New-York Historical Society

Johnny Reb in the Big Apple: The Confederate Veteran Camp of New York

This post was written by N-YHS intern Rachel Schimke, a graduate student in the Archives and Public History program at NYU, who processed the Alexander Robert Chisolm Papers.

Alexander Robert Chisolm at age 56 in 1891. MS 670.5, Alexander Robert Chisolm papers.

Though most war-weary Confederate soldiers returned home following Lee’s surrender, not all had the ability or interest to recover their lives in the South. Founded in 1890, the Confederate Veteran Camp of New York provided a community for the former boys in gray who were living in New York City after the Civil War. By 1893, the camp had approximately 300 members. According to the organization’s 1903 constitution and by-laws, the purpose of the camp was to, “perpetuate the memories of our fallen comrades, to minister to the wants of needy and worthy Confederate soldiers and sailors, and to preserve and maintain the sentiment of fraternity that was born amid the pleasures, hardships, and dangers of the march, bivouac, and battlefield.”

Alexander Robert Chisolm (1834-1910) served as the second lieutenant-commander of the Confederate Veteran Camp of New York and later as its commander, in charge of presiding over meetings and calling special sessions as needed. During the war, Chisolm was the senior aide-de-camp to General G.T. Beauregard and was, in Chisolm’s words, Beauregard’s “confidential friend.” Though A.R. Chisolm was born in South Carolina and returned to the state as a young adult to manage his inherited property, he actually spent his childhood in New York. He sold his land in the South after the war and moved to New York in 1870. Though he resettled in a Union state, Chisolm never forgot his days in the Confederate States Army, and spent much of later life writing and giving speeches about his war experiences.

Promotional literature, Confederate Veteran Camp of New York, 1930. F128.25.W36C74.

The members of the Confederate Veteran Camp of New York apparently showed little hostility toward their Northern neighbors. An article from the New York Times dated January 20, 1891 describes a banquet hosted by the organization which “several distinguished Union soldiers” also attended as guests (a copy of the banquet menu is held by the New York Public Library). The dining room of the New-York Hotel where the banquet was held was decorated with American flags, and toasts were raised to Generals Lee and Grant with “equal heartiness.” A.R. Chisolm, in a speech he delivered to the Survivors’ Association of Charleston in 1893, praised New York City as a place where, “the Ex-Confederate Soldier has ever been welcomed.” A newspaper clipping in Chisolm’s papers at the New-York Historical Society mentions that members of the veterans’ camp were present at a memorial service held in honor of Grant.

New York Hotel circa 1893. PR 31, Bella Landauer Collection of Business and Advertising Ephemera.

Of course, the hardships of the war were certainly not forgotten. In his notes which preface a speech on the Battle of Shiloh he gave before the Confederate Veteran Camp, Chisolm expressed concern that some Confederate veterans, “although battle-scarred, knew practically very little of the true history of events.” Promotional literature on the camp from 1930 emphasizes the “cruelty and destruction” imposed on the South during the war and boasts that the “achievements and successes” of Confederate veterans “have never been equalled by any similar group of men.” (The literature also asserts the veterans’ “unconditional” belief in the “supremacy of the white race notwithstanding punitive constitutional amendments.”)

Still, it is interesting that such a large community of Confederate veterans existed in New York, and that by all accounts they lived harmoniously among their former enemies- whatever animosities toward the North they may have still felt.

 

4 Comments to Johnny Reb in the Big Apple: The Confederate Veteran Camp of New York

  1. talley bailey's Gravatar talley bailey
    September 5, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    My relative, Joshua Brown was a member of the CVC NYC from its beginning thru 1914 when he returned to live out the end of his life in Clarksville Tn.in 1903 the NYC Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy awarded him the “Southern Cross”. He worked on the cotton exchange and lived in lower Manhattan.

  2. December 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    The flag of Confederate Veteran Camp of New York is in the collection of The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. It is blue silk with gold-painted lettering that says, “Confederate Veteran Camp / NEW YORK.”

  3. D. Snyder's Gravatar D. Snyder
    February 3, 2014 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know of a roster that shows the members names that were in the CVC of NY?
    I metal detect as a hobby, and recently dug both a Southern Cross and a C.V.C. of N.Y. medal in the same yard. I have reached a dead end on tracking down the person that these medals were presented too. The property is in NC, owned by a black family with the last name Price. It has been in the Price family since the house was built in the 1920’s. They have ties to SC and also NY.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks

  4. April 30, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    D. Snyder, I just picked up a program from this camp which I will be putting on my website eventually. I looked through it and a Thomas R Price is listed as a member of the reception committee (1903). I would love to see an image of the actual badge which I have never seen before.

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