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Interpreting the Evidence

Civil War and World War I Veterans

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Comprehension

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Civil War
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Western New York
    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Civil War and World War I Veterans, Ripley, NY, n.d. in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Photograph of Civil War and World War I Veterans at Memorial Day Ceremony in Ripley, New York, n.d.
Historical Context
The Veterans in the photograph served in the Civil War or World War I.   This photograph was taken at a Memorial Day Ceremony in Ripley, New York.  Ripley, New York is a town on Lake Erie in the westernmost part of Chautauqua County.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories about its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day.
In 1966, the federal government declared Waterloo, N.Y., the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866 and had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5th, 1868 by General John Logan (national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic) in his General Order No. 11.  It was first observed on May 30th, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. Several southern states refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I.
After WWI, the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971).  Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades.
Essential Question
How do citizens honor soldiers?
Check for Understanding
Describe the individuals in the photograph and explain how they are similar.
Historical Challenges
Research and describe the variety of Memorial Day celebrations that take place in your state.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Art: Create a poster that gives details about an upcoming Memorial Day celebration in your area.