Confederate Veteran Organizations
Confederate veteran organizations were formed to alleviate and address many of the challenges facing former soldiers and their communities in the aftermath of the Civil War (1861-65). The objectives of these organizations included burying and commemorating dead soldiers; caring for cemeteries; providing aid to widows, orphans, and indigent veterans; and preserving the Confederate interpretation of the war's history (often referred to as Lost Cause ideology).
These organizations later served an important social function by helping veterans maintain ties to those with whom they had served, both through reunions and through such magazines as Confederate Veteran, which was founded in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1893 and published until 1932.
A number of local organizations were established in the late 1870s and throughout the 1880s. In 1878 Augusta-area veterans formed the Confederate Survivors' Association (CSA), under the leadership of Stewart County native Clement Evans. Like many of the other early veteran groups, the CSA sought to encourage friendship among veterans, to protect memories of the past, to promote the practice of "manly virtues," and to provide for sick and indigent veterans. Despite these broadly defined objectives, the CSA functioned primarily as a memorial society in its early years.
The Fulton County Confederate Veteran's Association formed on April 20, 1886, at the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta. Originally consisting of 182 members, the organization was led by a mission similar to that of the Augusta association and in addition sought to compile a "true" history of the war as its members had known it. The association's earliest members included such "first
In addition to his affiliation with the Fulton County Confederate Veteran's Association, Grady was heavily involved in the early stages of developing a Confederate soldiers' home for veterans. Grady's sudden death in 1889 and the subsequent political controversy over the site of the home led to a decade-long struggle to secure legislative approval for the project, which had by then been embraced by other veterans' and women's organizations. The home finally opened in Atlanta on June 3, 1901, the birthday of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, with forty "gray hair remnants" from twenty-six Georgia counties moving in. Though the building was destroyed by fire three months later, a new home was built and opened a year later. It remained standing until 1967 and ultimately housed around 1,200 Georgia veterans over the course of its existence.
The United Confederate Veterans
In 1896 male descendants of veterans organized their own association independent of the UCV. The organization was originally called the United Sons of Confederate Veterans, but concern that it might be confused with the United States Colored Volunteers, which shared the acronym USCV, led its members to drop "United" to become the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).
Over the history of the UCV, annual national reunions were held in nearly thirty cities, almost all in the South. In addition, "Blue-Gray," or combined, reunions of Confederate and Union veterans were held several times. These were encouraged by John B. Gordon and others as an effective means of demonstrating reconciliation between the North and the South. Individual states also held their own UCV division reunions, at which delegates to the national reunions were elected. While Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Richmond, Virginia, hosted the greatest number of national reunions, Atlanta hosted them in 1898, 1919, and 1941, with an additional Blue-Gray reunion there in 1900. Macon, the only other city in Georgia to host a national reunion, held the 1912 event.
Attendance at Confederate reunions began to diminish by the early twentieth century. The last national UCV reunion was held in 1951 in Norfolk, Virginia. At the time, only twelve Confederate veterans were known to be living. Three attended the reunion, including William Joshua Bush from Fitzgerald.
One particular area in which the UCV took great interest was the remembrance and interpretation of the war. Members of the UCV's history committee sought to recognize those books that they believed treated the Confederacy fairly and to condemn those that did not. In 1892, for example, the UCV approved only nine texts, all written by southerners, as appropriate for use in southern classrooms. The UCV denounced history books that depicted Confederates as rebels or traitors and lobbied textbook companies to use the phrase "Civil War between the states" instead of "war of rebellion."
David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001).
Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865 to 1913 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).
Kathleen Gorman, "When Johnny Came Marching Home Again: Confederate Veterans in the New South" (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Riverside, 1994).
Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, The Making of a Southerner (1947; reprint, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991).
Cecilia Elizabeth O'Leary, To Die For: The Paradox of American Patriotism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999).
R. B. Rosenburg, "The House That Grady Built: The Fight for the Confederate Soldiers' Home of Georgia," Georgia Historical Quarterly 74 (fall 1990): 399-432.
William W. White, The Confederate Veteran (Tuscaloosa, Ala.: Confederate Publishing Company, 1962).
Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980).
Franklin C. Sammons Jr., University of Georgia
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