Confederate Veterans Status

The United States Government Recognizes Confederate Veterans
For those who believe the soldiers, sailors, and marines of the former Confederate States of America, who fought and died in its defense, are somehow illegitimate and not worthy of honor as Americans; below are those laws and proclamations which recognize their standing and service.  These acts, and the events and circumstances which led to their passing, formally establish the Confederate soldier’s equality in honor and worthiness to those who served the Union cause.  Such official actions and proclamations by the United States and its elected officials removes all claims against the Confederate soldier and protects, defends, and honors his legacy, symbols, and monuments.  The current assault upon all things Confederate is contrary to the history, traditions, spirit, and laws of the United States of America, as well as the grand reconciliation, established by President Lincoln, expressed in the surrender terms of 1865, and carried forward by the nation and its leaders in subsequent years.

Under current law, Confederate Veterans are treated much the same as other U.S. Veterans, especially in regards to burial and pension benefits.  The following compilation provides a legislative timeline in the development of the Government's recognition and treatment of Confederate Veterans.

U.S. Statutes at Large, 56th Congress, First Session, Vol. 31, Chap. 791, Page 630, Approved 6 June 1900
"An Act Making appropriations for sundry civil expenses of the Government for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and one, and for other purposes."
“To enable the Secretary of War to have reburied in some suitable spot in the national cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, and to place proper headstones at their graves, the bodies of about one hundred and twenty-eight Confederate soldiers now buried in the National Soldiers' Home, near Washington, District of Columbia, and the bodies of about one hundred and thirty-six Confederate soldiers now buried in the national cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, two thousand five hundred dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary.”

Remarks: This law, enacted in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, affirmed sectional reconciliation and marked change in national feeling through Congressional action.  It was significant in that it was signed by President McKinley, a Union veteran, and overcame past opposition to formal recognition of Confederate dead within Arlington National Cemetery, to include bans on visiting and decorating Confederate graves by family members.

U.S. Statutes at Large, 59th Congress, First Session, Vol. 34, Chap. 631, Page 56, [S. 1234], [Public Law, No. 38], Approved 9 March 1906
“An Act To provide for the appropriate marking of the graves of the soldiers and sailors of the Confederate army and navy who died in Northern prisons and were buried near the prisons where they died, and for other purposes.”
  “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of War be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to ascertain the locations and condition of all the graves of the soldiers and sailors of the Confederate army and navy in the late civil war, eighteen hundred and sixty-one to eighteen hundred and sixty-five, who died in Federal prisons and military hospitals in the North and who were buried near their
places of confinement…”

Remarks: This act authorized the furnishing of headstones for the graves of Confederate soldiers who died in federal (Union) prison camps and military hospitals, and who were buried in federal cemeteries, to include the “Confederate Section” at Arlington. This act, in essence, formally reaffirmed Confederate soldiers as lawful military combatants with legal standing and granted a form of recognition commensurate with the status of deceased Union soldiers.

U.S. Statutes at Large, 70th Congress, Second Session, Vol. 45, Chap. 324, Pages 1307-1308, [H.R. 10304], [Public Law, No. 810], Approved 26 February 1929
“An Act Authorizing the Secretary of War to erect headstones over the graves of soldiers who served in the Confederate Army and to direct him to preserve in the records of the War Department the names and places of burial of all soldiers for whom such headstones shall have been erected, and for other purposes.”
(Headstones over graves of Confederate soldiers. Erection authorized in national cemeteries, etc.)
  “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of War is authorized to erect headstones over the graves of soldiers who served in the Confederate Army and who have been buried in national cemeteries, national, city, town, or village cemeteries or in any other places, each grave to be marked with a small headstone or block which shall be of durable stone and of such design and weight as shall keep it in place when set and shall bear the name of the soldier and the name of his State inscribed thereon when the same are known. The Secretary of War shall cause to be preserved in the records of the War Department the name, rank, company, regiment, and date of death of the soldier and his State; if these are unknown it shall be so recorded.”

Title 38 – Veterans' Benefits, Part II – General Benefits, Chapter 23 – Burial Benefits, §2306. Headstones, markers, and burial receptacles
(a) The Secretary shall furnish, when requested, appropriate Government headstones or markers at the expense of the United States for the unmarked graves of the following:
(3) Soldiers of the Union and Confederate Armies of the Civil War.

Remarks: This act (and subsequent amendments) broadened the scope of recognition further for all Confederate soldiers to receive the same burial benefits as Union soldiers. It authorized the use of U.S. Government (public) funds to mark Confederate graves and record their locations. Additionally, on 26 May 1930, the War Department authorized Confederate headstones could be inscribed with the Confederate Cross of Honor in a small circle on the front face of the stone above the standard inscription of the soldier's name, rank, company and regiment.

U.S. Statutes at Large, 85th Congress, Second Session, Vol. 72, Part 1, Pages 133-134, [H.R. 358], [Public Law 85-425], Approved 23 May 1958
Veterans. “AN ACT To increase the monthly rates of pension payable to widows and former widows of deceased veterans of the Spanish-American War, Civil War, Indian War, and Mexican War, and provide pensions to widows of veterans who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”
  “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Veterans' Benefits Act of 1957 (Public Law 85-56) is amended:
  “(3) Section 432 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:
“(e) For the purpose of this section, and section 433, the term ‘veteran’ includes a person who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, and the term ‘active, military or naval service’ includes active service in such forces.”
  “(9) Immediately above section 411 insert the following:
  “Confederate Forces Veterans – Sec. 410. The Administrator shall pay to each person who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War a monthly pension in the same amounts and subject to the same conditions as would have been applicable to such person under the laws in effect on December 31, 1957, if his service in such forces had been service in the military or naval forces of the United States.”

Title 38 – Veterans’ Benefits, Part II – General Benefits, Chapter 15 Pension for Non-Service-Connected Disability or Death or for Service, Subchapter I – General, § 1501.
Definitions. (Pub. L. 85-857, Sept. 2, 1958, 72 Stat. 1171)
(3) The term “Civil War veteran” includes a person who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, and the term “active military or naval service” includes active service in those forces. 

Remarks: While this was only a gesture since the last verified Confederate veteran died in 1951, it is meaningful Congress saw fit to consider Confederate soldiers as they would U.S. soldiers for service benefits and include their widows and offspring. This final act of reconciliation was made almost one hundred years after the beginning of the war and was more symbolic than substantive reward.

NOTE: Public Law 107-103, signed on 27 Dec 2001, allows the VA to furnish an appropriate government marker for the grave of a veteran buried in a private cemetery regardless of whether the grave is already marked with a private marker.


The Last Veterans
The last verified Confederate veteran was Pleasant Crump, of Alabama, who died in 1951.  The last verified combat veteran of the war was Union soldier James Hard, of New York, who died in 1953.  The last verified veteran of either army was Union soldier Albert Woolson, also of New York, who died in 1956.  Woolson moved with his mother to Minnesota to be with his father, himself a soldier who was hospitalized due to wounds suffered in battle.  After his father died Woolson enlisted in the Union Army as a drummer and, once the war ended, returned to Minnesota where he remained until his death.

As of 2019, there remained one person receiving a widows/orphans pension - Irene Triplett, of North Carolina.  She remains the sole pensioner of the war, receiving $73/month.  Her father served in both the Confederate and Union armies.  NOTE:  Irene Triplett passed away on May 31, 2020.


National Reconciliation
In a speech following the Spanish-American War President William McKinley, a Union Veteran, stated the following:

“…every soldier’s grave made during our unfortunate Civil War [sic] is a tribute to American valor…and the time has now come…when in the spirit of fraternity we should share in the care of the graves of Confederate soldiers…the cordial feeling now happily existing between North and South prompts this gracious act and if it needed further justification it is found in the gallant loyalty to the Union and the flag so conspicuously shown in the year just passed by the sons and grandsons of those heroic dead.”

President William McKinley
December 14, 1898

Sources:
1.  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
2.  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, History of Government Furnished Headstones and Markers, 2015.
3.  Compilation of laws and remarks referenced from work originally researched and authored by Jim Dean, Managing Editor for Veterans Today; 2011, 2015.
4.  Title 38 U.S. Code - Veterans' Benefits.
5.  United States Code, U.S. House of Representatives (uscode.house.gov).
6.  United States Statutes at Large, 1st-81st Congresses, U.S. Library of Congress.
7.  United States Statutes at Large, 82nd-112th Congresses, National Archives and Records Administration, Office of the Federal Register and Government Printing Office.

NOTE 1:  The United States Statutes at Large is the collection of laws passed by the United States Congress, in chronological order.

NOTE 2:  Not all formatting will appear consistent.  Statutes cited include formatting original to the published records.  Original documents are included as reference.

NOTE 3:  Nothing published on this page should be considered strict legal guidance.  The laws presented and described are meant to illustrate an historical interpretation.  They are provided so the reader can objectively review and interpret for him/her self the actual text of the laws and not a paraphrase, plain language extrapolation, or politically driven translation.





Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery

On the rear of the monument is an inscription attributed to the Reverend Randolph Harrison McKim, who was a Confederate chaplain and who served as pastor of the Epiphany Church in Washington for 32 years. It reads:
Not for fame or reward
Not for place or for rank
Not lured by ambition
Or goaded by necessity
But in simple
Obedience to duty
As they understood it
These men suffered all
Sacrificed all
Dared all-and died

Source:  Arlington National Cemetery (arlingtoncemetery.mil) quoting Peters, James Edward. Arlington National Cemetery: Shrine to America's Heroes. Woodbine House, 1986.
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