Southern Cross of Honor
|Southern Cross of Honor|
|Awarded for||Loyal & Honorable service to the South|
|Status||Historical Military Award|
|Established||October 13, 1862|
|First awarded||Original award: 1862
Postwar medal: 1900
|Last awarded||Original award: 1865
Postwar medal: unknown
The Southern Cross of Honor is the name of two separate and distinct military honors presented to Confederate military personnel and veterans. The original wartime medal, aka Confederate Medal of Honor, was a military decoration meant to honor officers, noncommissioned officers, and privates for their valor in the armed forces of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. It was formally approved by the Congress of the Confederate States on October 13, 1862, and was originally intended to be on par with the Union Army's Medal of Honor.
During the war, however, there were shortages of metals, and many medals were not minted or awarded. The names of these soldiers were, however, recorded in an Honor Roll and preserved in the Adjutant Inspector General's records.
The postwar version of the medal, which is a separate award than the original wartime medal, came into being following a reunion in 1898. The idea of bestowing the Southern Cross of Honor to Confederate veterans of the American Civil War was conceived in Atlanta in July 1898 by Mrs. Alexander S. (Mary Ann Lamar Cobb) Erwin of Athens, GA, at a reunion of Confederate veterans. Mrs. Erwin and Mrs. Sarah E. Gabbett of Atlanta are credited with the design of the medal. The medal was at this point authorized by the UDC to be awarded to any Confederate Veteran who had provided "loyal, honorable service to the South and given in recognition of this devotion."
A metal cross pattée with the representation of a Confederate battle flag placed on the center thereof surrounded by a wreath, with the inscription "The Southern Cross of Honor." On the back of the medal is the motto of the Confederate States of America, "Deo Vindice" ([With] God [As Our] Vindicator), the dates 1861 1865, and the inscription, "From the UDC to the UCV." (UDC stands for the United Daughters of the Confederacy; UCV stands for the United Confederate Veterans.) The Southern Cross of Honor could only be bestowed through the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It could not be purchased; it was given in recognition of loyal, honorable service to the South and only a Confederate veteran could wear it. The first Cross ever bestowed was upon Mrs. Erwin’s husband, Captain Alexander S. Erwin, by the Athens (Ga.) Chapter on April 26, 1900.
Although no Civil War veterans are still living, the last verified Confederate veteran dying in 1951, Virginia Code section 18.2-176(b) remains in effect and makes it a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $500, to "wear any Southern Cross of Honor when not entitled to do so by the regulations under which such Crosses of Honor are given."
The Southern Cross of Honor is also used as a symbol on the graves of Confederate veterans who served honorably. It can take two different forms which can sometimes both be seen on the same soldier's grave.
One form is an outline of the Southern Cross engraved on the actual gravestone of the veteran. This symbol is still available to be placed as an optional symbol of belief on a U.S. Veterans Administration issued gravestone. This symbol will only be issued by the V.A. to be placed on the grave of a Confederate Veteran. The symbol is also available to be placed on existing gravestones by some private monument companies and stone carvers.
The second form of the Southern Cross of Honor seen on Confederate graves is a two-sided, cast iron replica of the medal. This cross stands atop a metal rod placed into the ground at the veteran's grave. It is sometimes referred to as the "Iron Cross of Honor" or "SCV Iron Cross". The cross is typically placed on Confederate graves by local chapters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans or by family members or interested parties related to the Confederate Veteran. The iron cross version of the SCH is available for purchase through several SCV chapters as well as several private foundries throughout the United States. The grave of any Confederate Veteran who served honorably is eligible for placement of this symbol.
Southern Cross of Honor "Iron Cross" grave marker at the grave of Judah P. Benjamin in Paris, France.
- Military Order of the Stars and Bars
- Sons of Confederate Veterans
- United Daughters of the Confederacy
- Ancestry.com - The Southern Cross of Honor
- United Daughters of the Confederacy website[dead link]
- Military Grave Markers « Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols
- Veterans Administration available symbols
- Veterans Administration on Confederate graves
- Mitchell, Michael, "Sons of Confederate Veterans Handbook for Grave Etiquette, Conservation and Preservation", Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., 2002, p.14.[dead link]
- SCV Iron Cross Merchant
- Clemmer, Gregg S., Valor in Gray: The Recipients of the Confederate Medal of Honor, Staunton, Virginia, Hearthside Publishing Company, 1998, ISBN 0-9650987-0-2.