Under the leadership of women during the war, an increasingly formal practice of decorating graves had taken shape.In 1865, the federal government began creating national military cemeteries for the Union war dead.By the 20th century, various Union and Confederate memorial traditions, celebrated on different days, merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. Johnson designated an "official" birthplace of the holiday by signing the presidential proclamation naming Waterloo, New York, as the holder of the title.This action followed House Concurrent Resolution 587, in which the 89th Congress had officially recognized that the patriotic tradition of observing Memorial Day had begun one hundred years prior in Waterloo, New York. Logan issued a proclamation calling for "Decoration Day" to be observed annually and nationwide; he was commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans' organization for Union Civil War veterans.The most important of these was the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which grew from 17,000 members in 1900 to nearly 100,000 women by World War I.They were "strikingly successful at raising money to build Confederate monuments, lobbying legislatures and Congress for the reburial of Confederate dead, and working to shape the content of history textbooks." Changes in the ceremony's hymns and speeches reflect an evolution of the ritual into a symbol of cultural renewal and conservatism in the South.based on accounts in the Charleston Daily Courier and coverage by the New-York Tribune.
The most famous are Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania and Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, DC.
By 1913, David Blight argues, the theme of American nationalism shared equal time with the Confederate.
Starting in 1868, the ceremonies and Memorial Day address at Gettysburg National Park became nationally known.
People gather, put flowers on graves and renew contacts with relatives and others.
There often is a religious service and a picnic-like "dinner on the grounds," the traditional term for a potluck meal at a church.
Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. Annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are still held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountain areas.