District of Columbia Division
United Daughters of the Confederacy ®
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Last Updated: 29 July 2014
Our History
The District of Columbia Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy, was organized on December 28, 1904, with Mrs. Magnus S. Thompson serving as its first president.

Mrs. Thompson joined the UDC on her own record of service to the Confederacy: “I was in Virginia during the entire war and rendered service in providing for sick and wounded Confederates. My home was in the center of the field of action in the Valley of Virginia.” Twenty-one chapters have been members of the Division since its organization, with our two oldest chapters still in existence, Stonewall Jackson No. 20 and Robert E. Lee No. 644.

From the beginning of the organization, and due in large part to Mrs. Thompson’s tireless effort, honoring the Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery has been a focus of the Division. On March 4, 1906, Mrs. Thompson obtained permission from the Hon. William H. Taft, then Secretary of War, who had jurisdiction over the cemetery at Arlington, to erect a monument there honoring the Confederate dead. She then focused her energy on raising the money to erect the monument, calling upon Southern organizations in the District of Columbia to form an association for that purpose. The receipt for the first $1,000 donated was awarded to our own Robert E. Lee Chapter No. 644.

The cornerstone for the monument was laid on November 12, 1912, during the UDC Annual General Convention held in Washington, D.C. Mr. Taft, then President of the United States, spoke to the Daughters in convention and the principle speaker at the cornerstone ceremony was Col. William Jennings Bryan. When the monument was dedicated on June 4, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson accepted the monument as a “gift to the Nation” from UDC President General Mrs. Daisy McLaurin Stevens. The sculptor, Sir Moses Ezekiel, attended the ceremony. From1943 until 2008 the Division had three seats on the Confederate Memorial Committee of the District of Columbia, which conducted annual ceremonies at the Arlington Confederate Monument. Beginning in 2009, the Division has conducted its own memorial service at the monument. (For more information on the Arlington Confederate Monument and its history, Click Here).

In 1907, a group of Southern organizations in the District banded together and formed the Confederate Memorial Association which purchased the Confederate Memorial Hall that year. The Hall, located near DuPont Circle, was the original meeting place of the Confederate Veterans group in the District of Columbia. When the veterans grew too few in number to continue meeting and caring for the Hall, it was sold to the Association to serve as a meeting place. It contained many portraits, books, photographs, flags, and furniture that belonged to the chapters forming the original Association.

In 1919 members of the Robert E. Lee Chapter No. 644 incorporated the Robert E. Lee Memorial Fund for the purpose of building a memorial to Gen. Lee in the District of Columbia. The price of real estate in the District outpaced their fund raising, and they were unable to erect the planned memorial, but they restored the whole first floor of the Confederate Memorial Hall. This restoration was rededicated to Gen. Lee’s memory on September 15, 1973.

When the State of Virginia presented the statue of Robert E. Lee to be placed in Statuary Hall at the U. S. Capitol, a tradition was begun which continues to this day. A lone member of the UDC anonymously placed a bouquet at the base of the newly-arrived statue of Gen. Lee, and the District of Columbia Division conducts an annual ceremony at the statue commemorating the birthday of General Lee. It is the longest running ceremony conducted at one of the Capitol’s statues. In the past the Division in the past conducted annual ceremonies in Statuary Hall to honor Jefferson Davis on his June birthday, but the Arlington ceremony has taken the place of those earlier commemorations.

In 1912, 1923, 1953, and 1995, the Division hosted the UDC Annual General Convention, welcoming Daughters from all over the country to the Washington area. Over the years, many Presidents and First Ladies have spoken at and attended our Conventions and events in the District, as is evidenced by the scrapbooks of this Division, many of which have been donated to the local historical society.

Today, the Division has four chapters, including our two oldest, and the members still conduct annual ceremonies at the U. S. Capitol and Arlington Cemetery. Members meet on a regular basis to enjoy each other’s company, and to contribute to the objectives of our organization, in service to Historical, Educational, Benevolent, Memorial, and Patriotic causes.