In 1888 Baton Rouge druggist Leon Jastremski returned from a visit to the annual reunion of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) with an idea to form a similar fraternal organization for Confederate veterans. Simultaneously, a Chattanooga businessman, J. F. Shipp, sought the first national military park at Chickamauga. Together, these men invited former Confederate cavalrymen to a reunion and fundraiser in New Orleans on February 13, 1888. Former horse soldiers representing local veterans’ societies from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana deemed the gathering a resounding success and laid plans to host a broader convention the following year. In June 1889, fifty-two delegates representing nine separate veterans’ associations met again in New Orleans and founded the United Confederate Veterans’ Association (UCV). Their constitution of fourteen articles defined the organization’s purpose as “strictly social, literary, historical, and benevolent.” The delegates unanimously selected John B. Gordon of Georgia to serve as commander-in-chief, a position he held until his death in 1904. Other officers included Adjutant General George Moorman, Chaplain General J. William Jones, and Quartermaster General J. F. Shipp. Continuity in leadership provided the early UCV with stability and strength.
Over 150,000 Confederate veterans eventually joined the association in one of 1,850 “camps,” indicating a grassroots strength to which Tennessee was no exception. Many former Confederate regiments already met informally at annual picnics across Middle and West Tennessee. By the end of the 1870s, some groups had amalgamated into larger organizations with more formal leadership structure and official programming that stressed the importance of the Confederate experience. This avid association building lent itself favorably to urban settings, and Nashville veterans formed Frank Cheatham Bivouac #1. Originally the monthly meetings in Pythian Hall recorded an average attendance of fifty men, but many of Nashville’s most prominent ex-Confederates flocked to join the organization, and by 1900 Bivouac #1 had swelled to 345 members and ranked first in the state among UCV camps.
In November 1885 members of Cheatham Bivouac (W. D. Gale, R. H. Dudley, Charles D. Elliott, Reverend J. H. McNeilly, William H. Jackson, and Frank Porterfield) played a conspicuous role in revamping a statewide veterans’ organization known as the Tennessee Confederate Memorial and Historical Association. The men expanded the original goal of funding a commemorative monument to Confederate valor and included plans to care for Confederate graves and bring living veterans into closer fraternal relations through benevolent programs for ill comrades, indigent widows, and destitute orphans. They also hoped to encourage the preparation of historical accounts of the war that would honor and vindicate Confederate actions. To meet these goals, they formed the Association of Confederate Soldiers, Tennessee, which became the first chartered organization of its kind in the South. The association met in annual state reunions that rotated between host cities in each of the three Grand Divisions. The last general UCV reunion was held in 1951.