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United Confederate Veterans

UNITED CONFEDERATE VETERANS

UNITED CONFEDERATE VETERANS. The United Confederate Veterans (UCV) was organized at New Orleans, Louisiana on 10 June 1889. Fifty-two delegates representing nine Confederate veterans' organizations elected General John B. Gordon of Georgia as their first commander in chief, a position that he held until his death in 1904. The military type of command was elaborated at Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1890, with authority over the Trans-Mississippi and East of Mississippi departments. In 1894 the latter was reorganized as the departments of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee; the Division of the Northwest was added at a later date. The basic constitution and bylaws were adopted at Houston, Texas in 1895.

In January 1893 Sumner A. Cunningham began monthly publication at Nashville, Tennessee of the Confederate Veteran, which became the unofficial organ of the UCV and other Confederate societies until its demise in December 1932. By 1899 it enjoyed a circulation of more than twenty thousand, a modest number in view of the 1903 estimate of 246,000 living Confederate veterans—of whom 47,000 were active and 35,000 inactive members of 1,523 UCV camps.

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.

Despite the UCV's defense of secession and slavery, it enjoyed increasingly warm relations with Union veterans' organizations, particularly the GAR. By focusing on shared battlefield heroics and martial virtues rather than on the political and racial issues at stake in the Civil War, the UCV and the GAR found common ground. Beginning in the 1880s in New Orleans, Union and Confederate veterans held joint reunions, which soon spread throughout the nation. The UCV reached its zenith about 1907, when 12,000 members paraded past 200,000 viewers in Richmond, Virginia. In July 1913 the UCV and the GAR held a joint reunion at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the famous Battle of Gettysburg.

Death and infirmities effected rapid reductions in subsequent annual attendance at UCV reunions, and the last was held at Norfolk, Virginia on 30 May 1951. During the twentieth century the work of the UCV was carried on by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, organized as the direct heir to the UCV in 1896.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Connelly, Thomas L. The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Foster, Gaines M. Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865 to 1913. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Gaston, Paul M. The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Myth-making. New York: Knopf, 1970.

Osterweis, Rollin G. The Myth of the Lost Cause, 1865–1900. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1973.

Hugh BucknerJohnston/a. g.

See alsoAppomattox ; Grand Army of the Republic ; New Orleans Riots ; Sons of the South ; United Daughters of the Confederacy ; White Citizens Councils .

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