Primary Sources: Confederate Veteran – A Source With Endless Possibilities

Primary Sources


Published between 1893 and 1932, Confederate Veteran magazine is an incredible source that I mine for many different topics. Not only is it a good source for battle or wartime accounts, the

magazine documents early preservation efforts, and is a window into the formation of postwar culture in the South. I think it is one of the best sources on Civil War preservation, commemoration, and memory.

One thing that makes the publication special is that common soldiers contributed. Battles and Leaders includes many accounts written by officers. The Official Records includes valuable correspondence and reports. Yet this magazine features hundreds of letters by both offices and privates.

These accounts can be found nowhere else. Often a soldier is recalling an incident during camp or battle. Sometimes they are correcting or adding to a previously submitted article. These primary accounts are invaluable, and provide unique insights to the battles and campaigns of the war. Some articles discuss a unit’s history, others its’ battle flags. Some are opinion pieces on commanders or battlefield decisions.

The periodical also chronicle early preservation efforts. The 1880s and 1890s saw the creation of the first National Military Parks at battle sites, and Confederate Veteran issues include many articles on their establishment and debates about their planning. The magazine includes articles about monuments, both in battlefields and on town squares and city centers.

The periodical’s advertisements reveal a market catered to veterans and veteran’s needs. Issues are filled with advertisements for artificial limbs, Confederate-themed medals and pins, flags and banners, walking canes, medicines, hotels and railroads close to battlefields and reunion sites, and even retirement communities for veterans.


It is also possible to see the growth of a Confederate culture in the post-war South.   Issues include articles on veteran’s reunions, the establishment of pensions, and the activities of various veteran’s associations. Some issues contain poetry, others short articles of fiction. Along with the eyewitness accounts and notes from reunions, they emphasize common themes: bravery, service, duty, sacrifice, and honor. Together, these activities influenced how the war was commemorated.

The United Confederate Veterans formed in 1889, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1894. Confederate Veteran magazine chronicled their origins, and follows their growth and evolution over several decades.

Another fascinating aspect of the periodical are the changes over time from early to later issues. By the 1920s and 30s there are less advertisements aimed at veterans: their number were thinning rapidly. The Twentieth Century issues also feature new merchandise for sale such as printed histories of battles and generals. By the 1920s and 30s, the history of the war was being codified and published.

Later issues also feature fewer firsthand battle accounts, and more reporting of and discussion of veterans’ issues. By this time veteran’s groups and associations, along with women’s groups, were fully developed, with their own internal hierarchy and politics.

Lastly is the Roll of Honor, a feature of later issues that chronicles the passing of veterans with a short death notice and biography. In these later issues we see the passing of the torch: the veterans are passing on and descendants groups are carrying on their legacy.

I believe you could spend a lifetime doing nothing other than studying Confederate Veteran and culling it for insights into the war and its legacy.

15 Responses to Primary Sources: Confederate Veteran – A Source With Endless Possibilities

    1. Hi Robert, you can try large libraries or university libraries. Be sure not to confuse this with the modern Confederate Veteran magazine, published by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. This is an entirely different publication.

      1. You do realize that the SCV is the direct descendant of the UCV and the same goes for Confederate Veteran magazine published today.

      2. Yes, Richard, It was revived in 1984 by the SCV. I just wanted to clarify the difference between the older magazines and the current one.

  1. CV is also a primer on the rise of the Klan, Jim Crow and segregation, both in articles and ads. Here is one example:

    The wonderful photo play entitled “The Birth of a Nation,” which portrays so vividly the Ku-Klux Klan, has done more in a few months’ time to arouse interest in that organization than all the articles written on the subject during the last thirty years. We have been told that “the pen is mightier than the sword”; but it seems that the silent language of the photo drama has proved more powerful than all else in bringing about a realization of “things as they were” during Reconstruction in the South, the era immediately following the War between the States. Those pictured scenes in “The Birth of a Nation” have, like a flame of fire, burned into the hearts of men and women and left an impression stamped too deep ever to be eradicated. And so the presentation of this play has accomplished untold good, for people are now to understand the terrible conditions existing in the South during Reconstruction which made the Ku-Klux Stain a necessity. People everywhere are now seeking the of the history of the Klan, its origin, objects, and mission, and the South should be prepared to furnish these facts while the information is being so eagerly sought.

    The question has been asked: “Does not ‘The Birth of a Nation’ exaggerate? Does it present conditions as they really were.” Only those who lived through Reconstruction days can answer that question, and the answer has been given by a devoted woman of the Confederacy who, after seeing the play, remarked: “It does not tell half enough of the horrors of those dark days.” Reconstruction is a word that can hardly be spoken even yet without a thrill of terror by those who were witnesses of those scenes and came under the dark cloud that enveloped the Southland during “reconstruction,” or, rather, “destruction,” which has been suggested by an eminent Southern writer as a more appropriate term.. All seemed blackness and despair until the Ku-Klux Klan appeared upon the scene, bringing a ray of hope and affording: relief from a situation which threatened greater horrors than the war itself. Does not the Southland owe a debt of gratitude to the brave men who composed that organization and who rode side by side with death during the darkest hour in the South’s history to redeem the land from carpetbag and negro rule? The only way to pay that debt is to vindicate completely those heroes before the world by producing the facts and placing them before our boys and girls of to-day, who will be our citizens of tomorrow and at the head of State and national affairs.

    Confederate Veteran, 24 (1916), pp.157-159

    1. Thank you Bob, sadly the Victor writes history and they never give a fair shake to the defeated. There was no Marshal Plan for the South, just the utter destruction of her people and country. Even today, the South is still the poorest region of the country.

      1. You’re right, Robert, there was no master plan to rebuild the South’s economy or infrastructure, and victors certainly do write the history. But that’s what is fascinating about C.V. Magazine, the vanquished DID write their history!

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