Author: Caroline E. Janney

John L. Nau III Professor in History of the American Civil War and director of the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia
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United Daughters of the Confederacy

The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) was formed in 1894 to protect and venerate Confederate memory following the American Civil War (1861–1865). Through chapters in Virginia and other southern states (and even a handful in the North), members—the descendants of Confederate veterans or those who aided the Confederate cause—directed most of their efforts toward raising funds for Confederate monuments, advancing a “correct” history of the Confederacy, caring for indigent Confederate widows, sponsoring essay contests and fellowships for students, and maintaining Confederate museums and relic collections. An auxiliary group, the Children of the Confederacy, was created in 1898. The context of these efforts was the Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War, which emphasized states’ rights and secession over slavery as causes of the war and was often used to further the goals of white supremacists in the twentieth century. With its national headquarters located in the former Confederate capital of Richmond, the organization continues to perform memorial and benevolent work, although the twenty-first century has brought with it controversy. In 2015 a mass murder in South Carolina by a suspect associated with a neo-Confederate and white supremacist ideology led to national discussions of Confederate memory and calls for monuments, including those erected by the Daughters, to come down. The UDC has defended its statues and distanced itself from hate groups.

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Mourning during the Civil War

Mourning is the process of grieving the death of a loved one. In the mid-nineteenth century, middle- and upper-class Americans observed an elaborate set of rules that governed behavior following the death of a spouse or relative. The astronomical rate of death during the American Civil War (1861–1865) often hindered the mourning process, transformed the ways in which individuals and communities responded to death, and heightened women‘s public role in mourning traditions.

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Lost Cause, The

The Lost Cause is an interpretation of the American Civil War (1861–1865) that seeks to present the war, from the perspective of Confederates, in the best possible terms. Developed by white Southerners, many of them former Confederate generals, in a postwar climate of economic, racial, and social uncertainty, the Lost Cause created and romanticized the “Old South” and the Confederate war effort, often distorting history in the process. For this reason, many historians have labeled the Lost Cause a myth or a legend. It is certainly an important example of public memory, one in which nostalgia for the Confederate past is accompanied by a collective forgetting of the horrors of slavery. Providing a sense of relief to white Southerners who feared being dishonored by defeat, the Lost Cause was largely accepted in the years following the war by white Americans who found it to be a useful tool in reconciling North and South. The Lost Cause has lost much of its academic support but continues to be an important part of how the Civil War is commemorated in the South and remembered in American popular culture.

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Ladies’ Memorial Associations

Ladies’ Memorial Associations were locally organized groups of southern white women who, following the American Civil War (1861–1865), tracked down the scattered remains of Confederate soldiers and reinterred them in Confederate cemeteries. Following Robert E. Lee‘s surrender in April 1865, more than 260,000 Confederate war dead were buried throughout the South, a majority of them in Virginia. Most of these soldiers would not be returned home; instead, they eventually would be placed in Confederate cemeteries. But these cities of the dead were not to be furnished by the federal or state governments; neither were they to be organized by Confederate veterans. Instead, the associations created Confederate cemeteries, which served as final resting places for approximately 80 percent of the fallen soldiers.

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Burial of Latané, The

The Burial of Latané was one of the most famous Lost Cause images of the American Civil War (1861–1865). Painted by Virginian William D. Washington in Richmond in 1864, the work shows white women, slaves, and children performing the burial service of a cavalry officer killed during J. E. B. Stuart‘s famous ride around Union general George B. McClellan‘s army during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. The incident first inspired a poem and then the painting, which became a powerful symbol of Confederate women‘s devotion to the Confederate cause.

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