The Lincoln-Cushing Camp No. 2 of the Sons of Union Veterans is hosting a traditional Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery’s James Tanner Amphitheater. The event starts at 5 p.m., and is free and open to the public.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was officially proclaimed in 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The first national observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. In the early 1870s, Arlington’s national observance drew crowds of 25,000 a year – more than the population of Washington, D.C. at the time. The observance provides a glimpse of how Memorial Day was conducted after the Civil War, including participants in period uniforms.
About the James Tanner Amphitheater:
Last year, as part of Arlington National Cemetery's 150th Anniversary Observance, the original amphitheater was named in honor of Corporal James R. Tanner in conjunction with the annual Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Decoration Day observance.
Tanner, a corporal in the 87th New York Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, suffered a gruesome wound at the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862 which resulted in the loss of both legs. After the war, this wounded warrior became a stenographer and was present both at Abraham Lincoln's deathbed and during the trial of the Lincoln conspirators. He was an advocate for veterans' rights and served for a time as the Commissioner of Pensions. He later became the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. He is now buried a few yards from the structure that will bear his name in Section 2, grave 877.
Originally built in 1873 for the celebration of the fifth Decoration Day, the "Old" Amphitheater played a crucial role in all May 30 celebrations at Arlington National Cemetery until 1920 when the larger Memorial Amphitheater was dedicated.
During those 47 years, Presidents, Commanders-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (a veterans organization for those who had served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, and Revenue Cutter Service during the Civil War), and other dignitaries addressed tens of thousands who traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to honor America's fallen service members.