Today marks the anniversary of not only one, but two Civil War anniversaries. On April 9th, 1927 the Woman’s Relief Corps (WRC) and Daughters of Union Veterans (DUV) joined together at Connecticut’s state capitol to commemorate the 62nd anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Each group erected a large bronze tablet in order to mark this victorious day for the Union. The WRC chose to honor Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg address with their plaque, while the DUV selected their “Heroic Fathers” who fought in the war.
These two groups seem, to a modern observer, to be incredibly similar in their volunteer efforts, but they were fiercely divided even decades after the Civil War ended. The Woman’s Relief Corps began in Massachusetts as a “secret association” in 1879, because female membership to the larger Grand Army of the Republic (the Union veterans group) had been repeatedly denied. Other states began their own WRC and eventually were included in the GAR as auxiliary groups. The WRC was open to any patriotic American woman who wished to help surviving Union veterans and their families, hence providing them relief. Many mothers, wives, and daughters of Union veterans dramatically objected to the liberal membership policies of the WRC and began their own groups shortly thereafter. These new groups demanded every member show their direct relation to a Union soldier. Fifty years later, in 1927, this divide was illustrated in separate ceremonies for two different plaques in Connecticut’s state capitol.
Amanda Nicholas, a native of Nantucket, is a Public History Graduate student at Central Connecticut State University, while working full time at Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea and indulging in her favorite pastimes: historical research, knitting, and blacksmithing.
This Today in History was published as part of a semester-long graduate student project at Central Connecticut State University that examined Civil War monuments and their histories in and around the State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut.