Mount Auburn Cemetery on Memorial Day

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Date: May 17, 2010
Contact: Vince Vaise, 410-962-4290, x201

Park Rangers at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine are determined to put the “memorial” quality back into Memorial Day.

Honoring Forgotten Heroes – Wreath-Laying at Mount Auburn Cemetery, May 30, 2 p.m.
Park Rangers from Fort McHenry NM&HS will perform a special wreath-laying ceremony in Mount Auburn Cemetery. The oldest owned and operated African-American cemetery in Baltimore City, Mount Auburn is the final resting place for many free slaves, civil rights activists and military veterans.

The ceremony begins with a short parade through the cemetery, followed by a brief historical overview about each conflict, musket-firing salute and concludes with decorating the graves of military veterans with flowers and flags.

Graves that will be decorated include Benjamin Burns, private in Company D., 23rd Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops. During the Civil War, this Union regiment fought in numerous battles in Virginia in 1864 and was present at the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s army at Appomattox in 1865. Other graves to be decorated include Private Clarence Howard who died of illness oversees during World War I and Private Willie Jones Jr. who served in World War II. 

Memorial Day Observed – May 31 (Fort McHenry)
Events begin right at the historic flagpole at Fort McHenry at 9:30 a.m. with a Ranger program about the origins of Memorial Day and the raising of a Civil War-era American Flag to half staff.  

Join the staff for a special reading of popular Memorial Day poems such as “Bivouac of the Dead” and “Flanders’ Fields” at 11:00. The reading will be followed by a brief discussion of Memorial Day traditions.
At noon the colors will be hoisted to full mast. Afterward, a living history presentation will recreate a traditional Memorial Day speech and ceremony given in the fort in the 1880s.

The highlight of the Memorial Day observance at Fort McHenry will be the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. by the flagpole. A Ranger-led talk on the origins of Memorial Day will begin at 2:45 p.m. A park-wide moment of silence at 3:00 p.m.

In the Visitor Center:

Throughout the day visitors will be able to view a continuously running video about the history of Memorial Day. A special display focusing on the Civil War origins of the holiday will be on exhibit. Special fliers, Memorial Day literature and “Buddy Poppies” to support Veterans will also be available.

Wreath-Laying 2:00 p.m. May 30 (Sunday) at Mount Auburn Cemetery
Join the Rangers and volunteers of the Fort McHenry Guard at Mount Auburn Cemetery (2630 Waterview Avenue at 2:00 p.m. for a short wreath-laying ceremony at the graves of African-American veterans from the Civil War, World War I, World War II and Korea.

Decoration Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, and was first observed on May 30, 1868. Late May was chosen because Civil War ended that month and flowers were plentiful at that time of year. During the first year over 200 cities and towns held parades to the cemetery and other ceremonies, a year later, 1869 nearly 350 towns had celebrations. By the 1880s the holiday was commemorated in nearly every city and small town throughout the north.  In 1882 the name Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day as commemorations expanded beyond the laying of flowers over soldiers’ graves.

The National Moment of Remembrance was established by Congress on December 28, 2000, to honor Americans who died in service to the nation. Through partnerships with local communities, private businesses, and government at all levels, the National Moment of Remembrance Commission is working to encourage all Americans to celebrate Memorial Day as a sacred and noble holiday that honors fellow Americans who paid the ultimate price for freedom.


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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2400 East Fort Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21230


(410) 962-4290 x250

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