When Confederate Veterans Came North

APHillCamp1Apart from the famous reunions at Gettysburg most of our images of Confederate and Union veterans reunions took place in the South. They typically involved the dedication of a monument or an entire battlefield. What we don’t know enough about involve examples of Confederate veterans traveling north. One such example took place in 1910 when a large group of veterans from the A.P. Hill Camp in Petersburg traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts for a July 4 celebration.

Their shared experience was the battle of the Crater. Massachusetts veterans first visited the Crater in 1887 and were greeted by William Mahone and other A.P. Hill Camp members. A year after the Springfield gathering, veterans from Massachusetts dedicated a monument on the Crater battlefield.

The 90 veterans who made the trip traveled by sea to New York City and proceeded to Grand Central Station, where they were greeted with an “ovation” by the crowd. In the crowd that day was baggage handler, Michael Casey, who himself was a Confederate veteran.

Now isn’t it a grand sight to see all those fine old boys dressed up in the gray? It takes me back to war times. It makes me want to dress up again just like they are. And they are going to visit the boys in blue. That’s the proper spirit. The more we have of it the happier and better our country is going to be.

The group spent a week together in Springfield. They attended church services together and paraded as one body through the streets of Springfield. On their return Confederate veterans spent an extra three days exploring New York City.

It should be no surprise that newspaper reports offered a positive assessment of this particular reunion and stressed the themes of reconciliation as justification. It would be interesting to know a bit more about how Northerners felt about these gatherings.

2 comments… add one
  • RB Perkinson May 30, 2021 @ 6:51

    There is an article in a1910 Richmond Times Dispatch quoting a Springfield resident that was greatly inspired by the appearance of the AP Hill group, and accepted by residents with great enthusiasm. Amazing the respect ordinary soldiers had for each other, after years of killing each other. A concept the young “woke” of today can not comprehend. Those with the most reason to hate, see life through a lens the pampered self indulgent youth of today cannot comprehend.

    • Kevin Levin May 30, 2021 @ 7:05

      One of the first rules that a historian should follow is not select only the evidence that reinforces his own assumptions and agenda. You can certainly find examples of former veterans on both sides who embraced their former enemies, but you can find just as many who remained resistant and continued to harbor hatred of one another well into the postwar years. You should read Keith Harris’s book Across the Bloody Chasm (LSU Press) and Caroline Janney’s Remembering the Civil War (UNC Press).

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