After 1879, when the federal occupation of the defeated South had
ended and wartime passions cooled following the American Civil War, it
became possible to set up Confederate veterans’ organizations and
Most prominent were United Confederate Veterans (founded June
1889) and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (1894).
UDC busied itself early on with formulating an acceptable Southern
version of the history of “the War Between the States,” before turning
to recognition of Confederate veterans in 1899. Gen. Robert E. Lee had
opposed awarding of medals out of concern that many worthy candidates
were sure to be overlooked in the hurry and confusion of all-out war.
Mrs. Alexander S. Erwin, daughter of secessionist firebrand Howell
Cobb, firmly believed that UDC could rectify this situation for
surviving, honorably discharged veterans. She designed a decoration to
be called the Southern Cross of Honor and presented it before the 1899
Adopted with enthusiasm, it took the form of a 33.8-millimeter
bronze cross pattée hanging from a pinback bar that first bore the
name of Atlanta manufacturing jeweler Charles W. Crankshaw.
The center of the obverse bears the Confederate battle flag in
laurel wreath; the arms are inscribed, UNITED – DAUGHTERS –
CONFEDERACY – TO THE U.C.V.
The reverse wreath surrounds DEO VINDICE (with God our Vindicator)
from the Confederate Great Seal with dates 1861-1865. The arms are
inscribed SOUTHERN – CROSS – OF – HONOR.
A red mahogany patina in generally observed, with the pinback left
blank for engraving.
The first crosses bearing the Crankshaw name were actually struck
by Schwaab Stamp & Seal Co. of Milwaukee.
UDC fired Schwaab for striking 1902-1903 convention badges that
appropriated much of the Cross of Honor design without authorization.
In 1904 the largest medallic firm in the U.S. was Whitehead &
Hoag of Newark, N.J., which then contracted to produce the cross with
the existing design, but displaying a wholly different smooth tan-gold
patina and microscopic maker’s name on the reverse.
The first crosses were presented in 1900 to veterans with
honorable service in any branch of Confederate service. Ultimately
78,761 were presented between 1900 and 1959, including a final
posthumous award to Confederate Rear Adm. Raphael Semmes.
The Southern Cross of Honor, an award recalling a vanished
government and army, was created decades after their fall but
treasured by survivors and their descendants. It is examined in depth
by Peter Bertram in The Southern Cross of Honor: Historical Notes and
Trial List of Varieties, published by the author in 2007.
David T. Alexander, is a Senior Numismatist and researcher for
Heritage Auctions, email@example.com.
He is author of American Art Medals, 1909-1995.