How Memorial Day Inspired Family Travel

How Memorial Day Inspired Family Travel


What does Memorial Day and family travel have to with each other? Well, let me tell you. Memorial Day is a day that we remember those who died in the American armed forces. The federal holiday started after the American Civil War, when Union veterans would decorate the graves of their fallen comrades. Originally called Decoration Day, it soon spread to include all fallen soldiers across the American military branches. The history buff that I am, my own family history has always been extremely intriguing to me and thanks to some research I’ll share with you how Memorial Day inspired family travel.

Andersonville, Georgia:

Andersonville, Georgia. A historic site in the southwest of the state, admittedly has not been on the top of my travel bucket list. A memorial to American prisoners of war, Andersonville is the only park in the National Park System of its kind. According to Congress legislation, Andersonville is “to provide an understanding of the overall prisoner of war story of the Civil War, to interpret the role of prisoner of war camps in history, to commemorate the sacrifice of Americans who lost their lives in such camps, and to preserve the monuments located within the site.”

Discovering Family History:

I’ve always been told stories of various family members’ services to our country. I’ve had family in every branch of the military and have heard many of their personal stories. My Grandpa Grouch, who served in the Air Force teased me about the existence of tiny Aliens that crawl in kids’ ears. Yes, traumatizing, yet fascinating. I’ve heard about my Uncle Mike and Uncle Wendell’s close calls in Vietnam. My dad has told me his grandpa’s (my great grandpa Weir) stories from the Spanish American War. My dad as a child would touch the squishy part of his grandpa’s chest where a missing rib should be, a battle wound that became entertainment for grandchildren for years to come. The tales of amazing men go on and on in my family, but these men had not died in battle. The men I know and loved, lived to be veterans, but there has been a new discovery about my family that has inspired a new adventure.

Ties to the Civil War:

I have always been told I had a grandpa that served in the Civil War. I heard he died as a prisoner of war, but didn’t have his name or the name of the prison. These were gaps in my personal history that I have been hungry for years to discover. Well, now I have! Thanks to a friend of my dad, his hobby is to research ancestry and he started to see what he could find out about my dad’s side. Within a day, I had the information I have wanted to know all my life. I learned that it was my Great-Great-Great Grandpa who fought in the Civil War for the Union. He was about 37 years old when he joined the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry also known as the Irish Dragoons. Sadly, he was wounded in battle and taken as a prisoner of war where he died of Scorbutus (scurvy) in 1864.

Memorial Day

13th Pennsylvania Cavalry Flag

I finally had a name and the name of the prison. His name was William and he died at Andersonville. I learned that my Great-Great Grandpa (Sam) was only 13 years old when his father died in the war. Interestingly, William’s best friend, also a Union soldier, ended up marrying his widow, my Great-Great-Great Grandma Elizabeth.

I now have names, places, stories, and history – my history. This discovery has made the stories more painful and more real. In light of this new information, Memorial Day has a new meaning for me. Memorializing a fallen soldier I have never met, yet feel strongly connected. A soldier that fell during the war that is responsible for creating the holiday we celebrate today.

Family Travel Inspired:

I have a location as well as where his tombstone rest, and now I know where I want to visit next Memorial Day. Most likely I have a gentleman named Dorence Atwater to thank for this, because it was he who recorded a register of those who died at Andersonville. Before getting moved to action, he secretly copied the register of 13,000 names, which may be the reason I was able to find my Great-Great-Great Grandpa today.

This summer, I will be taking my family to Andersonville, Georgia as part of our #HotMamaDoesAmerica epic family road trip.  We will actually get to visit the grave of my fallen Great-Great-Great Grandpa William, a Union Soldier in the Civil War. Wow. Even saying that is a trip! I want us to take a photo by the gravestone that bares my surname; the name I have given to my daughter as a first name. I have been to many old graveyards and read the names of old tombstones, but never have I had a connection like this. What a moment it will be for my family; for my dad!

 Memorial Day

My Grandpa William’s Grave

For the kids:

I don’t go anywhere without my babies in tow and I know that a prisoner of war memorial may sound too somber of a destination for little ones, but let me spin it. I feel that is it important to expose our kids to the happenings of our world. With fear comes hate, with knowledge comes understanding.

Plus, Andersonville offers plenty of activities for kids to lighten up the day. There is the Junior Ranger program for kids 8 and over, where upon completion of activities, they receive an official Andersonville Junior Ranger badge and Key to Freedom patch. There is also the Travel Clara Barton activity, scouting activities and trading cards.

That’s A Wrap!

You don’t have to have a direct family connection to learn about war and those who have fallen. In fact, I encourage all of you to do something meaningful this Memorial Day. Watch a film or documentary. Visit a Memorial park. Do a little research, you never know what you might find hiding your own family history. One family name is how Memorial Day inspired family travel to Andersonville, Georgia. What will it inspire you to do?

Memorial Day is not about backyard barbecues and getting turned-up. It is about remembering those who fought and died for their country, for their families, for you.

Do you have stories of fallen soldiers in your family? Please share.

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Memorial Day

18 Comments
  1. avatar image

    An amazing story! Love hearing about family history. Despite the circumstances, it’s beautiful that Memorial Day has a new meaning for your and your family. Thank you to all those brave souls in your family for their service.

    Amanda

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      Hot Mama at May 31, 2016 Reply

      It was perfect timing for me to finally have this info. I made the day really special.

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    Kari Tonkin at May 30, 2016 Reply

    What an amazing connection to our American history! My family has not been in the US as long as the Civil War, but we traced ours thru Canada and back to parts of Europe. I’ve always dreamed of using genealogy as an excuse to visit Norway and France! 😁 Thanks for sharing this story!

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      Hot Mama at May 31, 2016 Reply

      Yeah, was lucky to find this information and now I’m hungry for more. Genealogy is a great excuse for travel, I use it all the time haha!

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    Jaynie Wall at June 3, 2016 Reply

    So cool that you found out more about your family history! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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      Hot Mama at June 5, 2016 Reply

      Yeah, it is always fun to feel connected to history.

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    Harmony, Momma To Go at May 29, 2017 Reply

    That’s an amazing story! I’m second gen American so no American military stories here…

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      Hot Mama at May 30, 2017 Reply

      But that’s exciting in itself. I would love to trace back my family pre-America

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    Bistra Yakimova at May 29, 2017 Reply

    I like how you combine your passion for history with family travel and with education for the children. That’s the right track, I believe. 🙂

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      Hot Mama at May 29, 2017 Reply

      I agree, and thank you! I think it is important to expose children not just to different cultures present, but to history as well.

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      Hot Mama at May 30, 2017 Reply

      Thanks. I think so too. The beauty of travel with a purpose.

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    Sheena at May 29, 2017 Reply

    This is my 1st Memorial Day in the US & I had no idea what it was about, so this was a timely post for me. Here in New York there are Fleet Week celebrations too

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      Hot Mama at May 30, 2017 Reply

      Always glad to share history. Everything is better with a story.

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    Elaine J Masters at May 29, 2017 Reply

    I remember visiting Gettysburg when I was a pre-teen and being so moved by all those who fought there and died. Wonderful that you were able to connect with family ties on the trip. Keep going!

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    Joe Baur at May 30, 2017 Reply

    Traveling was how I spent Memorial Day weekend as a kid, too. Great excuse to get out there!

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      Hot Mama at May 30, 2017 Reply

      Yes, I love when you can combine travel with learning some family history too.

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    Kevin Wagar at May 30, 2017 Reply

    It’s always such wild ride when you take a trip through your family history. That’s awesome that you got to find these details and fill some of the holes.

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at May 30, 2017 Reply

      Yeah, I love finding out new things about my family’s history.

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