Charleston: Home of the first Memorial Day in 1865 to honor the Union dead

Image by Flickr user Matito

As we mark the Civil War sesquicentennial, here's a pair of surprises for you: not only was the first Memorial Day held in Charleston on the cusp of the Civil War, but it was held explicitly to honor the Union dead.

See, on May 1, 1865, a crowd of as many as 10,000 (mostly black) people gathered at what today is Hampton Park to mark "The Martyrs of the Race Course." In the final months of the war, the old horse race course had been converted into a rather unsavory Confederate prison where some 267 soldiers perished. 

That's where I'll pause and shoot you over to the Associated Press report; read it here.