United Daughters of the Confederacy
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The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) is a women’s heritage association dedicated to honoring the memory of those who served in the military and died in service to the Confederate States of America (CSA). UDC began as the National Association of the Daughters of the Confederacy, organized in 1894 by Caroline Meriwether Goodlett and Anna Davenport Raines. The National Association changed its name to the UDC in 1895. It was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia in 1919. Its motto is “Love, Live, Pray, Think, Dare”.
Membership in UDC is open to women at least 16 years old who are of lineal or collateral blood descent from veterans who served honorably in the Army, Navy, or Civil Service of the CSA or are current or former members of UDC.
Beginning soon after the war, women’s groups were active in local areas in raising money to establish cemeteries for the many Confederate war dead. In the immediate aftermath of the war, the numbers had been overwhelming, federal resources were devoted to the Union dead, and private groups led the efforts for appropriate burials and care of the Confederate dead. Such groups were part of the origin of the UDC. In addition to arranging for reburial of soldiers in the South, they funded and organized memorials to Confederate veterans and battles. They were instrumental in organizing to commemorate the war, including annual events in many towns across the South. They led the struggle to shape memory in the aftermath of the war. They also raised money to care for the widows and children of the Confederate dead. As the Encyclopedia Virginia says of the organization, "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."
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. It’s of particular importance to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization for female descendants of Confederate soldiers.
The group includes 23 elderly women who are the last living daughters of those who served. One of them is black. Mattie Clyburn Rice, 88, spent years searching through archives to prove her father was a black Confederate.
Rice’s father, Weary Clyburn, applied for a Confederate pension in 1926, when he was about 85. Rice was 4 years old then, the daughter of a young mother and an elderly father who regaled her with stories of his time spent in South Carolina’s 12th Volunteer Unit. But when Rice repeated those stories as an adult, she was accused of spreading tall tales.
Friends and family members doubted that Rice’s father, who was born a slave, supported Confederates. Military leaders also didn’t officially enlist blacks until the very tail end of the war. But once Rice found her father’s pension application in North Carolina’s state archives, Civil War groups started calling. United Daughters of the Confederacy member Gail Crosby keeps track of soldiers’ daughters — officially called "Real Daughters" — for the group. Crosby says she was thrilled to invite Rice to join.
Rice is the second black Real Daughter to be recognized by an organization that was once exclusively for white women. Yet some progressive historians and Civil War buffs frown at her father’s story. They say the very term "black Confederate" supports the notion that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Even so, University of North Carolina history professor Fitz Brundage says the contributions of enslaved blacks to the war effort should be recognized.
"If Southern states in the early 20th century had given pensions to all the African-Americans who, as slaves, were conscripted to build trenches, work on railroads [and] do all manner of heavy labor for the Confederate war cause, there should’ve been tens of thousands of African-Americans who received pensions," he says.
But, Rice says, her father went to war willingly, though his story is complicated. He ran away with his best friend, who was white and the son of his master. Rice says no matter how historians view that narrative, she’s glad she proved her father contributed to the Confederate cause.
"I wanted the world to know what he did," she says.
Rice says she never could have imagined joining the United Daughters of the Confederacy as a young woman growing up in the Jim Crow South. But she says times have changed: Not only is she a member, but two of her daughters are as well.