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Little Rock (Pulaski County) hosted the twenty-first annual United Confederate Veterans Reunion on May 16–18, 1911. The reunion drew more than 140,000 people, including approximately 12,000 veterans, making it the largest event in Little Rock history until William Jefferson Clinton’s election night in 1992.
The United Confederate Veterans (UCV) formed in 1889 with a goal of keeping alive the memory of the men who fought for the South during the Civil War and to bring national attention to the needs of the aging veterans. The annual reunion was one of the group’s major projects, and towns across the country vied to host the event.
Judge William M. Kavanaugh chaired Little Rock’s planning committee for the event. Subcommittees arranged for lodging, food, special events, and entertainment for the veterans. The committees arranged for set rates at hotels and restaurants, created additional lodging at schools and private homes, and created special barracks and tent camps.
An estimated 6,000 veterans were expected to attend the reunion. The city erected a veterans’ camp at the City Park (now MacArthur Park). The camp was named for Mena (Polk County) native Confederate Colonel Robert Glenn “Fighting Bob” Shaver of the Seventh Arkansas Infantry, and Shaver served as commander of the camp during the reunion. Accommodations at Camp Shaver were arranged by state, division, and corps to expedite the attendees reuniting with old friends.
Events at the reunion included speeches by Little Rock Mayor Charles E. Taylor and Arkansas Governor George W. Donaghey. Various groups in Little Rock provided entertainment and special events, including receptions, arcades, dances, hot air balloon rides, plus the dedication at City Park of a statue honoring the Capital Guards. The high point of the reunion occurred at 10:00 a.m. on May 18 when the official parade began. The parade route ran from the Old State House at Markham and Center Streets to City Park and back again and took two tours to pass by any single point.
The reunion concluded that evening at the end of the Veterans’ Ball, which approximately 5,800 people attended.
Little documentary information is available about the reunion, but it was featured in newspaper articles and recorded in a series of postcards done by local photographers. These postcards, which include scenes of Camp Shaver and of the city decorated with Confederate banners and portraits of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, are very popular among collectors.
For additional information:
Civil War Reunion Collection. Old State House Museum Online Collections. Reunion Collection (accessed May 18, 2011).
Polston, Mike. “Little Rock Did Herself Proud: A History of the 1911 United Confederate Veterans Reunion.” Pulaski County Historical Review 29 (Summer 1981): 22–32.
Russell, James D. “The Gray Parade: Little Rock Hosts the Twenty-First National United Confederate Veterans Reunion.” Pulaski County Historical Review 52 (Spring 2004): 2–13.
Sandlin, Jake. “In 1911, LR Filled to the Brim with Confederate Veterans.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. May 15, 2011, pp. 1A, 6A–7A.
Ray HanleyLittle Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 6/30/2016
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