PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Dozens of people marched through Laurel Hill Cemetery in East Fairmount Park, yesterday, laying wreaths on the graves of Civil War soldiers in a re-creation of Philadelphia’s oldest Memorial Day ceremony.

The first official Memorial Day was celebrated May 30, 1868, following a proclamation from the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. That day, members of the GAR marched through Laurel Hill decorating soldiers’ graves.

memorialday laurelhill2 loeb Historic Society Re Creates Philadelphias Oldest Memorial Day Ceremony

(Credit: Pat Loeb)

“We try to follow the old traditions of the grand army, we’re following in their footsteps,” says Andie Waskie, the emcee of this year’s event and a member of the George Meade Society, which honors the memory of the Union general — one of 42 buried in Laurel Hill.

The main event was a ceremony at the scenic spot where General George Meade is buried. The Meade Society is one of the chief sponsors of the event, but several veterans groups participate, along with historic re-enactors who fired single shot muskets at each grave.

The society’s secretary, Michael Wunsch, says it’s important to keep the tradition going, “It’s the way that the country lives its past and the way that the country remembers and the way that we bare that memory today is of utmost importance.”

Reported by Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio 1060

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