The next Southern Memorial Day Ceremony will be held on Saturday June 3, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. at the Confederate Cemetery. Join us if you can!
The Southern Memorial Association has held an annual memorial service at the Confederate Cemetery since 1873. When the cemetery was dedicated on Tuesday June 10, 1873, the largest crowd ever assembled in the county since the burial of Archibald Yell was present: 3,000 persons. A procession one mile long moved in a falling rain up the hill to the new cemetery. In order to offset the crude appearance of the grounds that morning, a special effort was made to embellish the four burial plots. The ladies designated the four plots by a floral emblem: Arkansas had an anchor, Missouri a wreath, Louisiana a cross, and Texas a star. They set up an imitation monument at the convergence of the grave sections. The imitation monument bore these inscriptions:
Arkansas: Weep, for Richer Blood Was Never Shed
Missouri: Tread Lightly, the Ashes of Heroes Rest Here
Louisiana: Time Cannot Obliterate the Name that True Valor Writes
Texas: Courage Unfaltering and Hearts Unyielding Lie Buried Here
Confederate General D.H. Hill gave the memorial address at the 1877 Southern Memorial Day service at the cemetery. Before the service began, a long procession formed in the vicinity of Block, Dickson, and East Streets, turned into College Avenue and the proceeded up the rough road which was Rock Street to the cemetery at the top of the hill. What a grand procession! It included: Washington County Hook and Ladder, the Bentonville band, ex-Confederate soldiers on foot, Southern Memorial members in carriages, the Fayetteville band, members of the press, many people on foot, the Elm Springs band, a flower wagon,and citizens on horseback.
On May 27, 1887, a Fayetteville correspondent reported to the Arkansas Democrat: “Yesterday was Southern Memorial Day, and as usual, a good crowd came to town. The Circuit Court was adjourned and banks and schools were closed for the time and the day observed as a general holiday.”
In the year 1897 on Southern Memorial Day at the cemetery the lofty monument and Confederate statue were dedicated. The date selected for the dedicated was June 10 because it was the 25th anniversary day of the formation of the Southern Memorial Association. An estimated crowd of 10,000 people assembled for this all-day celebration. Mrs. Lizzie Pollard, first president of the SMA unveiled the monument. The statesman J. Vol Walker delivered the formal speech of dedication. He concluded with these words: “We stand here in peace today, with respect and without reproach for the Union soldier, with love and without apology for the Confederate, to do honor to the memory of our dead. “Mr. Walker’s scholarly and eloquent address climaxed the greatest of all Confederate Memorial days in the history of Fayetteville” stated Rowena Galloway in her history of the SMA.
The 1900 procession to the Confederate Cemetery to celebrate Southern Memorial Day:
On a cloudy day, June 3, 1903, the first memorial service was held after placing the new marble markers. Confederate veterans who attended placed evergreen wreaths upon the graves of their comrades. Col. Charles Coffin of Walnut Ridge was the guest speaker and even when it began to rain and he wanted to stop, his audience cried out, “Go on, we want to hear you!”
Confederate Veterans’ reunion and Decoration Day, Confederate Cemetery, Fayetteville, 1900s. Burch Grabill, photographer. Courtesy Shiloh Museum of Ozark History/Robert G. Winn Collection (S-93-136-1)
Confederate Cemetery, Fayetteville, Early 20th Century Courtesy Shiloh Museum of Ozark History/Bob Besom Collection(S-83-6-15)
Fayetteville’s largest Southern Memorial Day in the 20th century was in the year 1929. Many came to hear Senator Joseph Robinson give the address on June 2nd. Eight different patriotic organizations were in the long procession which began at the Court House and made its way to the Confederate Cemetery at the top of Rock Street.
During the 1940s the memorial services took the form of a Sunday vesper service at 4 o’clock and this type of service continued until the 1990s when the officers of the association decided to schedule the memorial service on Saturdays when more people would be able to attend. Since then the Southern Memorial Day was established to take place every first Saturday of the month of June at 10 o’clock in the morning.
Southern Memorial Days continue on into the 21st century in very much the same way as they have always been celebrated. Although the crowd that gathers is much smaller, it nonetheless carries on the remembrance and reverence for the Confederate soldiers who lay at rest in the Confederate Cemetery. A guest speaker is invited to the service. Flowers are strewn at the monument and each of the over 600 gravestones is honored with a small battle flag. Confederate re-enactors fire a gun salute. Hymns are sung and, of course, “Dixie” is always the concluding song.
Scenes below from the Confederate Memorial Ceremony in 2018 showing gun salute, taps, and the traditional placing of flowers and petals at the monument.