Battle of June 9, 1864
Ladies' Memorial Association
Grand Army of the Republic
Mrs. Logan Inspired by Memorial Observances in Petersburg
General Order Number 11
LADIES’ MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION
Previously, we discussed the Battle of June 9, 1864, at Petersburg. Commemorating that battle and memories of the old men and boys of the Petersburg militia, the ladies of Petersburg formed the Ladies’ Memorial Association on May 6, 1866. Mrs. William T. Joynes was elected the Association’s first President. The purpose of the association was “to devise means to perpetuate their gratitude and admiration for those who died defending homes and loved ones.”
At their May 30, 1866, meeting, the ladies “discussed the proper celebration of the 9th of June, the anniversary of the noble defence ... by the Reserves, many of whom fell on that day. By a unanimous vote it was decided to make this, the 9th of June, a permanent Memorial Day.” These actions of the Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg, Virginia, inspired the ultimate establishment of a National Memorial Day.
One of the principal, active members of the Ladies Memorial Association was Miss Nora Fontaine Maury Davidson who had established a school for young women in Petersburg. On June 9, 1865, she took her students with her to Blandford Cemetery and decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate dead with flowers and flags. Because of the relatively mild weather of Petersburg, grave decorations can last for quite long periods of time. Sometimes the decorations from the year before have to be removed before new decorations can be placed on the graves. Decorating graves of deceased servicemen is a practice that still prevails in Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, a practice originated by Miss Davidson and the Ladies Memorial Association. Miss Nora, as she was called, instilled in her students “... the ideals of patriotism and devotion to duty.” It was the graves decorated by Miss Nora and her students on June 9, 1867, that Mrs. John A. Logan saw on her visit to Petersburg in 1868. “It was from this celebration that Mrs. Logan, wife of the gallant Federal general, who was in Petersburg at that time, gained her inspiration which caused the National Decoration Day which is now in existence.” (Petersburg Progress-Index, Feb. 11, 1929, pp. 1,8)
In 1901, the Ladies Memorial Association was authorized by the City of Petersburg which owned it to restore and transform the abandoned Episcopal Church in Blandford Cemetery into a memorial to honor the 30,000 Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery. After raising considerable funds, the ladies had the old church, built in 1735, renovated and decorated with stained glass windows designed and manufactured by William Comfort Tiffany. Mr. Tiffany himself supervised the installation of the windows in the church and donated one window from his own funds. Each window commemorates the Confederate soldiers and sailors who died defending their homes and country. There is one window for each state of the Confederacy plus a window for each of the border states which were sympathetic to the states in secession but for various reasons stayed in the Union. The window donated by Mr. Tiffany completes the memorial. Blandford Church is now owned by the City of Petersburg; and it is open to the public who come from far and wide to see its beauty, calm dignity, and memorials to the fallen dead. Thousands of persons visit the church each year. Petersburg commemorates the National Memorial Day each May 30th and Confederate Memorial day each June 9th. (Blandford Cemetery Visitors Center Brochure.)
Please see the following articles “Grand Army of the Republic” and “Mrs. Logan Visits Petersburg” to understand further the logical chain of events inspiring and originating the National Memorial Day and its connections with the Battle of June 9, 1864, at Petersburg.
List of Sources
History of the Confederate Memorial Associations of the South. Confederate Southern Memorial, 1904.
Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg. “Old Blandford Church: Located in Blandford Cemetery.” Blandford Cemetery Visitors Center Brochure, n.d.
Petersburg Progress-Index, February 11, 1929.
Scott, James G. and Wyatt, Edward A. IV, Petersburg’s Story: A History. Richmond, Virginia: Whitted & Shepperson, 1960.