Though its current associations might run more to barbecues, picnics and parades, Memorial Day conjures up a load of historic references dating back to its post-Civil War origins, as well as some more contemporary traditions.
There are several blogs-worth of noteworthy Civil War generalsâ names aloneâAlpheus, Americus, Cassius, Gustavus, Lafayette, Napoleon, Pleasant, Romeyn, for starters– but for now weâve included just a few of the most intriguing, as well as some less obvious Memorial Day names associated with the holiday.
BLUE and GREYâThe colors of the Â uniforms of the Union and Confederate soldiers fighting the Civil War (the Confederate soldiers sometimes referred to the Yankees disparagingly as âbluebelliesâ), Â Blue and Gray are the current coolest of the unisex color names. Blue Ivy is the much-discussed name picked by BeyoncĂ© and Jay-Z for their daughter; actress Jenna von Oy recently named her daughter Gray.
CATHAYâCathay Williamsâaka William Cathayâwas one of many women who passed as men to serve as Civil War soldiers.Â A former slave, she was the first African-American woman to enlist. Cathay is an evocative old term for China used by Marco Polo that could make an interesting choiceâif it werenât in danger of being constantly confused with Cathy.
CHARLESTONâThe first known commemoration of Memorial Dayâformerly called Decoration Day– was in Charleston, South, Carolina in 1865, organized by African-Americans who had recently been freed from slavery. Â Actor Joey Lawrence named his daughter Charlestonâan offbeat path to the nickname Charlie.
ERASMUS âErasmus Darwin Keyes was a businessman and general who led one of the Union Army Corps.Â Erasmus still carries the scholarly image of the Dutch Renaissance theologian, but the middle name Darwin is a more modern sounding possibilityâitâs been on the list almost every years since records started to be kept, reaching as high as Number 297 in 1938.
GREENâGreen Berry Raum (love that middle name!) was a Union army brigadier general in the war who went on to preside over the IRS and write a number of books.Â Green is another vibrant hue available to the boys.
HARRIET/ARAMINTAâHarriet Tubman , who was born Araminta and known as âMinty,â of slave parents, escaping via the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, worked for the Union Army as a scout and spy, later becoming active in the womenâs suffrage movement. Â Harriet is beginning to be revived after a long rest; Araminta a pretty British import.
INDYâThe Indianapolis 500 car race, nn Indy, is held every year on the Memorial Day weekend.Â Indy is a logical short form for India, Indiana, Indio, et alâbut could it stand on its own, a la Mindy and Cindy?
LOGAN– General John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the organization for Northern Civil War Veterans, helped bring attention to the Memorial Day event nationwide.Â Logan is firmly in the Top 20 for boys, and has been since 2006.
POPPYâIn 1915, a poet named Moina Michael wrote about the poppy, âIt seems to signal to the skies/That blood of heroes never dies,â then conceived of the idea of the wearing of red poppies on Memorial day to honor those who died serving their country.Â A Top 30 name in the UK, Poppy is ready to pop out here.
SHILOH âThe Battle of Shiloh was a major Civil War conflict, fought in Tennessee in April of 1862, with Ulysses S. Grant leading the Union troops to victory.Â Brought into the spotlight by the Jolie-Pitt daughter, Shiloh, which also has biblical references, entered the popularity list in 2007, the year following her birth.
SOJOURNERâBorn into slavery as Isabella Baumfreeâand called BelleâSojourner Truth was an outstanding defender of womenâs rights who helped recruit black troops for the Union army during the Civil War.Â She changed her name saying âThe Spirit calls me and I must go.â Sojourner might appealâperhaps as a middleâto parents who like names such as Journey and Traveler.
SPEEDâSpeed Fry was a lawyer and judge who served in both the Mexican-American and Civil Wars.Â With a name that sounds straight out of a 21st century comic book.
STRONGâStrong Vincent was a Northern lawyer who was fatally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.Â Names donât get any stronger than this.
ULYSSESâone of the names most associated with the American Civil War is that of Ulysses S. Grant, born Hiram Ulysses.Â The commander of the Union forces that triumphed over the Rebs, he went on to become the 18th president of the United States. Both presidential and literary, Ulysses is a little weighty, though ex-SNLer Anna Gasyeyer boldly picked it for her son.