Memorializing An Enormous Sacrifice

Patrick McCorkle
3 min readMay 29, 2023

3,000,000/66,000 = 45.5.

The population (as of July 2022) of my hometown of Oshkosh, Wisconsin would have to be multiplied nearly 46 times in order to reach 3 million, the rough number of U.S. military killed or wounded in war since the country’s inception in 1776.

I estimate that I have met between a few hundred and a couple thousand people in Oshkosh over my 32 years of on and off living here. I cannot fathom meeting everyone in the city, and then doing that again 46 more times.

Put another way, Wisconsin’s population was about 5.9 million in July of 2022. Imagine half of the state getting either killed or wounded. 1 out every 2 people would be gone or injured.

So many have sacrificed so much. It’s a very sobering thought.

USA Today has an excellent piece diving into the statistics of Memorial Day.

Over 150 years after it concluded, the American Civil War is still the deadliest conflict in the nation’s history. 750,000 Union and Confederate soldiers perished in its four years, almost double the 350,000 American casualties in World War II (WWII). If you control for active duty deaths per 100,000 citizens, then the casualty rate of the Civil War was 6 times that of WWII.

Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day) began with local observances. On April 26th, 1866 the Ladies’ Memorial Association in Columbus, Georgia threw flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. When they arrived at the cemetery, the ladies were disturbed to find the Union graves abandoned and spread flowers on both them and Confederate graves alike. In an era before the Internet, TV or radio, members sent a letter to newspapers across the country, hoping that the commemoration would become a regular occurrence.

Union General John A. Logan formally founded the holiday with his “General Order №11” on May 5, 1868. The entire order is worth reading, but I will quote a portion below:

“Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism or avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic. If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remains in us.”

On May 31st, 1999 the first National Moment of Remembrance was established, encouraging Americans to pause their activities at 3pm on Memorial Day and reflect for a full minute about those who had died or got wounded in service to the nation.

3pm has already passed, but I encourage you to pause for a minute or longer throughout the day. General Logan’s passage wouldn’t take longer than a minute to read.

I will close with a few lines inspired by General Logan.

Let us all tread with respect on the hallowed grounds of fallen warriors.

Let us all provide pleasant paths for reverent visitors and found mourners.

Let us all not permit any vandalism, avarice or neglect of the graves of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Let us all never forget the cost of freedom and a free, undivided republic as long as life’s warmth remains within us.

Let us educate posterity as to the purposes of this day, so that it is commemorated as long as this country stands.

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Patrick McCorkle

I am a young professional with keen interests in politics, history, foreign languages and the arts.