May 25, 2004
Colonial Williamsburg Memorial Day ceremonies honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice
Memorial Day is much more than the unofficial start of summer or a time for gathering friends and family for cookouts or a day at the beach. In truth, it is a day set aside to honor all military personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this nation. Colonial Williamsburg will pay tribute to those who gave their lives for our liberties at 10 a.m. Monday, May 31 at the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.
The hour-long ceremony begins in front of the Governor’s Palace to recognize the graves of 140 Revolutionary War dead with music by Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums, cannon salutes fired by costumed colonial militia and a Revolutionary War-era honor guard. During the 1781 siege of Yorktown, the Governor’s Palace served as a Continental Army field hospital.
Following placement of a memorial wreath at the plaque marking the graves of soldiers who died of wounds sustained during the siege, participants march on Palace Green to Bruton Parish Church. There, a wreath is offered to a representative of Bruton Parish Church, who will lead prayers in memory of the war dead interred in the churchyard, followed by musket salutes fired by the militia.
The ceremonies continue with a march down Duke of Gloucester Street to the Courthouse where all of the service members who have died in all 20th- and 21st- century conflicts will be recognized. The final stop in the march will be the gravesites near the Williamsburg Inn of French allies killed at the Battle of Yorktown. Following a declaration of appreciation for the French soldiers’ aid in the final victory of the American Revolution, a third wreath is laid and a militia artillery crew fires three final salutes.
In keeping with the Civil War-era origin of Memorial Day, women place the memorial wreaths at each location. The public is encouraged to attend and participate in the ceremony honoring the nation’s fallen soldiers.
Lorraine C. Brooks