Decoration Day

12:32 PM

Many people don't realize that Memorial Day was once called Decoration Day. It was meant to be the day when widows and children visited the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers, cleaned them up, and decorated them with flowers. As time went on, and Americans bravely fell protecting our country in war after war, it became Memorial Day.

I am very proud of my family's military history--a man from my family has served in the military in nearly every major war from the American Revolution on. Unfortunately, I have no idea what my ancestors looked like before the age of photography. I am so glad I do have a photo of my great-great grandfathers who served in the Union Army in the Civil War.

They both lived in the same area in Indiana most of their lives. In this photo (from a newspaper) a group of retired Civil War vets in their area gathered for a reunion (circa 1900). In the bottom row, 2nd from the left, is my great-great grandfather, Peter William Wittman (a German immigrant). In the top row, 3rd from the left, is my great-great grandfather, Martin Washington Rice (a descendant of 18th century English immigrants). My great-great grandfather Rice, at 20, was severely injured during the war in a skirmish in Tennessee. Because of the shrapnel left in his body, he was discharged and given a pension. I cherish this photo as it is the first generation of my ancestors to be photographed. The only thing is, I wish they'd had photographs taken before they went off to war like many other soldiers did at that time. I would have loved to have seen how they looked as young men and in uniform.

My Rice great-great grandfather's Certificate of Disability for Discharge 

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