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Confederate Veterans: 1917

The Gray and the gray. "Confederate veteran reunion, Washington, 1917." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

The Gray and the gray. "Confederate veteran reunion, Washington, 1917." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Shades of Gray

I've colourised this picture at if anyone's interested.

Southern Cross of Honor

The UDC awards a Cross of Military Service to any veteran of WWII or Vietnam upon application. The only additional requirement for the award is that in addition to proof of their own service, he or she provide proof of direct lineage to a soldier similar to one of the men shown in this fine picture. These crosses are beautifully made pieces and serve to establish a remarkable lineage to the present day.

Many, if not most, of the men shown in this picture had grandfathers or great grandfathers who were soldiers of the American Revolution--and many of their fathers served in the War of 1812.


the United Confederate Veterans were organized locally into camps and drew from veterans living in the area. They took their names from famous officers, units and the like.

The label on the flag here is more likely the name of the camp from Nashville.

WW2 Vets

I saw on Fox News on Veterans Day that there are about 2.1 million veterans of WWII left. About 900 die every day.


I think the guy on the far left bought his beard at the Acme Novelty Shop so he could join this Facial Hair Club for Men reunion

Oldest Confederate Widow

There may still be a couple of Confederate widows among us but it's their choice to remain in anonymity. Maude Hopkins was the last one publicly known. She died Aug. 17 2008.

Why did young girls marry veterans old enough to be their grandfathers? The pension was attractive in Depression days.

And the last Civil War widow

I read the article below a few years ago. The Shorpy photo brought it to mind.

"Civil War widow, final link to old Confederacy, dies"

The cantankerous 81-year-old man struck up a few conversations with the 21-year-old neighbor and a marriage of convenience was born.

They were married in a civil ceremony at the courthouse in Andalusia on Dec. 10, 1927, and 10 months later had a son, William.

The story actually gets better but I'll leave it to everyone to read the whole thing.

It still amazes me that so much history walks among us. Whenever I get the opportunity to talk to a WWII veteran I grab it because they are fast disappearing also.


Several of the veterans, including the officer in the frock coat, are wearing the Southern Cross of Honor. These were given by the United Daughters of the Confederacy starting in 1900 to Confederate army and navy vets. The Confederate States of America did not issue any medals.


Notice Santa Claus on the left has a peg leg. As for facial hair, if you look at silent movies of the period they usually have old geezers shown with similar whiskers. I think this stereotype was based on truth, that the oldsters kept the style from their youthful days.

There are only about 11 confirmed WW1 vets still living, as listed on Wiki. All of the Central Powers guys are gone. Only 2 remain who actually spent time in the trenches.

A Mighty Host of Gray

1917 marked the 27th annual Confederate reunion and the first to gather outside of the Confederate States. I've extracted only a few of the many newspaper articles of the time, and in just this small sample, there are inconsistencies regarding the age of the youngest.

[Upon Stanton Square's blue fingers, I hereby bestow the Purple Heart. - Dave]

1,500 Veterans in City

Special Trains Bring Gray Hosts From as Far as New Orleans.

More than 1,500 Confederate veterans, representing a majority of 22 States that are to send delegates to the annual Confederate reunion that opens here tomorrow, were registered at headquarters yesterday. In addition incoming trains from the South brought Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy and thousands of others whose sympathies are Southern.

Col. Robert N. Harper, after hearing reports from John Dolph and others of the registration committee lat night again expressed the opinion that the total number of visitors, including delegates, will reach the 75,000 mark before the first day of the reunion is over.

From an early hour yesterday shifts of volunteers were busy constantly registering the veterans at the Union Station, where scenes similar to those that characterized the inauguration preliminaries prevailed.

An extra force of policemen was on duty at the station handling the crowds and seeing to the necessary enforcement of rules. As early as 6 a.m. the "vets," many wearing the suits of gray that will be conspicuous here during the week, began to arrive. Many were intent on attending the memorial exercises at Arlington and to obtain a glimpse of President Wilson.

The first excursion train to pull into the station was the "Tom Green Special," from the cotton belt, bringing veterans from Memphis, Texarkana, Pine Bluff and the vicinity. Closely following it came others from Augusta, Ga.; Newberry S.C., and New Orleans. At noon several special excursion trains, each carrying an average of 300 veterans and others, arrived. In the afternoon, the Elliott Tour Special brought large delegations from Birmingham and Atlanta.

H.F. Cary, chairman of the transportation committee, said yesterday that at least 38 specials from every point in the South would reach Washington before Wednesday. It is conservatively estimated that of the 40,000 survivors at least 5,000 will attend this year's reunion.
Veterans were taken either to their hotels or to the "tented city" not far distant from the station. Last night, close to 200 of the visitors slept under canvas. The majority were fatigued after long journeys and expressed a preference to "stick close to quarters" rather than see the sights as some suggested. More than 500 were quartered in a large red brick structure at the corner of New Jersey and C street northwest. Arriving there they were assigned to rooms. Meals were served under a large canvas tent close by.

Washington Post, Jun 4, 1917

Sidelights of Confederate Reunion

About a half hundred veterans responded to the sounding of the dinner gong at the tented city yesterday and enjoyed the first meal served "under canvas." The menu consisting of vegetable soup, fresh pork, prime ribs of beef, new potatoes, green peas, stewed tomatoes, assorted pies, iced tea, coffee and bread and butter, was a sample of the generous treatment the "boys" can expect during their stay in camp.
When some one had the audacity to inquire of A.B. Rowland, of Fulton Ky., one of the party at the tented city, as to his age he answered, "I'm one of the kids. I'm only 72." As a matter of fact, the youngest Confederate veteran is 69.

Washington Post, Jun 4, 1917

Dixie's Sons Own City

Washington surrendered yesterday to a mighty host of gray - without a struggle. White-haired and gray-coated veterans owned the city. Streets and avenues were a dense gray mass from early morning until late at night. Hotel lobbies were crowded to the doors. Public parks, the Capitol, government buildings and nearby places of historic interest were given over ungrudgingly to the venerable guests from Dixie. Bands played familiar airs, fife and drum corps beat age-old battle marches and buglers sounded the reveille and taps.
The Tented City on the Union Station plaza was the mecca last night for veterans and sightseers from all parts of the District. The large mess hall was the busiest place in Washington from 4 p.m. yesterday until 8 o'clock last night. Nearly 15,000 meal tickets had been issued to veterans since Monday morning. Camp fire meetings were held last night in every nook and corner of the plaza. War time stories were "swapped" and Southern songs filled the air with melody.

Officials of the registration booth at Union Station said last night that between 15,00 and 20,000 veterans had arrived in Washington since Sunday morning.

Washington Post, Jun 6, 1917

Sidelights of Confederate Reunion

Editor C.A. Ricks, of the Courier, Huntington, Tex., who was born February 28, 1851, claims to be the youngest Confederate at the reunion. He enlisted August 1, 1863 in Courier battery at Shreveport, La.
The Georgia delegation greeted the President with a shower of peanuts, while the ladies literally bombarded the stand with flowers.

Washington Post, Jun 8, 1917

Third Veteran Wins Bride at Reunion

The third Confederate veteran to take unto himself a wife while attending the recent reunion is Dr. John A. Pollock, 71, of Kingston, N.C. His bride is Miss Lula L. Aldridge, 50, of the same city. ... Dr. Pollock also is the next to the oldest of the three "vets" who are going South with brides. The oldest was Frank H. Raum, of Richmond, Va., who was one of Mosby's men. He is 73. The "vet" who got the youngest bride is James A. Thomas, 63, of Atlanta, Ga. He married Miss Elizabeth Roberts, only 25.

Washington Post, Jun 10, 1917

The last soldier

The last Union veteran to die was in 1947 in Minnesota. Life Magazine had a write up on this. There is one veteran from WW1 now living. It is in the newspapers as I write. He is 108 and lives in Pennsylvania.

[The Wikipedia article on last surviving veterans, which is never an exact science. The most we can usually say is that someone is thought to be the last survivor of a particular war. That article has the last two Union vets dying in 1953 and 1956. - Dave]

Yes they all look old

Yes they all look old, but what does that say about me? I can remember when the last Confederate (in fact the last Civil War) veteran died, sometime in the 1950s, and the reason that it is in my memory bank is that it happened near where I lived at the time (Baytown, Texas) and the high school band from Robert E. Lee High School (Go Ganders!) played at the funeral. I would later attend REL. And apparently, things going the way they are, I will live to see the last WWI veteran die.


Obviously these men are better dressed than they ever had been during their war when the Confederate uniforms were nominally gray, and later "butternut" but sometimes ended up being whatever you could find or even scrounge off of dead bodies. I wonder how many of our images of Confederate soldiers and how they dressed come from seeing images like this and the studio portraits that the young men going off to war had taken rather than the reality of the field.


I must say, Confederate vets knew how to rock the facial hair.

Old Dixie

Dying (slowly) for their cause.

Great image!

I'm guessing that this group from Nashville had ridden with Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest based on the flag they carry. I bet they all could tell stories to keep you going for days if anyone would listen.

Commander at the front looks like he takes his position very seriously.

News Travels Slowly

Looks like the Gillette Safety Razor was slow to take hold in the South.

Convention Center Market

Built in 1874, the city’s first convention center extended the length of Fifth Street between K and L Streets, and was known as the Northern Liberty Market. It was an immense single room 324 feet long, 126 feet wide and 84 feet high at the center. The architecturally significant structure featured a curved roof and was supported, without any interior columns, by a series of enormous iron and steel trusses.


A second floor was added to form a large auditorium, with seating for 5,000. The building was renamed the Convention Center and popularly known as the Convention Hall. The facility operated there for 50 years, hosting revival meetings, fairs, auto shows, roller-skating, bowling and a variety of amusement and sporting events.


By the early 1930s, Center Market – the city's largest building – was located at Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street. It was later demolished for the government's Federal Triangle construction project. Many of that market's vendors moved a half-mile north to the Convention Center building, which was renamed New Center Market.

Johnny Reb in his 60's

This was an eye opener for me as to just how long ago the Civil War took place. These guys were teenagers when it happened and here they are they are in their 60s in 1917. A cool and timely picture.

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