United Confederate Veterans

Confederate Veterans

Prior to 1889, Confederate veterans had no national organization similar to the Grand Army
of the Republic. Several separate fraternal and memorial groups existed on a local and regional level. Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1889, several of these groups united and formed the United Confederate Veterans Association.
The organization was founded to serve as a benevolent, historical, social and literary association. The UCV was active well into the 1940s. Its final reunion was held in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1951.

The primary functions of the organization were to provide for widows and orphans of former Confederate soldiers, preserve relics and mementos, care for disabled former soldiers, preserve a record of the service of its members, and organize reunions and fraternal gatherings. At its height, membership in the organization was approximately 160,000 former Confederate soldiers organized into 1,885 local camps. A privately produced magazine called Confederate Veteran was popular with UCV members, with articles about events during the war and providing a forum for lost comrades to locate one another.

The organizational structure of the UCV was based on a military-style hierarchy with a national headquarters, three departments, divisions within those departments, and finally the local camps. The national officers were at first known as “Generals Commanding” and later as “Commander-in-Chief.” Commanders were not based on the actual rank of the veteran while in service. Commanders-in-Chief ranged from former generals to former privates. Former Confederate General John Brown Gordon was the first commander of the UCV in 1890, holding this position until his death in 1904, when he was succeeded by Stephen D. Lee. Later commanders included former generals Clement A. Evans, William L. Cabell and George W. Gordon.

Contrary to the example of the older and larger Union veterans’ organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the UCV asked surprisingly little from the state governments during its period of greatest growth and political power (1890–1910) while maintaining a general policy that Confederate veterans would not accept financial assistance of a personal nature from the U.S. government. Nevertheless, it supported the congressional acts of 1900 and 1906 for the inclusion in the federal cemetery system of the care of 30,152 Confederate graves near Northern battlefields and military prisons.

Between 1892 and 1899 the UCV waged throughout the South a successful campaign against the use of public school textbooks that they deemed pro-Northern or anti Southern. In particular, the UCV promoted histories of the Civil War that portrayed secession as a constitutional measure and that described the Confederacy as an honorable effort to preserve American liberty. In the decades following Reconstruction, the UCV and its sister organization, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, stood as the preeminent champions of the Lost Cause. The UCV insisted that slavery had not been a cause of the Civil War (or War Between the States, as the UCV typically described the conflict), and it adamantly defended the racial order of the Old South.

United Confederate Veterans Reunion

Little Rock (Pulaski County) hosted the twenty-first annual United Confederate Veterans
Reunion on May 16–18, 1911. The reunion drew more than 140,000 people, including
approximately 12,000 veterans, making it the largest event in Little
Rock history.

The United Confederate Veterans (UCV) formed in 1889 with a goal of keeping alive the memory of the men who fought for the South during the Civil War and to bring national attention to the needs of the aging veterans. The annual reunion was one of the group’s major projects, and towns across the country vied to host the event.

Judge William M. Kavanaugh chaired Little Rock’s planning committee for the event. Subcommittees arranged for lodging, food, special events, and entertainment for the veterans. The committees arranged for set rates at hotels and restaurants, created additional lodging at schools and private homes, and created special barracks and tent camps.

An estimated 6,000 veterans were expected to attend the reunion. The city erected a veterans’ camp at the City Park (now MacArthur Park). The camp was named for Mena (Polk County) native Confederate Colonel Robert Glenn “Fighting Bob” Shaver of the Seventh Arkansas Infantry, and Shaver served as commander of the camp during the reunion. Accommodations at Camp Shaver were arranged by state, division, and corps to expedite the attendees reuniting with old friends.

Events at the reunion included speeches by Little Rock Mayor Charles E. Taylor and Arkansas Governor George W. Donaghey. Various groups in Little Rock provided entertainment and special events, including receptions, arcades, dances, hot air balloon rides, plus the dedication at City Park of a statue honoring the Capital Guards. The high point of the reunion occurred at 10:00 a.m. on May 18 when the official parade began. The parade route ran from the Old State House at Markham and Center Streets to City Park and back again and took two tours to pass by any single point.

The reunion concluded that evening at the end of the Veterans’ Ball, which approximately 5,800 people attended.

Little documentary information is available about the reunion, but it was featured in newspaper articles and recorded in a series of postcards done by local photographers. These postcards, which include scenes of Camp Shaver and of the city decorated with Confederate banners and portraits of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, are very popular among collectors.

Confederate Veterans

The meeting of the Confederate Veterans in Jacksonville, Florida on May 6-8 1914 represented the twenty-fourth annual Reunion of Confederate survivors.  The veterans and their friends were introduced to a city and community proud and loyal to the ideals of the Old South.  Not only the hotels and boarding houses, but private homes as well, were open to the Reunion delegates and visitors to care for all that came.  Jacksonville’s people met the Confederate Veterans at the train depots on arrival to extend the hand of welcome and show them to their temporary homes and looked after their comfort and pleasure while guests of the city.  The assurance of welcome was given by Governor Park Trammell in a proclamation stating that Florida has never been laggard in loyalty to the Southern Cause or to the Southern Veterans.  At the time the state of Florida paid out more money per capita for support of dependant ex-Confederate soldiers than any other Southern state.  Florida was not only caring for the living but the memory of the dead was also being kept green.  In the state there were more than twenty Confederate monuments erected by public and private means; a home for ex-Confederate soldiers was maintained in Jacksonville; two Confederate monuments had been erected there, and the monument to the Women of the Confederacy was
dedicated during the next year in Confederate Park.

The Confederate Veteran
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In addition to national meetings, another prominent factor contributed to the growth and popularity of the UCV. This was a monthly magazine which became the official UCV organ, the Confederate Veteran. Founded as an independent publishing venture in January 1893, by Sumner Cunningham, the UCV adopted it the following year. Cunningham personally edited the magazine for twenty-one years and bequeathed almost his entire estate to insure its continuance. The magazine was of a very high quality and circulation was wide. Many veterans penned recollections or articles for publication in its pages. Readership always greatly exceeded circulation because numerous camps and soldiers’ homes received one or two copies for their numerous occupants. An average of 6500 copies were printed per issue during the first year of publication, for example, but Cunningham estimated that fifty thousand people read the twelfth issue