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Memorial Day and the American Civil War

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The tradition of Memorial Day began after the American Civil War in 1868 to honor the more than 600,000 men who gave their lives during that war. Since that time, the tribute to our fallen veterans has grown to include all of the men and women of the armed forces who gave their lives for our country.

Children placing flags on tombstones at the Santa Fe National cemetery on Memorial Day.

The Civil War was fought in New Mexico at the Battle of Glorieta twenty miles southeast of Santa Fe. The two-day battle began on March 26, 1862 and is known in history as the “Battle of Gettysburg of the West.” Captain Rafael Chacon of New Mexico had an active role in leading the troops during the battle at Glorieta.

New Mexico’s Captain Rafael Chacon

The Santa Fe National Cemetery was created after the Civil War. Remains of both Union and Confederate soldiers that died during the historic battle at Glorieta can be found at the national cemetery. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe donated the land to the federal government in 1870. In 1885 the 78.5 -acre burial ground became a national cemetery on the north side of Santa Fe adjacent to Rosario Cemetery. Close to 65,000 soldiers from around the state are buried at Santa Fe’s National Cemetery.

Memorial Day is observed annually on the last Monday in May. In Santa Fe and throughout the country ceremonies take place to honor our fallen veterans. American flags and flowers are places at grave sites to commemorate the men and women who valiantly gave of their lives to ensure our nation’s freedom.