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Confederate Veteran

Nashville-based Confederate Veteran magazine was founded in 1893 by Sumner Archibald Cunningham, who also edited it. The monthly magazine commemorating the Confederate soldier was originally designed to inform patrons on the status of the Jefferson Davis monument fund spearheaded by Cunningham but eventually evolved into a clearinghouse for information related to events and rituals honoring Confederate traditions like reunions, battle enactments, and the erection of granite memorials. The magazine also reported on local and regional activities of the United Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy. But Cunningham's magazine played its most important role as a mouthpiece for rank-and-file reminiscences. It stood in sharp contrast to the Southern Historical Society Papers edited by J. William Jones in Virginia, which stressed grand debates about strategy and command-level war aims.

Charging a subscription rate of only one dollar per year, Cunningham made his monthly available to a wide audience. In the early years, however, Confederate Veteran suffered from publication problems including poor paper quality, messy ink, dark photographs, and limited advertising. The editor eventually overcame these problems, though, and by 1904 his magazine boasted one of the largest magazine subscription lists in the turn-of-the-century South with a readership of twenty-two thousand, the majority of whom hailed from the western portion of the former Confederacy. The physical format of the magazine ranged from a modest twenty-four-page layout to special souvenir numbers of sixty-four pages.

Confederate Veteran was an outstanding example of personal journalism, closely reflecting the opinions and prejudices of its proprietor. In one case, Cunningham enveloped the magazine in a fierce rivalry that unfolded between several southern cities to build the "Battle Abbey," a planned museum of Confederate war relics patterned after Westminster Abbey in Great Britain. Cunningham lobbied on the editor's page on behalf of a Nashville site. In 1901 his libelous statements against other contenders led to bitter litigation that nearly destroyed the monthly. On a more positive note, Cunningham broadcast the forgotten story of Sam Davis, "the boy hero of Tennessee." His diligent effort to educate Tennesseans on the exploits of Davis led to construction of a monument on Nashville's Capitol Hill in 1909. Cunningham considered the Davis memorial the "crowning glory" of his professional career.

After Cunningham's death in 1913, his secretary Edith Drake Pope assumed the editorial duties and kept Confederate Veteran operational until 1932. Today, the magazine stands as an invaluable resource to professional historians and genealogists.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010