

Saxon

Sprague

Tucker

Vinton

Zook

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