The United Confederate Veterans (UCV) came into being in 1889 at New Orleans as delegates from nine separate veterans organizations formed into one. General Stephen D. Lee, born in Charleston, South Carolina and a West Point graduate, was an energetic organizer who wanted “to keep alive the sacred memories of the War.
The patriotic devotion to our beloved country . . . , the ardor with which we rallied around her flag, the indomitable heroism with which we followed it through danger and disaster: when we meet together all those memories come with a rush. We feel a thrill of pride that nothing can alter.”
Great Interrogation Marks to the Soul of the Beholder
“As a top leader in the UCV, Lee was a tireless and faithful worker. He cited three significant tasks to which he thought the veterans should apply themselves in the remaining to them. One was in the continued erection of monuments . . . The second was to ensure that each veteran lived the remainder of his life proudly, never bringing shame or regret to others who had been Confederate soldiers. The last was to help take care of the veterans who were hard-pressed financially.
He gave speeches wherever interested persons listened.
Always he added a word urging that more monuments be erected, “first, for the sake of the dead, but most for the sake of the living, for in this busy industrial age these tablets and stones to our soldiers may stand like great interrogation marks to the soul of the beholder.”
[In his inaugural address as president of the UCV in 1904, Lee said] the greatest loss of the South was not in burned houses and wasted fields, and ravaged cities, but in the men the South lost. “Yet,” “my comrades,” what “a comfort to know that the South had such men to lose . . . What a magnificent race of men! What a splendid type of humanity! What courage! What grandeur of spirit! What patriotism! What self-sacrifice! It was sublime.”
“A people who do not cherish their past,” he said in 1904, “will never have a future worth recording.”
(General Stephen D. Lee, Herman Hattaway, University Press of Mississippi, 1976, excerpts pp. 199-200; 206)