Memory  /  Antecedent

“Richmond Reoccupied by Men Who Wore the Gray”

In 1890, the former Confederate capital erected a monument to Robert E. Lee-and reasserted white supremacy.
Edyth Carter Beveridge/Library of Congress

With the fall of Reconstruction, however, the “southern cross” made a strong comeback, accompanied by a reassertion of white political power and belief in the “heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man.” The return of white political power also meant that Lost Cause ideology could be widely disseminated. The Lost Cause was an interpretation of history that argued that the Civil War was not fought over slavery but over states’ rights; that slaves had been happy and loyal; and that all the men who fought for the South were men of honor, none more so than Robert E. Lee.

We can see the rise of Lost Cause orthodoxy, and the return of Confederate symbols, in events like the 1890 unveiling of the Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy. Now that the political power of those who supported Reconstruction had been rolled back, the white elite in the city planned a three-day event to coincide with the unveiling of the monument and planned the largest reunion of Confederate veterans to date. It featured dinners, banquets, parades, speeches, published biographies, and fireworks. According to newspaper accounts, there were more than 140,000 spectators. The parade was so long it took two hours to pass; it was headed by former Confederate generals on horseback and 20,000 uniformed former Confederate soldiers. The Richmond Times proudly declared: “Richmond Reoccupied by Men Who Wore the Gray.”

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