Military Reunions: A Historical Analysis

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By the early 20th century military commemorations and reunions were growing in popularity in the United States. Federal and state governments, as well as private enterprises, were purchasing large amounts of land to serve as cemeteries, reunion grounds and historical parks for the purposes of celebration and remembrance. This was especially true in the Southern United States, where Confederate memorial grounds and historical sites sprung up in considerable numbers after the Civil War and the contentious period of Reconstruction. However, the rise of commemorative sites and military reunions in the South often exacerbated racial and political tensions, and reiterated the problems of segregation. While at first this did not seem to be the specific…show more content…
This remained true well after the Civil War’s conclusion. This is to say that whatever systemic racism exists in Southern commemoration and memory today comes in some small part from the convenience of that racism to national economic interests and prejudice. Nevertheless the South still owns a substantial, majority share of culpability for the intersection of racial issues in the region and Southern historical…show more content…
In some instances, this influence permeated even the highest levels of national government. President Woodrow Wilson, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, came from a political lineage that loudly objected to Reconstruction and this was often perpetuated by Wilson’s actions in the oval office. During his presidency, Wilson established several traditions honoring Confederates, including the display of an annual wreath remembering Confederates at the Arlington National Cemetery, as well as speaking at a Confederate dedication there. Additionally, Wilson accepted a monument from the Daughters of Confederate Veterans into the cemetery, and used the opportunity to argue that the nation had “at last reunited.” Despite this proclamation of reunion, Wilson vocally supported segregation and the Ku Klux Klan’s involvement in Confederate commemorations, calling it a, “veritable empire of the South, to protect Southern country.” The Sons of Confederate Veterans went so far as to cite this in early drafts of their first organizational charter, championing President Wilson for “clarifying the contradictions and inconveniences of the ‘Unionized’ view of White
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