First White House of the Confederacy The Alabama Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (ALUDC) was founded on March 26, 1896, by Sallie Jones of Camden, Wilcox County. Its purpose, like that of the national organization, was to commemorate the Confederate States of America and its soldiers who served in the Civil War. The Alabama Division has raised funds for numerous battlefield monuments and memorials throughout Alabama, as well as in other states, and honored veterans of later conflicts descended from Confederate veterans. The division also advocates on behalf of Confederate history in schools. In addition, the division and its various chapters have promoted patriotic activities during World War I, World War II, and other conflicts and performed community service work.
The National Association of the Daughters of the Confederacy was founded in September 1894 by Caroline Meriwether Goodlett in Nashville, Tennessee, and one year later the name was changed to the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The UDC was formed in the spirit of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), which was organized in 1889, and affiliates, including the Sons of Confederate Volunteers (SCV), created in 1896, and the Children of the Confederacy (C of C) in 1896.
The seven chapters that initially made up the Alabama Division were the Alabama Charter Chapter No. 36, the Selma Chapter No. 53, the Admiral Semmes Charter No. 57 in Auburn, the R.E. Rhodes Chapter No. 64 in Tuscaloosa, the Cradle of the Confederacy Chapter No. 94 and the Sophie Bibb Chapter No. 65 in Montgomery, and the Pelham Chapter No. 67 in Birmingham. As of 2006, the Alabama Division had 1,710 members spread among 9 districts divided into 58 chapters. Combined, the division offers more than 300 scholarships to Alabama students.
The UDC and its Alabama Division arose at the end of the nineteenth century during a period when women’s clubs were expanding throughout the United States. Women in the South endured severe hardships during the war, more so than their northern counterparts. After most southern white men were called up for military service, many women in the South took over management of plantations, farms, and the enslaved workforce in addition to other duties traditionally overseen by men. Southern women formed sewing and quilting groups to make cloth and uniforms and other textile products needed for the war effort, and others worked as nurses and in soldiers’ aid societies. Out of these efforts arose the Ladies Memorial Association, which raised money to bury the Confederate dead in fitting graves and build monuments to memorialize the Confederacy.
The UDC and its state chapters also arose from the tradition of hereditary patriotic organizations as well, such as the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, founded in 1637, and the Scottish St. Andrews Society, founded in 1729. Many other “nativist” groups arose in an atmosphere of increasing anti-immigrant sentiments among native-born citizens in response to the combined effects of Reconstruction and waves of immigration that began in the 1890s.
The Alabama chapters met in Montgomery’s City Hall on April 8 and 9, 1897, for their first organizational state convention. The secretary general of the UDC came from Atlanta to help assist chapter presidents with organizing and with the election of officers. The Sophie Bibb Chapter alone reported 140 members and noted that its members were working toward placing a brass star at the Capitol portico where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated president of the Confederacy in 1861. Other proposals for activities included an effort to preserve the First White House of the Confederacy and a campaign to support Richmond’s Soldier’s Home and Alabama’s Old Soldiers’ Home at Mountain Creek, to care for graves, and to aid disabled CSA veterans.
At the second convention in Birmingham the following year, 33 delegates representing 77 chapters attended, and the attendees agreed to choose preservation of the First White House of the Confederacy as its goal for the year. At the sixth convention in 1903, however, the UDC abandoned the project and turned it over to the White House Association, founded July 1, 1900, for the purpose of preserving the house.
Projects undertaken by the Alabama division may be found throughout the state. In 1903, the division voted to support the Confederate Soldiers’ Home at Mountain Creek in Chilton County, where more than 600 Confederate veterans, wives, and widows received shelter and care. The home was closed in 1939 and in 1971 came under the control of the Alabama Historical Commission after the UDC, SCV, and local citizens helped preserve the site and cemetery. The historic landmark, located near Marbury, is now known as Confederate Memorial Park.
Alabama Confederate Monument Statuary Members carried out other notable projects, including providing a stained-glass window by Lewis Comfort Tiffany to the University of Alabama library, expanding the Children of the Confederacy, sponsoring scholarship programs, and placing flowers and markers along the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway, U.S. 80 in Alabama. Members also placed a statue of Jefferson Davis on the Alabama Capitol grounds in 1940 and three flags and a military banner around the monument to Confederate soldiers and sailors on the capitol grounds in 1994. The division has also been instrumental in returning to Alabama Confederate flags that were taken in battle and in restoring flags in public collections.
The Alabama division’s efforts stretched beyond the state’s borders as well. In 1907, a UDC chapter erected a monument to Alabama CSA troops at the Shiloh, Tennessee, battlefield, the first by any UDC Division, and the next year began to raise funds for a bronze and marble monument at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which was dedicated in 1933. The division also contributed one of 15 Tiffany windows installed at Blandford Church near Petersburg, Virginia, and unveiled in 1910. Later, the Alabama chapter funded a memorial on the battlefield at Vicksburg, Mississippi, completed in 1951.
Elizabeth Burford Bashinsky, who served as president of the division from 1914–1915, also served as president general of the national organization beginning in 1929. During her term, the UDC raised money to purchase Stratford Hall, Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home, and for memorial windows at National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Her tenure oversaw the creation of a memorial at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and donation of a bust of Jefferson Davis to Transylvania College in Kentucky and a portrait of Robert. E. Lee to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, among other activities. In addition, Bashinsky and the UDC donated a bust of Matthew Fontaine Maury and bronze of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, at the time housed at New York University in Manhattan, and established a number of scholarships.
The national United Daughters of the Confederacy has 19,714 members in 705 chapters and awards approximately 40 scholarships a year. The objectives of the UDC are to pursue historical, educational, benevolent, and patriotic goals, memorialize those who fell in the service of the CSA, and preserve and mark historic places at which the Confederate military served. The UDC collects and preserves material relating to the history of the Civil War and the part played by southern women after the war and during Reconstruction. In addition, the UDC offers benevolent services to descendants of Confederate veterans and their dependents and assists in the education of needy descendants of Confederate veterans.
Membership is limited to direct female descendents and collateral descendents, such as those descended from an aunt or uncle, of men and women who honorably served the Confederacy or aided its cause, with authenticated proof, who are at least 16 years old. Lineal descendants of former members also are eligible.
- Napier, Cameron Freeman. “United Daughters of the Confederacy.” Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.
- United Daughters of the Confederacy. History of the Alabama Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy. 4 vols. Minutes of the Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the United Daughters of the Confederacy held in Montgomery April 8 and 9, 1897. Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.