Louisiana History

 

  

Published quarterly by the

 

  

Louisiana Historical Association

 

 

In cooperation with

 

 

The Center for Louisiana Studies

 

Of

 

The University of Southwestern Louisiana

 

 

(The following article is reprinted by the Young-Sanders Center with

Permission granted by the Louisiana Historical Association and

The Center for Louisiana Studies)

 

 

_________

 

Volume XVI, No. 1

Winter 1975

Pages 5-37

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The United Confederate

Veterans in Louisiana

By: Herman Hattaway

Department of History

University of Missouri-Kansas City

Kansas City, Missouri

 

 

            The Youthful experiences of a generation may remain forever in a whole people’s memory, poignantly recalled touchstones that determine thereafter the entire course and shape of their lives. So it was with those Southerners who fought the Civil War; “in youth a fire touched upon their hearts,” and for them the conflict became an epic. During their mature and later years, old men in gray—the former Confederate soldiers—moved by their nostalgia, banded together to share wartime recollections and to work toward certain goals. In 1889 they formed a fraternal organization, The United Confederate Veterans (UCV). Thus in their lives did the war last for nearly one hundred years, reminding one of the popular 1918 saying which predicted for World War I a few years of fighting and more than ninety of “rolling up the barbed wire.”1

          The UCV came into being at New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 10, 1889. That the veterans waited for nearly a quarter of a century to form this organization has intrigued historians. (The Northern Grand Army of the Republic sprang up in Illinois in 1866 and, although it remained small until the 1880s, it spread rapidly throughout the country.)2 Varied theories explain the long Southern delay; the consensus emphasizes real or feared Northern intimidation, introspection and timidity, and widespread difficult

 

 

 

1          Dixon Wecter, When Johnny comes Marching Home (Cambridge, 1944), 3.

2          Mary R. Dearing, Veterans in Politics: The Story of the G.A.R. (Baton Rouge, 1952).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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struggles for survival—killing Confederate incentives to commemorate the conflict.3

          Nevertheless, this matter of being late to organize really is irrelevant. Some Southern veterans began formal associations within months after Appomattox; a few of Louisiana’s did so in January 1866.4 Ex-Confederate soldier’s preferred local or regional associations, shunning centralization. For several decades after the UCV began, other Southern veterans’ groups continued their separate existence—and UCV members, frequently threatened to, and sometimes did, secede from the united organization. Southern veterans’ orders reflected the society from which they sprang. The point that does have historical significance is that the UCV formed, and functioned, until the last veterans died in the 1950s

          Numerous factors contributed to the UCV’s creation; psychological pressures of living in defeat, widespread impoverishment of some veterans and their families, and the failure of individual relief efforts. Group efforts evolved to provide burials, care for widows and orphans, and aid for the needy. The New Orleans Washington Artillery began benevolent work in 1866. Company sized associations formed (more for friendship than for need in some instances), wherever whole units had mustered from a single locality. Other veterans began parish-wide organizations which proliferated during the 1870s and 1880s.5

          A few regional groups also formed, only some of them exclusively

 

 

3          Wecter, When Journey Comes Marching Home, 252-53; Paul H. Buck, The Road to Reunion 1865-1900 (Boston, 1937), 241; Allen P. Tankersley, John B. Gordon: A Study in Gallantry (Atlanta, 1955), 368; and William White, The Confederate Veteran (William Stanley Hoole, ed., Confederate Centennial Studies, XXII, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1962), 26. Perhaps the most carefully reasoned arguments emphasize a “cautious testing of Northern reacton.”

4          George H. Tichenor, “Sketch of Memorial Hall,” in New Orleans States, May 8, 1897. This important and useful reminiscence by an active member of the UCV sheds much light upon  the early centralized veterans’ organizations, especially in Louisiana. I am now at work completing  a book-length history of the United Confederate Veterans. This paper, an intensive look at the organization in one state, reveals key interrelationships among certain veterans and the larger society, which prompted my present microcosmic study. No doubt an article or thesis on the UCV in each individual state would yield enlightening data on various social and local topics.

5          White, The Confederate Veteran, 19 and ff., names and discusses a number of them.

 

 

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veteran in membership. Very important among the mixed groups was the Southern Historical Society, founded at New Orleans in May 1869. Later to publish its important Papers, this society fell under a strong Virginia domination and moved its headquarters to Richmond in 1873.6 It never affiliated with the UCV, although it remained cordial and supportive toward veterans in general. Its removal from Louisiana later influenced reaction from other veterans.

          Foremost among the all-veteran regional societies were the Associations of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee. The first grew out of an effort to raise a monument to Robert E. Lee. Begun during the year of his death, 1870, the R. E. Lee Monument Association eventually erected the statue at Lee Circle in New Orleans. Headed by an executive committee chaired by William N. Pendleton and with a general officer from each Confederate state, the group decided to continue its existence as a fraternity, ostensibly Southside in scope. The generals, and a staff of assistants, set out to organize “divisions” within their respective states. Only the Virginia and Louisiana  divisions ever attained much prominence; nevertheless, the organization grew strong in those states and it enjoyed some success in achieving its goals.

          By 1877 other veterans in Louisiana began the Army of Tennessee Association. Its one hundred five original members chose General Pierre G. T. Beauregard to be president, and launched some ambitious projects. The “Hood Relief Fund,” to aid the destitute family of General John B. Hood following his death in 1879, brought the two army associations in the Pelican State together for the first of several joint endeavors. In one such venture they established a Confederate soldiers’ home, staging a sham battle that netted over $7,000 to purchase a site and erect the first buildings. Later, in 1882, the Louisiana legislature with the encouragement of Governor Francis T. Nicholls, responded to veteran requests and appropriated a yearly allowance. Thus ex-soldiers coming together for a specific purpose—to build a monument,

 

6          For more on this and a discussion of its impact within another context, see Thomas L. Connelly, “The Image and the General: Robert E. Lee in American Historiography,” in Civil War History, XVIX (March, 1973), 54.

 

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relieve an impoverished family, or whatever—often saw no reason to disband after accomplishing their particular initial goal. Many veterans belonged to two or more societies. Joiners became founders and perpetuated the process.

          Within the favorable setting provided by widely held attitudes of the late 1880s, the army associations came into conjunction with additional organizations to create the UCV. A wave of nostalgia swept the South: the “Cult of the Lost Cause” fed on romanticism and the rosy glow into which the Civil War era receded.7 This phenomenon was perhaps best symbolized by a renewed sympathy for Jefferson Davis who left his long and silent hermitage to make a series of public appearances. Thus the South became ready for the veterans and their organization.

          The spark struck first in Tennessee and then, more effectively, in Louisiana. In 1887, ten local Tennessee associations, called “bivouacs,” amalgamated into the Association of Confederate Soldiers, Tennessee Division: a secret order, with special grips, passwords, and a ritual, and overseen by a state hierarchy.8 In 1889 two more groups simultaneously developed in Louisiana: the Veteran Confederate States Cavalry and the Louisiana Historical Association.

          The cavalry association began at the instigation of Colonel George Moorman, the leader of a Kentucky cavalry regiment during the Civil War and later a successful New Orleans businessmen. Nearly one hundred ex-Confederate cavalrymen from thirteen states gathered in the Crescent City on February 13 and 14, 1889, where they voted unanimously for a permanent organization. As president, they elected Stephen D. Lee, the Civil War’s youngest Lieutenant general and at that time the president of the Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College. They also selected a vice president from each state represented, in most cases a former general. In his acceptance speech Lee explained that this was the first reunion of Confederates he had ever attended! “Something

 

7          C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 (Wendell Holmes Stephenson and E. Merton Coulter, eds., A History of the South, IX, Baton Rouge, 1961), 142-74.

8          William Robertson Garret, “Confederate Veterans, Organization of,” in Appleton’s Annual Cyclopedia, 1896, Third Series, 1 (New York, 1897), 136-38.  

 

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Took hold of me and my coming here was compelled by an irresistible impulse.”9 Many other veterans also felt the same urge.

          In Louisiana, feeling fermented around this propensity to unite and an uneasiness over the vacuum left by the removal to Richmond of the Southern Historical Society headquarters. Though the veterans might even approve of that society’s work to bolster the historical record of the war in Virginia, they also had an interest in their own exploits. The historically minded among them accumulated flags, relics, and papers and desired a suitable repository. On February 2, 1889, James B. Wilkinson, Jr., the corresponding secretary of the Army of Tennessee Association, issued a circular letter which resulted in the appointment of joint committees from other veteran groups and the founding in March, 1889, of the Louisiana Historical Association.

          Largely with monies given by Frank T. Howard (of the philanthropic Howard family which provided New Orleans with much aid for libraries and hospitals), it established Memorial Hall, now the Confederate Museum, on Camp Street. The state divisions of the other three regional veterans’ associations established headquarters there and also transferred to it, to the care of the Louisiana Historical Association, their large body of relics and papers.10

          Several veterans lay claim to conceiving the next step, though Captain Joseph F. Shipp, a longtime sheriff from Chattanooga, got the credit. On January 19, 1889, at a dinner in New Orleans where Jefferson Davis delivered a striking address, Shipp thought of a possible nationwide UCV. In later years, the organization recognized Shipp as its originator, but one Louisianian, Captain Leon Jastremski of Baton Rouge, disputed Shipp’s legitimacy as a founder. Jastremski claimed that several others conceived the UCV and that he himself had the idea in 1888, even personally suggesting the name United Confederate Veterans.11

          Beyond this, the UCV had no single organizer. Shipp, Jastremski, and others, representatives of six groups from Louisiana, three from Tennessee, and one from Mississippi—fifty one delegates from

 

9          New Orleans, Times-Democrat, February 14, 1889.

10        Tichenor, “Sketch of Memorial Hall,” in New Orleans States, May 9, 1897.

11        Leon Jastremski, in Confederate Veteran (40 volumes, Nashville, January, 1893—December, 1932), XII (September, 1904), 425.

 

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Memorial Hall

 

 

“Memorial Hall,” now the Confederate Museum on Camp Street in New Orleans.

 

 

 

Page 10

 

 

nine associations—gathered in New Orleans for the founding convention. Colonel Fred S. Washington, a New Orleanian, served as chairman of the local arrangements committee, and also presided over the meetings. A widely distributed broadside “To the Veteran Ex-Soldiers and Sailors of the Confederate States” urged that the various veterans’ societies in all Southern states participate.12 That so many smaller ones failed to respond, and especially the large organizations in Virginia, indicates the formidable tasks of persuasion the founders faced. Filled with zeal they began at once.

          After drafting a preliminary constitution, they selected a slate of officers and made plans to inaugurate a series of annual convention-reunions, the first to be held July 3, 4, and 5, 1890, at Chattanooga, Tennessee. The constitution proclaimed the UCV goals as “strictly social, literary, historical, and benevolent,”13 an eclectic statement which, combined with an overt avoidance of politics, rendered a wide appeal.

          UCV members always pointed proudly to their organization’s lack of political involvement. To the extent that it was uninvolved, this distinguished their group from the Grand Army of the Republic. But actually UCV elements occasionally did dabble in politics. Candidates for office sometimes campaigned at UCV functions (of course most such candidates were themselves members), and the organization sometimes used political tactics and pressure. The Southern veterans rationalized these activities as not being really political at all. They saw contests involving  a Confederate veteran as simple choices for the best man, and their specific goals such as state pensions, soldiers’ homes, and relief for the needy as humanitarian in nature, transcending politics.

          Interestingly, the UCV selected as its first commander-in-chief the former United States senator and then governor of Georgia, ex-Major General John B. Gordon. A member of the so-called

 

12        Clement A. Evans, Confederate Military History: A Library of Confederate States History…Written by Distinguished Men of the South, and Edited by Gen. Clement A. Evans (12 volumes, Atlanta, 1899), XII, 512b gives a complete account and lists the names of the delegates; see also the New Orleans Daily Picayune, June 11, 1889.

13        The constitution ultimately underwent several revisions, but these goals remained constant.

 

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“Georgia triumvirate” (Gordon, Joseph E. Brown, and Alfred H. Colquitt) which ran the state for two decades, Gordon epitomized the New South politician who capitalized upon his links with the Confederacy, to obtain not only political but also rich financial rewards. A popular idol in the nostalgia-ridden South, Gordo’s fame sprang from his having led a desperate last charge with his corps at Appomattox. Yet, however complex and self-serving his motives in taking the UCV reins, he served the group devotedly and well for the remainder of his life.

          Gordon appointed his friend and fellow Georgian, ex-Major General Clement A. Evans as the first UCV adjutant general and chief of staff. The two together did much to build the organization, but the greatest contributor in terms of new camps and new members was Evans’ successor, George C. Moorman of New Orleans. In one year (1891-1892) Moorman’s efforts increased the number of camps from 36 to 188.14

          The UCV adopted a mock-military structure. Members holding appropriate UCV “ranks” officered and staffed echelons of command from General Headquarters at the top to local camps (companies) at the bottom. The department level, corresponding to an army corps and headed by a UCV lieutenant general, remained primarily an administrative entity holding no meetings of its own. Next came the division, conforming in territory to state lines, commanded by major generals. States with many camps might divide into brigades; as Louisiana’s did late in 1897.15 Divisions and brigades usually held at least one annual meeting and sometimes were active within their respective states, but the centers of interest for the mass of the veterans were the local camps. Many camps acquired their own buildings or clubrooms which served as social centers, like American Legion Halls in many communities today, and these local units accomplished much of the UCV relief work.

          In reality some camps did not actually do very much at all, and generally the camps were nostalgia groups revering the “Lost

 

14        Evans (ed.), Confederate Military History, XII, 512b-512c; Confederate Veteran, XII (February, 1904), 55; ibid, XVII (April, 1910), 153. Evans became commander of the Georgia division.

15        J. Y. Gilmore to George Moorman, December 8, 1897, in UCV Papers, Department of Archives, Louisiana State University.

 

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 Cause.” Aside from holding regular meetings—often only monthly—they occasionally staged affairs, they sometimes launched benevolent projects, and they often attended or conducted funerals for their deceased fellows.16 Beyond that the typical veteran had an “other life of his own,” and UCV activity rarely occupied the largest portion of any member’s attention. The UCV was a club, nothing more or less, and yet it did have a unique nature. The camps represent a reciprocities manifestation of myth development. They existed as an outgrowth of emergent Southern attitudes toward the Civil War, and at the same time in both the veterans and in their sympathetic admirers they generated and intensified thought patterns of self-justification and rationalization.

          Louisiana and its veterans always retained a certain prominence within the UCV, although the state predated the larger organization in trends of waxing and waning. The state boasted six of the initial ten UCV camps, and five more of the next eight. By 1910 Louisiana contained sixty-seven camps, but also like the whole UCV, its older camps began dying before the last ones started operation. Even well-attended state conventions, especially after 1900, drew representatives from only twenty or thirty camps, but they sparkled considerable enthusiasm among the veterans who could be present. By 1908 no convention could be held for lack of quorum. Nevertheless tenacious members held on, lowered the quorum requirements, and continued reunions into the 1940s.17

          The Louisiana UCV generally enjoyed very capable leadership. The UCV’s commander-in-chief once remarked that the state had “possibly the most enthusiastic and best organized Division of Veterans in the organization.” (Obviously this referred more to

 

 16       The Louisiana camp whose records are most completely preserved and readily available for perusal is Leroy J. Stafford, Camp No. 3, UCV, of Shreveport. The Shreveport chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy sell complete sets of the records, which they admirably have indexed, on microfilm. Aside from supporting my conclusion here, the records are of value in genealogical research.

17        United Confederate Veterans, Organizations of the United Confederate Veterans, passim; United Confederate Veterans, Minutes of the Annual Convention and Reunion of the Louisiana Division, United Confederate Veterans, n.p., copies for 1914, 1915, 1916, 1922, and 1924 in my possession; The New Orleans Times Democrat, June 28, 1896; printed circular, January 14, 1909, in Louisiana Letterbook, UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives; Baton Rouge State Times, October 17, 1940.

 

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internal activity that to participation at state reunions.) Those responsible for this distinction partly achieved it through judicious staff appointments. Every section of the state got representation on the division staff, and sometimes strings were pulled so that key men might receive honorary appointment on the national general staff. The organization also reaped good publicity, for it included within its ranks men such as Page M. Baker, for twenty-one years the publisher of the New Orleans Times-Democrat.18

          Reunions, at whatever level, always stood as the most attractive  aspect of UCV membership. Louisiana hosted the national meetings on six occasions: at New Orleans in 1889, 1892, 1903, 1906, and 1923, and at Shreveport in 1936. In turn, the veterans responded with glowing compliments, like “we love you, Louisiana, where the stern blood of the Anglo-Saxon has been touched with the grace and the genius of France.”19 For the earlier gatherings especially, many veterans still remained hale and hearty—and the rebel yell rang out often in lighthearted activities. The old soldiers enjoyed good eating—the menus attest to some sumptuous feasts—drinking, fellowship, parades, dances, adulatory speeches, visits from dignitaries and honored figures of the Confederate period, and the charmed attention of younger admirers—especially the beautiful young girls selected as “sponsors.”

          Excitement sometimes reached high peaks. The Baton Rouge delegation of fifty veterans attracted much attention as it arrived for the 1895 convention with a woman member, Mrs. J. D. Waddell, a nurse during the war. Elsewhere, John B. Gordon’s mere appearance brought thundering applause and cheers. Estimates of the crowd that lined the New Orleans streets for the big parade in 1903 ranged from 250,000 to 500,000. many of the nearly 12,000 veterans at this gathering camped in tents pitched on the Fair Grounds.20

 

18        Stephen D. Lee to Ralston Green, undated letter, in Papers, Vicksburg Military Park Headquarters, Vicksburg, Mississippi; Headquarters, Louisiana Division, General Order No. 2, August 7, 1897, and W. R. Lyman to George Moorman, November 25, 1891, both in UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives; Confederate Veteran, XVIII (July, 1910), 338.

19        Confederate Veteran, XIV (June, 1906), 254.

20        Stephen D. Lee to William T. Rigby, May 26, 1903, in Papers, Vicksburg Military Park Headquarters; Peggy Mengis, “When the Rebel Yell Shook new Orleans,” Dixie Roto Magazine, in new Orleans Times-picayune, September 24, 1950. Interestingly, on several occasions the United States government lent the UCV tenting, bedding, and camp supplies from military stores.

 

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Louisiana Division, UCV, Major Generals

 

            Each reunion added its own bit of color, and sometimes its pathos. Occasionally men died during the parades, or found the travel too much to bear, as did James Dillion of Alexandria, Louisiana, on his way to the 1905 reunion.21 But those veterans whose

 

Name

Term

Residence

Rank

Age

William J. Behan

1891-92

New Orleans

2Lt.

19

John Glynn, Jr.

1892-93

New Orleans

Capt.

 

George O. Watts

1893-94

Alexandria

 

 

B. F. Eshleman

1894-95

New Orleans

Lt. Col.

33

William G. Vincent

1895-96

New Orleans

Col.

 

John McGrath

1896-97

Baton Rouge

Capt.

 

Edward H. Lombard

1897-98

New Orleans

1st Lt.

 

Will H. Tunnard

1898-99

Shreveport

Sgt.

 

John Y. Gilmore

1899-1900

New Orleans

Sgt.

24

Joseph A. Chalaron

1900

New Orleans

1st Lt.

25

George H. Packwood

1900-01

Clinton

Capt.

31

Leon Jastremski

1901-02

Baton Rouge

Capt.

21

John B. Levert

1902-03

New Orleans

Pvt.

 

Octavius A. Bullion

1903-04

Hope Villa

Pvt.

21

Andrew B. Booth

1904-05

New Orleans

Sgt.

17

 

1915-16

 

 

 

Albert Estopinal

1905-06

New Orleans

Sgt.

16

J. Alphonse Prudhom

1906-07

Bermuda P. O.

2nd Lt.

 

Thomas W. Castleman

1907-09

New Orleans

Pvt.

16

Thomas J. Shaffer

1909-15

Franklin

2nd Lt.

18

George H. Tichenor

1916-18

New Orleans

Ass. Surg.

24

Howell Carter

1918-19

Baton Rouge

2nd Lt.

 

O. D. Brooks

1919-22

St. Francisville

Pvt.

 

H. C. Rogers

1922-26

Shreveport

Capt.

18

L. W. Stephens

1927-31

Coushatta

Pvt.

13

William T. Laseter

1931

Shreveport

Capt.

17

L. D. Claiborne

1931-32

 

 

 

Gustave Mouton

1932

Lafayette

Sgt.

14

W. E. T. Ogletree

1932-34

Logansport

Pvt.

14

O. R. Gillette

1935-37

Shreveport

Pvt.

14

Joseph T. Young

1937-38

Baton Rouge

Pvt.

15

W. Clarke Stuart

1938-39

Farmersville

Pvt.

17

Thomas Loftus

1939-40

Plattenville

Pvt.

15

S. T. Seagraves

1940-42

Jennings

Pvt.

14

Alfred T. Fuller

1942-43

Dubach

Pvt.

 

 

 

21        Confederate Veteran, XXIII (September, 1905), 423.

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Program

 

 

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constitutions could withstand the strain never lost their zest. The twenty-seven men at the 1933 Louisiana Division reunion, all in their eighties and nineties, insisted upon rising to bow gallantly when addressed by a woman. In return, they rewarded themselves with “promotions.” When one aged veteran was greeted by someone as “colonel,” he arose indignantly and said, “call me general or call me nothing!”22 of course must all veterans who were alive at this late date actually had been privates.

          Reunions were expensive, but the veterans had no trouble persuading city councils, area businessmen, or police juries to raise the necessary monies. The publicity and incidental trade remained attractive while the veterans were numerous, and as their ranks dwindled the costs of entertaining them also grew less (although even as late as 1936 the Shreveport reunion cost $20,000). Then in the very last years, because passing time made them such curiosities, public interest increased. Mindful however that a good thing could be pushed too far, in 1903 the veterans gave notice “that they will not expect from their future hosts the splendid and lavish hospitality which has been poured out by New Orleans at this session and heretofore by other cities.”23

          Actually the veterans did expect a lot of special treatment—they got it. When some of the old me protested that the female sponsors received too great a share of the comforts and attentions, the UCV leadership adjusted accordingly. In another area, the railroads provided a rate discount, fares at one cent per mile to national reunions. The veterans wanted the same courtesy for trips to state reunions too, but the railroads balked at this, although Louisianians did secure round-trip privileges for the price of a one-way ticket.24 But it was from their allied organizations, especially the Sons of Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy, that the veterans reaped the greatest affection and ministration.

          From the first the Daughters distinguished themselves in devotion, and the old warriors responded with deference and praise.

 

22        Baton Rouge State Times, October 19, 1933.

23        L. W. Stephens to Winnie Booth Kernman, January 5, 1935, in UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives; Confederate Veteran, XII (February, 1904), 55.

24        Headquarters Louisiana Division, General Orders No. 8, August 21, 1909, in UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives.

 

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“While the soldiers of the Confederacy suffered physically,” the Louisiana Division commander proclaimed in 1898, “the mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of the men who wore the grey endured mental tortures which words cannot express, and oft-times great physical suffering…” He urged that the “Spartan woman of the South, and their descendents, should now thoroughly organize.”25 (Thus did the UCV spawn this and other ancillary groups which still exist).

          Among the activities of the Daughters, the veterans enjoyed none more than the ceremonies bestowing “Crosses of Honor,” plain bronze badges denoting honorable Confederate military service, which could be worn by the recipients at all times. For many old soldiers, the bits of metal became beloved possessions, displayed proudly. In Louisiana the ceremonies took place in conjunction with the commemoration of some special day, as in 1904 on the forty-second anniversary of Shiloh or in 1913 on Memorial Day.26

          The UCV-UDC relationship had its lighter aspects too. The veterans especially cherished all contact with Mrs. Jefferson Davis and her daughter Varina Anne (“Winnie”), whom they called “the Daughter of the Confederacy,” since she had been born during the Civil War. On March 1, 1899, the Louisianians shared a momentous event when Mrs. Davis held a reception for them at the St. Charles Hotel.27

          More typically, the veterans enjoyed the Daughters at social affairs; women helped with meals, and later the ladies assisted in running the camps by performing clerical duties. Always in evidence at the reunions, they added a charm and grace to the affairs which grizzled warriors never produced alone. Certain young ladies stood out, as Louisville’s Little Laura Talbot Galt who became a beloved Southern heroine for refusing to join her schoolmates in singing “Marching Through Georgia”; or Mollie C. Blanchard, a pretty New Orleanian who sang a special version of “Dixie,” successfully inducing the UCV to return to the Crescent

 

25        Headquarters Louisiana Division, General Orders No. 7, January 8, 1898, repository cited above.

26        Confederate Veteran, XII (August, 1904) 377; and XXI (June, 1913), 294.

27        New Orleans Picayune, March 2, 1899.

 

 

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City for the 1906 reunion. No veteran could oppose the selection of New Orleans, the Louisiana promotes boasted, when they heard this beautiful girl sing “com ‘way down in Dixie Land.”28

          On the whole the UCV was a predictably typical veterans’ society, but a few exceptions stand out, and the most remarkable was the participation of several Negroes. Although not authorized by the national membership standards, some camps admitted black members while others at least allowed unofficial association of Negroes who had aided the Confederacy—as many had. One black man attending the 1903 New Orleans reunion had fought with Company F, 12th Louisiana. Two former slaves, Pompey Brice and Peter Williams, traveled with the Arcadia delegation to that same reunion and posed with the other thirty-three men and women for the souvenir group photograph. Later, in 1936, a number of former slaves who had accompanied their masters in battle as body servants attended the Shreveport reunion, some dressed in Confederate uniforms.29

          A variety of motivational factors underpinned this black-white rapprochement. Economic deprivation may have forced many negroes into an obsequious role in order to gain a few crumbs of favor, especially in the 1930s during the Great Depression. The veterans themselves no doubt basked in a paternalistic image, and considered it a certain balm to the hurts of the Lost Cause to demonstrate that they loved the Negro, indeed had always loved him. But more accurately to the point: for the veterans “the Negro’s place” did not mean total isolation and degradation. Second-Class citizenship involved some aspects of friendship and mutual concern—even limited forms of social interaction.

          In another area, the veterans appeared strikingly well reconstructed: national loyalty. Particularly in 1898, when Spanish-American War fever swept the country, the UCV poured out a plethora of patriotic proclamations. A few veterans offered their

 

28        Unidentified clipping in Louisiana Letterbook, UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives

29        Mengis, “When the Rebel Yell Shook New Orleans,” Dixie Roto Magazine, in New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 24, 1950; Bienville Democrat, November 13,1958; New York Times, June 28, 1936.

 

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own service, but mostly more soberly pledged those of their sons. Only a handful of Confederate veterans actually returned to the military, the most notable being General Joseph Wheeler, but the whole organization stood solidly behind President William McKinley. In Louisiana, the New Orleans camps took the lead in generating resolutions proclaiming support.30 But not just during the 1890s, the veterans consistently maintained this kind of attitude. While normally silent on national political questions, when they did speak out they supported the administration in office. For example, during its October 1933 reunion, the Louisiana State Division declared full confidence in President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal policies.31

          Somewhat different from their feelings concerning the impersonal “reunited nation,” the UCV members displayed mixed emotions toward the Northern veterans. Joint reunions eventually took place, but scattered abrasive incidents marred some occasions. On the national level, the Grand Army of the Republic and the UCV established amicable relations and held some peaceful functions together, the most notable being the 1913 fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Also, the UCV took particular pleasure over the frequent return, by Northern veterans and the U. S. Government, of old Southern battle flags, as at Cheneyville, Louisiana, in 1911. Some local units even had joint North0South memorial services, the New Orleans veterans from both sides starting this practice in 1889. But some of the old soldiers retained guarded feelings to the end. In 1938, ninety-one-year-old David Corbin Ker of Mangham, Louisiana—Richland Parish’s last living Confederate veteran—cancelled his plans to attend a joint reunion, explaining that “my wife don’t want me to go because she things I’ll get in another fight with the d--- Yankees, and maybe I would.”32

          One historical generalization holds that the veteran soldiers distinguished themselves from other Southerners by displaying

 

30        Unidentified newspaper clippings, in UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives

31        Baton Rouge State Times, October 20, 1933

32        George H. Tichenor’s Day Book, in Tichenor Papers, Louisiana State University Archives; Confederate Veteran, XIX (August, 1911), 373; New York Times, April 8, 1889; New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 6, 1938.

 

 

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Less bitterness and animosity over the Lost Cause.33 Having fought it out to a decision on the battlefield, the argument goes, the soldiers more readily accepted the outcome, which had been consummated by a “ritual of surrender.” As a sweeping conclusion this is faulty, but it does contain an element of truth. The older veterans—those who had played more significant rolls in conducting the war, but who because of their advanced age died off before the mass of the lower-ranking veterans—did show a greater degree of open-mindedness. (But even here there are exceptions, like John B. Gordon who on occasion got into heated, bitter exchanges with Union veterans at early joint functions.) On the whole the veteran element displayed as much, and sometimes more, petty lingering bitterness as other Southerners. Those whose attitude did differ were an unpredictable group composed mostly of higher placed Confederates.

          With or without Northern companionship, holding memorial service and commemorations constituted from the beginning one of the UCV’s principal interests. Louisianians regularly held special Memorial Day programs and Decoration Day parades. They marked January 19, 1907, the one hundredth anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s birth, with a huge celebration in New Orleans. Interestingly, they clung tenaciously to a separate Confederate Memorial Day and resisted efforts to establish a commonly-observed national holiday to honor all American soldiers. Albert B. Booth, one of

 

33        Paul Buck, The Road to Reunion, 1865-1900 (Boston, 1937), 236-46 judiciously discussed the “dual mindedness” of the veterans although he placed greater emphasis upon their reconciliatory tendencies, with only a share of cranks clinging to bitterness on either side. Eric mcKittrick in Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction (Chicago, 1960), 15-36, stimulatingly discusses the possibility that the soldiers did embrace a spirit of harmony at the immediate end of the war, but that the general Southern populace negated this attitude and totally converted the veterans to bitterness within six or eight months after Appomattox. There seems to be truth in both arguments, and Rollin G. Osterweis is close to the mark in The Myth of the Lost Cause 1865-1900 (Hamden, Connecticut, 1973), 92, observing love-fests and exchanges of captured regimental battle flags, this point must not be allowed to obscure the basic function of the two veteran groups.” The G. A. R. remained officially committed to winning federal benefits for its members, maintaining assertion of the wrongness of the Confederate cause, and engaging in political action; the UCV ultimately existed in order to establish historical justification for the Lost Cause.

 

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the most active UCV functionaries, explained why: this would require agreement upon “an ideal ethical standard.” “Jefferson Davis [and] Robert E. Lee,” he said, “established one code of ethics for the conduct of civilized warfare; Abraham Lincoln [and] Ulysses Grant…another. In all candor are we not justified as patriotic American citizens—in demanding the Confederate rather than the Union Army standard?”34  In this way the Lost Cause became a beacon of right to guide the reunited nation, or so the UCV seemed to hope.

          Mindful of their own eventual demise, the Confederate veterans also labored zealously in behalf of more enduring physical commemorations of their deeds such as monuments, art works, buildings, and military parks. Again in the forefront, Louisiana erected perhaps the first Confederate monument. Begun in 1866, it stands in Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans—a statue of a soldier surmounting a shaft on which are carved the figures of several Southern Generals.35 The veterans became more directly involved in similar projects during the mid-1890s, the most prominent one being a drive to raise a monument at Winchester, Virginia, in memory of the Pelican State soldiers who died there in battle. The unveiling ceremony was timed to follow by two days the national UCV reunion at Richmond, June 30-July 2, 1896. A crowd of five thousand joined the Louisiana delegation for the ceremonies.36

          Louisiana veterans ultimately became involved in innumerable other monument projects. Some grew controversial. These included the effort for a monument to the woman of the South-because one group of supporters favored a war-like female figure which violated the traditional Southern image of ideal womanhood, which incensed others—and the effort for a monument commemorating the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox—the Louisianians,

 

34        “UCV Memorial Day Programme,” in my possession; “Ceremonies in Celebration of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Robert E. Lee,” Xerox copy of the program in my possession; unidentified newspaper clipping, hand dated 7 March 1899, in UCV Papers, J-12 #236, and undated speech draft by A. B. Booth, Louisiana State University Archives.

35        Confederate Veteran, XXIII (December, 1915), 535.

36        George H. Tichenor’s Day Book, in Tichenor Papers, Louisiana State University Archives; United Confederate Veterans, Louisiana Division, General Orders No. 9, May 24, 1896, Xerox copy in my possession.

 

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like most of the UCV, preferring to let that moment remain as little noted as possible.37 More typical were the amicably supported projects which often generated elegant social affairs as fund-raising ploys. For example, in 1899, the Beauregard Monument Committee staged a “grand entertainment and musicale” in New Orleans; and in 1903 the St. Francisville monument committee produced a comedy drama, tableaux, and ball. Such affairs engendered warm community spirit as well as considerable amounts of money. Eventually the veterans declined so in numbers that they became powerless to complete such financial drives. Then the Daughters took over, as a Benton, Louisiana, in 1910, and monument building continued.38

          The Louisiana veterans showed their greatest enthusiasm for two rather different Confederate memorials: markers for the Vicksburg Military Park, and copies of the painting entitled “Last Meeting of Lee and Jackson” by E. D. B. Fabrina Julio. The Vicksburg Park held special interest for the Louisiana UCV because of its proximity, large numbers of Louisianians participated in the campaign, and it was the first federal park to have a Confederate veteran on its board of commissioners—Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee of Mississippi, the UCV commander-in-chief from 1904 to 1908. The Jackson-Lee picture, done by the artist in 1871 at New Orleans, ranks as the state’s and perhaps the South’s most acclaimed painting of the entire post-Civil War period. It became immensely popular, with lithographic reproductions widely sold.39

          Of more personal concern to the UCV members, especially

 

37        George H. Tichenor’s Day Book, in Tichenor Papers,  repository above; R. P. Renwick to T. W. Castleman, March 22, 1912, and Castleman to Renwick, March 25, 1912, both in UCV Papers, same repository; Baton Rouge State Times, October 20, 1933.

38        Confederate Veteran, XIX (January, 1911), 16.

39        “The Louisiana-Vicksburg Commission,” an open letter dated September 15, 1904, printed copy in my possession; Confederate Veteran, XVIII (February, 1910), 91, and XIX (December, 1911), 555.; Edwin A. Davis Louisiana A Narrative History (Baton Rouge: Claitor’s Book Sore, 1961), 314-15. The originals of the painting—Julio produced two—now hang in the Louisiana State Museum at New Orleans and in David F. Boyd Hall, an administration building on the Baton Rouge campus of Louisiana State University. It is appropriate that after hanging in several buildings at LSU the painting finally found a place in David F. Boyd Hall. One of LSU’s greatest presidents, Colonel Boyd purchased the original copy for $2,000 and donated it to the university.

 

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as time passed and the material circumstances of many veterans worsened, the organization participated in numerous  relief efforts. On occasion, an individual camp might raise funds to ameliorate a specific condition, as in 1894 one New Orleans camp sent money to members of the Fred N. Ogden camp at Hope Villa, a community suffering from flood damage following a river overflow.40 More typically, groups of camps or the whole Louisiana Division labored together.

          The New Orleans camps operated an employment bureau for veterans. A general committee organized within the city to provide a central exchange of data on job applicants and potential employers. Beginning service in 1895, the bureau published lists of job seekers, solicited for suitable positions. Producing rather good results over several years, it even sometimes intervened in behalf of old soldiers being dismissed from jobs if it believed the action unjust, as in 1897 when the New Orleans city council tried to oust three veterans from city hall clerkships.41

          Two forms of relief ultimately interested the veterans most of all: soldiers’ homes and pensions. In this is illustrated perhaps the UCV’s most striking contrast with the Grand Army of the Republic. The GAR aimed primarily for benefits to be provided by the national government. In the South, a few soldiers’ homes began under private auspices, most operated with some form of UCV support, and all ultimately benefited from state help. (Perhaps the veterans knew more about politics than their official façade revealed. In 1898 the Louisiana Division hosted a large gathering at the home, “Camp Nicholls,” on Bayou St. John near New Orleans. The guests included a number of members of the state’s constitutional convention then in session.)42

          In 1898, Louisiana’s indigent Confederate veterans began

 

40        Unidentified newspaper clipping, February 12, 1894, in UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives.

41        George H. Tichenor’s Day Book, especially entries dated November 16 and 17, 1895, and January 5, 1897, in Tichenor Papers, repository above; H. Dudley Coleman to Confederate Cavalry Camp No. 9, May 8, 1897, in UCV Papers, same repository; Confederate Veterans’ Employment Bureau, “List of Applicants for Employment,” copy in my possession.

42        George H. Tichenor’s Day Book, December 5, 1895, in Tichenor Papers, repository above; New Orleans Picayune, February 21, 1898.

 

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Receiving pensions of $8.00 per month. Huey P. Long garnered heartfelt veteran support some years later by sponsoring legislation to double the pension then at $30.00 to $60.00 per month. Sometimes the legislature dragged its feet in increasing the amounts, or worse, in appropriating the money for back payments which the state sometimes failed to make. When something like this happened, it either brought the Louisiana Division headquarters into action, as in 1910 when state commander Thomas J. Shaffer personally presented a plea to the governor, or it prompted response from sympathetic legislators, as in 1928 when S. O. Shattuck of Calcasieu and Tandy T. Webb of Ouachita led a move to rectify a breach of payments.43

          Louisiana’s Confederate pension program continued despite two explosive incidents. First, in 1931, a question arose concerning the legality of such payments on the grounds that they violated the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits the payment of any debts or obligations incurred in insurrection or rebellion against the United States. The attorney general ruled the pensions legal in that they constituted aid to a disabled class of people, implying no element of payment for services rendered during the rebellion.44 Then later, in 1937, a veteran—Emmett Alpha of New Orleans—field a twelve-million-dollar suit against the state for its having cut the pensions by one-half from 1932 to 1935. The suit was dismissed, but the amount paid did go back to $60.00 per month later, and in 1940 the state began making compensatory back payments in full. Sam H. Jones, elevated governor that year, and several new legislators thus fulfilled their campaign promise to the veterans.45

          Louisiana financed its Confederate pension program through a

 

43        United Confederate Veterans, Louisiana Divisions, Special Order No. 1, July 4, 1910, in UCV Papers, repository above; Confederate Veteran, XXXVI (July, 1928), 277; New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 4, 1953, the Louisiana veterans passed a resolution citing him as a “great statesman…our great friend whom we so profoundly loved and respected.” Cf., UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives.

44        New York Times, September 26, 1931.

45        New Orleans, Daily Progress, October 22, 1937; Baton Rouge State Times, January 10, 1938, and August 7, 1940.

 

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tax, three-fourths of a mill, which brought in $1,500,000 per year, and a $16,000,000 bond issue authorized in 1946. The veterans themselves drew most of the pension money during the earlier years, but as they died off their widows—also  eligible for payments—drew a larger proportion. In 1914 the 5,254 people on the rolls included 2,990 veterans; in 1924 the 4,619 people on the rolls included 1,645 veterans; by 1944 the 596 pensioners included only 17 veterans. After the pension money began generating a sizeable surplus, one-half the proceeds of the 1946 bond issue was earmarked for the Confederate Memorial Hospital in Shreveport and the rest of the money was allocated to various state institutions, thus perpetuating beneficence originally for veterans, now for the whole populace.46

          As the veterans aged, they tended to grow more testy toward each other and some internal squabbles erupted. The first serous schism in Louisiana apparently began in 1907. Major General J. Alphonse Prudhomme issued a parade order placing Camp Number 1 behind the Washington Artillery. Anguished protesters asserted camp seniority and threatened to resign from the UCV. Trouble ended momentarily and the sullen camp members marched in the place assigned them, but later they brought the matter before the Louisiana Division reunion in Shreveport. The camps voted to demand that seniority be observed in the future, although the state’s judge advocate general pled for a more moderate attitude, and urged that there be no such thing as a “senior camp.” Remarks by E. F. Kohnke, the state’s second-in-command, revealed that a festering situation existed. “There have been more kicks during the past two years,” he said, “than in all the past history of the organization.” “Stick together,” he counseled, “don’t publish to the world that we are quarrelling among ourselves.”47 Unfortunately, they were doing just that, and the arguments became more profuse and more petty.

          Numerous problems came to a head during the controversial administration by Major General T. W. Castleman, 1907-1909. The 1907 reunion directed that Castleman, as they new commander,

 

46        New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 4, 1953.

47        Unidentified newspaper clipping, in Louisiana Letterbook, UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives.

 

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seek  to induce the Louisiana legislature to appropriate money for a Jefferson Davis monument and to support a project to accumulate and publish a complete roster of all Louisiana Civil War soldiers. Castleman did this, and even got himself appointed by the governor as commissioner of Louisiana Military Records (without pay), but some veterans disapproved-especially when Castleman approached the legislature in behalf of the Davis monument but did not ask also for money to complete the unfinished Beauregard monument. Carping matrons in the allied ladies’ organizations intensified the bitterness.

          Perhaps Castleman could have weathered the storm, but no quorum appeared in Monroe for the 1908 convention, so he adjourned  the reunion after one day and continued in office for another year. Resentful cries demanded that he call a special meeting to elect new officers. He sent a questionnaire to the forty-two camps in good standing and twenty-six replied that they preferred having no meeting. So after consulting with his staff, doing as it advised, he announced that the division would not meet again until its regularly scheduled 1909 reunion. To some of his opponents this constituted an intolerable usurpation. His most important appointee, Lewis Guion—head of the history committee—resigned, and some other appointed officers followed suit. The New Orleans camps snubbed him at the June 3, 1909, Memorial Services. Camp Number 15, led by former UCV Major General William J. Behan, marched later that month at the Memphis Reunion with the Virginia Division rather than with the other Louisianians. Finally, many veterans became convinced of Castleman’s corruption when Governor Jared Y. Sanders secured legislative monies for the military records project and put the commissioner (Castleman) on the state payroll.48 When Castleman left office, the Division remained bitterly divided.

          The next commander, well-liked and capable Thomas J. Shaffer49 –who served nearly six terms—did much to restore harmony but

 

48        Unidentified typed memo, printed circular, entries in Louisiana Letterbook for January 14, 1909, and Headquarters Louisiana Division, General Orders No. 6, January 14, 1909, all in UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives.

49        Shaffer’s papers, in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, contain some UCV material, but mostly consist of drafts of his speeches.

 

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 found some of the damage irreparable. Camp Number 2, the largest in New Orleans and one of the largest in the UCV, withdrew from the general organization. In 1910, Camp Number 15 followed suit. This led to difficulties since both camps included within their membership men who played prominent roles at upper UCV echelons. When a camp demitted, all its members ceased to be long officially to the UCV. The two withdrawn camps remained out, although some of the members ultimately joined other camps. The rift continued into the 1920s, primarily revolving around personality clashes and power struggles between T. W. Castleman and W. J. Behan, and their respective supporters.50

          The UCV’s chief interest and most significant activity—also at times somewhat controversial—was history. The national organization formed an “Historical Committee” at its 1892 reunion. Primarily the veterans desired to enforce their version of fairness—to expose and expunge “Northern bias”—but they did manifest a genuinely paternal interest in the whole field, calling for better records preservation, more reading and writing of history, improvement of historical quality, broad investigations—especially state and local history, and the upgrading of history teaching in schools and colleges.51 The veterans themselves penned many pages of historical memoirs and passages in behalf of history for publication in their official organ, the monthly Confederate Veteran.52

          From their beginning as an organized group, Louisiana veterans labored in Clio’s behalf. After the national UCV began making specific recommendations, the Louisianians responded. Some members

 

50        George W. Mickle to George W. Gordon, June 2 and 21, and September 14, 1910, and January 5, 1911, and Gordon to Mickle, January 1, 1911, in UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives; paper portfolio, “To the President and Members of the Benevolent Association of the Louisiana Division of the Army of Northern Virginia, Camp No. 1, United Confederate Veterans,” probably prepared in 1913, in same repository; A. B. Booth to K. M. Van Zandt, November 24, 1920, and Van Zandt to Booth, November 28, 1920, in UCV Papers, same repository.

51        See my article, “Clio’s Southern Soldiers: The United Confederate Veterans and History,” in Louisiana History, XII (Summer, 1971), 213-42.

52        It ran from January 1893 through December 1932. Ray D. Smith prepared a 900,000 card-file index of the magazine, which is at Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois.

 

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approached  the State Board of Education to urge the adoption of UCV-approved readings, such as The Civil War in Louisiana by Ann E. Snyder. Other veterans generated historical writings themselves, like Joseph Jones, a New Orleans medical doctor and UCV Surgeon General, who prepared a fact-filled pamphlet on Confederate medical data, statistics, and numbers and losses.53

          In May 1895, at the national reunion in Houston, the Historical Committee rightly condemned the ninth Encyclopedia Britannica for a series of anti-Southern statements, and this elicited action from some of Louisiana’s local camps.54 One New Orleans group, perhaps incredulous at the charge, launched its own investigation into the matter. Chagrined at what they found, they vigorously condemned the Britannica. Worse, they discovered a spurious revision of the ninth edition, with a few of the most offensive paragraphs cut out and substitute pages pasted in, circulating about the South and even a complimentary set—for which the UCV had expressed public thanks—deposited in Memorial Hall. The veterans identified several objectionable passages: on Southern disloyalty, on the “wonderful spirit of fairness” in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, on the Brooks-Summer affair—especially “Summer’s fine personal presence and learning, his high culture, and social standing [which] seem to have staggered his Southern colleagues,” on Calhoun’s “plotting,” on the African slave trade, on the nation’s moral progress which was “mostly confined to the North,” and a flat statement that “the South brought on the war in defense of slavery.” Many camps passed resolutions of condemnation, asked the Southern press to lend its aid, and returned the gift set to its donors.55

          The encyclopedia incident spurred the UCV to attempt a continuous and uniform watch over school book selections. They enlarged the national Historical Committee to include a member from each Southern state and they enjoined the divisions to establish

 

53        Mrs. Snyder to Moorman, December 14, 1892, and Moorman to Snyder, January 26, 1893, in UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives; a copy of Jones’ pamphlet is in my possession

54        George H. Tichenor’s Day Book, in Tichenor Papers, Louisiana State University Archives; details on this matter are in my article, “Clio’s Southern Soldiers…” in Louisiana History, XII, 228-32.

55        Unidentified newspaper clippings, July 2, 1895, in George H. Tichenor’s Day Book, in Tichenor Papers, Louisiana State Archives.

 

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history committees of their own. All the divisions performed some work in behalf of history, much of it innocuous  and laudatory. The Tennessee veterans produced the most perceptive positive results; those in Virginia and South Carolina generated the most publicized protests. The Louisiana Division, and many of its camps, maintained active history committees for a number of years. They occasionally found something to express horrified indignation over, but generally they seemed satisfied—especially by the late 1890s, when the whole UCV basically approved of contemporary historical writing. The committee members contacted various educational authorities from time to time, usually to request more state and local history course offerings (naturally to be taught from a satisfactory point of view), and apparently achieved results to their liking. 56

          Many persons about the state occasionally dabbled in history work, but New Orleanians led the way in UCV –sanctioned efforts: notably Albert B. Booth, James Dinkins, Lewis Guion, W. O. Hart, and Robert C. Wood. Booth became Louisiana’s commissioner of military records, resuming the roster collection where T. w. Castleman and Thomas J. Shaffer left off, and completed the work in 1922. (Thus Louisiana became the only state to make the service records of al its Civil War soldiers conveniently available to researchers.) Dinkins edited the “Confederate Column,” published by the Picayune beginning in 1902. Guion served for many years, quite actively, as chairman of the Louisiana Division History Committee. Hart displayed keen interest in history, especially that of Louisiana, and served on the national Historical Committee. Wood compiled the useful date-compendium, Confederate Hand Book, which he published in 1900.

          During the first decade of the twentieth century, the veterans occasionally bestirred themselves in school-book controversies. Guion’s committee regularly appraised the State Board of Education of any books that merited the veterans’ disapproval, and only rarely did an unfavorable book gain adoption. No doubt the State Board, rather than respond toadyingly to the committee, simply shared its philosophy; as in 1905 it refused one of Guion’s requests because

 

56        Tichenor’s Day Book, entries for February 4, 1896 and June 28, 1896, repository above.

 

 

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George Tichenor

 

George H. Tichenor, the physician and druggist who developed the famous antiseptic, and U. C. V. Louisiana Division Commander, 1916-1918 (Louisiana State University Archives)

 

It thought him hypercritical, but generally the committee seemed satisfied with selections and rejections.57

          Beyond the school-book matter, the committee often expressed the feeling that not enough had been done to improve the quality and quantity of history-course offerings in the state. They agitated for a chair of American history at one of the state colleges, and they urged the legislature to create a department of archives and history. Much that they desired ultimately came to pass, some as a direct result of their efforts.

          The history committee generated another flurry of publicity in 1909, but matters actually amounted to less than the headlines seemed to indicate. In January, Guion resigned his chairmanship

 

57        “Official Report of the History Committee of the Louisiana Division U. C. V.” September 7, 1904 and January 17-18, 1906, copies in my possession.

 

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to protest Castleman’s, hoping to induce Guion to return, made no replacement. With the committee headless for several months, numerous veterans grew more concerned with its work.

          Two issues attracted much attention: a movement began to encourage the creation of school histories that would satisfy the whole country, and secondly the State Board adopted a school reader of which the veterans disapproved. The veterans considered asking President William H. Tart to urge congressional action on uniformly acceptable history, but nothing much came of it except a lot of rhetoric. The offensive reader attracted the veterans’ ire for three faults: of the forty-five authors in the anthology, only one was a Southerner—Henry W. Grady; the book used the word “rebellion” as a name for the Civil war, and the frontispiece had a picture of Abraham Lincoln. (“I would much have preferred to see the noble countenance of Jefferson Davis, but we couldn’t expect that,” one critic explained. “Why could not the picture of Washington have been used?”)58

          The veterans concluded that the reader had slipped into use because they had not been quite watchful enough. So at the 1909 division reunion at Alexandria, a wordy but strong resolution passed committing the UCV to more devoted diligence in its effort “to correct and then perpetuate a true history of the war between the States, its causes, and results.”59 The new commander, Thomas J. Shaffer, considered UCV history work to be of quintessential importance and gave top priority to it during his long administration, but basically the veterans thereafter either were satisfied or complacent. By the 1920s they turned most of the history committee”—ostensibly a UCV group, but actually under auspices of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

          The United Confederate Veterans, with official membership limited only to actual surviving Civil War soldiers and sailors, had to meet an end someday. Approximately eighty-nine percent of

 

58        New Orleans Picayune, March 22, 1909

59        Alexandria Daily Town Talk, September 11, 1909

 

 

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the Confederate fighting men had been under thirty years of age during the conflict. Most of them therefore had a long time to live after the war, but natural life expectancies dictated that the last strong UCV decade be before 1910, when the average veteran’s age neared seventy. By the 1920s the snap and dash of the old men was gone. No rebel yell quickened interest at the reunions. Those who could parade rode in automobiles.60

          The remarkable few who retained their vigor into ultra-advanced age continued the reunions. Nine Louisianians made it to Jackson, Mississippi, for the 1937 national reunion; thirty-six attended the state meeting that year in Baton Rouge. One veteran, A. B. Maxey of Calhoun, zestfully proclaimed that he was “not so old, I bet if

 

 

60        New York Times, August 1, 1892; Confederate Veteran, XXXVI (July, 1928), 244 and (August, 1928), 285.

 

 

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You give me an outfit I could walk down some of the World War bunch right now.”61

          A dispute over the commanding general’s election at the 1937 state reunion illustrates the increasing pettiness sometimes characteristic of superannuation, and the presence of continuing rifts within the veteran ranks. No quorum had been present at either the 1935 or 1936 reunions, when O. R. Gillette won the elections. Now he desired a third term. Some members considered that he had never secured legal sanction to be commander in the first place. A quorum did show up in 1937 and that convention decided not to allow Gillette to preside, instead choosing L. W. Stephens as temporary chairman. Gillette arose, pointed to himself, and said “All in favor of me presiding stand up.” He got no response, and so repeated “Comrades, hear me. All in favor of me presiding stand up.” Perhaps most of the veterans could not get up that fast. Then someone offered a resolution that no commander be allowed to succeed himself. Stephens called for a voice vote, some audible “ayes” rang out, and he declared “passed.”

          The convention chose Joseph T. “Poss” Young as commander, and although Gillette contested the election, the appeal failed. The deeper cause of the battle between the two nonagenarians was the matter of back payments to the Confederate pensioners and the advisability of continuing the twelve-million dollar suit against the state; Young favored moderation and Gillette championed vigorous pursuit. Some UCV members no doubt agreed with Young. Others perhaps merely thought it nice to rotate the honor of high office. Apparently Gillette believed, and probably correctly, that the Baton Rouge Daughters swayed some votes for Young because the latter was a resident of the nearby community. The Plains, while Gillette miffed the ladies with a last-minute change, ordering the convention to be held a week later than originally scheduled.62 Of course most veterans desired the back pension money, but only a

 

61        New Orleans Daily Picayune, June 11, 1937; Minutes of the Meeting of the Louisiana Division, U. C. V., October 21, 1937, in UCV Papers, repository cited above.

62        Baton Rouge State Times, October 22, 1937; John M. Claypool to Joseph T. Young, December 6, 1937, and “Minutes of the Meeting, October 21, 1937,” both in UCV Papers, Louisiana State University Archives.

 

 

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few lived to collect the payments which began in 1940. No more serious disturbances troubled the Louisiana UCV.

          Reunions came to be characterized more by antics of the few spry veterans. In 1938, Ninety-year-old W. E. Dark of Dodson garnered cheers from his comrades and applause from the Daughters by dancing a nimble jig to “Dixie” on the Heidelberg Hotel Roof. A year later, in 1939, he tried to cut a pigeon wing, but he found he could only lift his foot from the floor. “I guess my dancing days are over,” he said, his tired old eyes still twinkling. But if they could not dance, at least they could eat: the ten veterans at that 1939 reunion arose at dawn for a hearty breakfasts of ham and eggs, or steak, and some even had oysters. Later they attended a tea with the governor and his wife, and the paraded—led by a color guard of cadets and the LSU Band, they passed slowly in review.63

          A dozen of the state’s thirty-four living veterans gathered again at Baton Rouge in 1940. O. R. Gillette dominated the spotlight, flamboyantly demonstrating that he drank fourteen bottles of beer a day. “We’re going to get drunker’n hell,” he roared out in the hotel restaurant to the astonishment and delight of the other patrons. A UCV general, he took pride in swearing like the common trooper he actually was. A week earlier, with three other Louisianians at the national reunion in Washington, he also stood out: “They didn’t like me up there…They said I cussed too much. What the hell do they expect from an old soldier?” Now in Baton Rouge, S. T. Seagraves joined him to down a morning drink and puff a big cigar, but the other ancient warriors contented themselves with a less drastic program.64

          Four veterans, in their late nineties, attended the last division reunion, at Baton Rouge, on October 15, 1942. Recalling their war of more than seventy-five years previous, all wore general’s uniforms, and gossiped gaily. As they elected A. T. Fuller commander for the ensuing year, perhaps they intended to meet again, but it was not to be. State reunions just did not seem worth while anymore. Louisiana still had nine veterans alive as late as 1945, but only one remained active in the UCV, William D. Townsend of Olla. Indeed

 

63        Baton Rouge State Times, October 13, 1938, October 12, and 13, 1939.

64        ibid., October 12, 17, 18, 1940.

 

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Townsend continued attending the national UCV reunions until the very last one, in 1951. He outlived all the other Louisiana Confederate veterans. When he died in February, 1953 at the age of 106, in other states only four Confederate and two Union veterans remained alive.65

          Thus, with Townsend, died the Louisiana UCV—an organization which carried on fraternal activity, staged social affairs, relieved suffering and want, engaged in publishing and various endeavors in behalf of history (more residually positive than those benignly negative in impact), and both commemorated the Civil War while aiding in sectional reconciliation. “We come together,” one of their commanders proclaimed, “because we love the past, because our lives have been linked together…” For the veterans who had experienced it, the Civil War period remained forever their greatest years. “With us now, all passion and bitterness has passed away.”66

          Many factors prompted an individual to associate, or not to associate with fellow veterans in a formal organization. For numerous persons, the war and all its memories were so horrible that their greatest desire remained to forget it. This was the case even with some who did participate, especially those who attended only one—or a few—reunions. For them a desire of the moment overbalanced the usually more dominant preference. Among the others who did give ardent support to the UCV, probably few if indeed any actually understood what motivated them.

          The Confederate veterans belied the stereotypical Southern “individualism;” Americans have been a joining people, they like to organize and they like organizations, and the ex-Confederates proved no different. The tendency intensified as society grew more industrial and fragmented. All the aspects of any group identity played some part: common experience, elitism, mutual benefit, and so on. Beyond that, the basic psychological impetus behind UCV affiliation was a feeling that the world misunderstood both the Southern people and the South’s history. The veterans essentially sought security in their own company. Then together they

 

65        Ibid., October 15, 1942, November 24, 1945, February 25, 1953.

66        Confederate Veteran, XII (July, 1904), 326, and XIII (June, 1905), 294.

 

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Labored to justify their past to themselves, other Southerners, Americans in general, and all mankind.

          In the process of attempting this, the UCV left its mark, and transcended mere fraternal bounds. For a goodly number of veterans, particularly later in their lives, it became their most treasured activity. For history and historians, it became a benefactor (even if sometimes a blundering one). More importantly, for thousands, perhaps millions, of Southerners who were moved by the UCV message (however much they might have misunderstood that message), the impact of the organization and reverence for the Lost Cause continues.

 

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