Southern Cross of Honor

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Southern Cross of Honor
Southern Cross of Honor.svg
Date 1899; 117 years ago (1899)
Presented by United Daughters
of the Confederacy

The Southern Cross of Honor was a postbellum honor presented by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to members of the United Confederate Veterans.



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 U. D. C. to the U. C. V." (U. D. C. stands for the United Daughters of the Confederacy; U. C. V. 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.[1]


The Southern Cross of Honor is not the same as a wartime medal that was approved by an act of the Congress of the Confederate States on October 13, 1862. Titled: "An Act to authorize the grant of medals and badges of distinction as a reward for courage and good conduct on the field of battle." The text of the act read:[2]

The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the President be and he is hereby authorized to bestow medals, with proper devices, upon such officers of the armies of the Confederate States as shall be conspicuous for courage and good conduct on the field of battle; and also to confer a badge of distinction upon one private or non-commissioned officer of each company after every signal victory it shall have assisted to achieve. The non-commissioned officers and privates of the company, who may be present on the first dress parade thereafter, may choose, by a majority of their votes, the soldier best entitled to receive such distinction, whose name shall be communicated to the President by commanding officers of the company, and if the award fall upon a deceased soldier, the badge thus awarded him shall be delivered to his widow, or if there be no widow, to any relation the President may adjudge entitled to receive it.

However, there is no indication that any such medals were ever awarded. The Confederate Congress did at times pass resolutions bestowing the "special thanks of Congress" such as that for the successful defense of Sabine Pass. In addition Texans raised funds to provide medals to each of the men, the "Sabine Pass Davis Guard Medal." One was also given to Jefferson Davis.[3]

The postwar version of the medal, which is a separate award from 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."[citation needed]

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."[4]

Headstones and markers[edit]

The cross 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 cross engraved on the actual gravestone of the veteran.[5] This symbol is still available to be placed as an optional symbol of belief on a United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued gravestone. This symbol will only be issued by the VA to be placed on the grave of a Confederate Veteran.[6] The symbol is also available to be placed on existing gravestones by some private monument companies and stone carvers. The second form of the cross 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 (SCV) or by family members or interested parties related to the Confederate Veteran. The iron cross version is available for purchase through several SCV chapters as well as several private foundries throughout the United States.[7] The grave of any Confederate Veteran who served honorably is eligible for placement of this symbol.[citation needed]

Notable recipients[edit]


  1. ^ Inscoe, John. The Civil War in Georgia. University of Georgia Press, 2011. p. 203. 
  2. ^ [1] Public Laws of the Confederate States of America, Passed at the Second Session of the First Congress; 1862. Richmond, Virginia, R.M. Smith printer to Congress, 1862 p. 89
  3. ^ Cotham, Edward T., Jr. Sabine Pass, the Confederacy's Thermopylae University of Texas Press, 2004, pp. 170-1
  4. ^ "Code of Virginia". Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  5. ^ Military Grave Markers « Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols
  6. ^ "Pre-World War I Era Headstones and Markers". U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  7. ^ SCV Iron Cross Merchant

Further reading[edit]

  • Meares, Catherine de Rosset (January 19, 1901). Address by Mrs. Gaston Meares (Speech). Presentation of the Cross of Honor, to Veterans of the Confederate Army. Wilmington, North Carolina: Review Job Office Print. Retrieved April 22, 2016 – via Cape Fear Chapter, Daughters of the Confederacy. 

External links[edit]