The UDC Southern Cross of Honor
Unlike their Union counterparts in the GAR, the UCV did not have a membership medal. They did however have the United Daughters of the Confederacy Southern Cross of Honor. The Southern Cross of Honor is a post-Civil War award presented by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to members of the United Confederate Veterans. Its origins are rooted in the wartime Southern Cross of Honor, a military decoration meant to honor all ranks for valor in the armed forces of the Confederate States of America. It was formally approved by the Confederacy October 13, 1862 and intended to rival the Union Medal of Honor however due to wartime material shortages, the medal was never struck.
According to UDC publications, the Southern Cross of Honor was conceived and designed by Mrs. Alexander S. Erwin in July of 1898 while attending a reunion of Confederate veterans in Atlanta. The UDC Southern Cross of Honor is a bronze cross pattée suspended from a pinback or button back top bar that has a blank obverse for engraving the veterans name. The Cross features a Confederate battle flag surrounded by a laurel wreath surmounted by the inscription "The Southern Cross of Honor." On the reverse is the motto of the Confederate States of America, "Deo Vindice" (With God As Our Vindicator), and the dates 1861-1865. The first medal was issued on April 26, 1900, to her husband, Captain Alexander S. Erwin by the Athens, Georgia Chapter. Veterans or their families could apply to the UDC for the award and it was presented by the local UDC chapters. UCV camps often held ceremonies on Confederate Memorial Day to present the award. The UDC states that 78,761 crosses had been given out by the year 1913. The initial contract for the medals was given to the firm of Charles W. Crankshaw in Atlanta and are so Crankshaw marked. Crankshaw did not produce the medal but had the award manufactured by the Schwaab Stamp & Seal Co. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Crankshaw had the first 2,500 UDC Crosses numerically engraved across the top of the obverse arm. The top bar would be engraved locally either prior to presentation or by the veteran. There was no standardized format for the naming and original examples have been observed engraved ranging from crude hand engraving to ornate cursive and italized scripts. Crosses are found engraved with simple initials to fully engraved with name, rank and unit. Unnamed examples as awarded are often encountered. When Schwaab appropriated the design for reunion medals without permission from the UDC, their contract was revoked. In 1904 the contract was given to Whitehead & Hoag of Newark., New Jersey and they manufactured the majority of crosses.
The Southern Cross design can be found on the cast iron markers placed by the UDC and SCV on Confederate graves and on the gravestones of Confederate veterans. The U.S. Veterans Administration approved the Southern Cross of Honor symbol to be engraved at the top of gravestones issued by the V.A. for the graves of Confederate veterans.
The UDC Cross was and is an iconic symbol of the Confederate Veteran.
Crankshaw pin back Southern Cross
Crankshaw button back Southern Cross
Whitehead & Hoag button back Southern Cross
An unusual silver plated Southern Cross
Rare numbered Southern Cross of Honor