Callie Paxton

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Video: Columbus is Home of the 1st Memorial Day

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) Memorial Day is known as the “unofficial” start of summer for many, but the roots of the holiday run much deeper here in North Mississippi.

The graves of hundreds of Confederate and 17 Union soldiers rest quietly under the shade of large magnolia trees in Friendship Cemetery. You could say they’ve grown on each other over the years. If these trees could talk that would certainly have a story to tell. In April of 1866, just 1 year after the Civil War, 4 women thought they should do something to honor the fallen soldiers from the war.

“Some ladies came out to Friendship Cemetery and put flowers on the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers,” said Sarah Edwards.

At that time both Union and Confederate soldiers were buried in the cemetery. The ladies planned to place flowers on the Confederate soldiers graves, but in a spontaneous moment one of the ladies had a change of heart.

“One of the ladies said ‘I am a mother and cannot have these soldiers here and not pay respect to them as well,’” said Nancy Carpenter of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Among all the tombstones is the grave of the only Confederate nurse recognized by the US Government. One reason Columbus was spared from any civil battle is because it was a hospital town and was never attacked.

“If it wasn’t for those that have gone before us and sacrificed their lives we wouldn’t be here today to enjoy the privileges that we do have,” said Edwards.

Maybe it’s not the people who started the holiday, but the spirit of Americans to give thanks for those who put on a uniform to defend what they think is right, so we can all have a safe place to live.

The Library of Congress has Columbus recorded at the birthplace of Memorial Day.