R.E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans Papers, 1885-1958 Special Collection 21 (SC-21)

R.E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans Papers, 1885-1958

Special Collection 21 (SC-21)


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VMFA Archives, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

VMFA Archives
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library
200 N. Boulevard
Richmond, VA 23220-4007
Phone: 804-340-1495
Email: library@vmfa.museum
URL: http://vmfa.museum

Courtney Yevich Tkacz, VMFA Archivist

Repository
VMFA Archives
Identification
SC-21
Title
R.E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans Papers1885-1958
Quantity
0.2 Linear Feet 3 boxes; 13 items
Language
English
Abstract
The collection documents the history of R.E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans, a large residential complex for poor and infirm Confederate veterans of the Civil War. Altogether a total of nearly three thousand veterans from thirty-three states called the camp home, and after the camp's closing, the Commonwealth eventually granted use of the buildings and land to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The collection is comprised of photographs and postcards that document the changing landscape of the camp over 50 years, a rare guest register that includes thousands of guest signatures and a page signed by ten members of the Blackfeet Nation, and two extremely rare artifacts – reunion ribbons – provide material testimony to the reconciliation efforts of Confederate and Union veterans only twenty years after they faced each other as enemies during the Civil War.

Administrative Information

Publication

The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Digitized content is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License. Transmission or reproduction of other materials protected by copyright, beyond that allowed by fair use, requires the researcher to obtain permission of copyright holders. 

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Provenance

The collection was created by the VMFA Archives in 2017 to bring together primary sources about the camp. The register and reunion ribbons were purchased by VMFA Library in November 2014 and July 2015. The postcards were donated by Elizabeth O'Leary in June 2015. The other materials were relocated from vertical files in the VMFA Library.

Preferred Citation

R.E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans Papers (SC-21). VMFA Archives, Richmond, Virginia.


Historical Note

In the 1830s through the 1850s, Anthony Robinson Jr. purchased over 170 acres in the center of what would become the city of Richmond, including the property on which VMFA now stands. The estate, comprised of woods and open countryside, was cultivated and improved, no doubt through the labor of the enslaved African Americans listed in Robinson's tax records and will. Little is known about the earliest Robinson residence, but the imposing farmhouse still standing on the museum property was built by Anthony Robinson Jr. in the mid-1850s. In April 1865, during the final weeks of the Civil War, Union troops occupied the house and grounds at the invitation of Robinson's widow, Rebecca, in exchange for protection from looting. In 1883, the couple's son Channing sold the residence and thirty-six surrounding acres to establish a Confederate soldiers' home.

Between 1885 and 1941 the property was the site of a large residential complex for poor and infirm Confederate veterans of the Civil War. Established by R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans, the camp was built with private funds, including donations from former Confederate and Union soldiers alike. At peak occupancy, residents numbered just over three hundred; altogether a total of nearly three thousand veterans from thirty-three states called the camp home. For the next half century, Robinson House, renamed Fleming Hall during the soldiers' home era, served as the compound's administration building and war museum. After the camp's closing, the Commonwealth granted use of the building to the Virginia Institute for Scientific Research in the 1950s and to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from 1964 to the present.

The green space in the central grounds of today's VMFA property was once the commons of the Confederate soldiers' home. Around the oak-filled park stood the administration building, barracks, dining hall, hospital, recreation hall, steam plant, and assorted outbuildings. The superintendent's house, nine residential cottages, and a chapel formed an arc to the west. With the exception of Robinson House and the Confederate Memorial Chapel, the structures were demolished or moved in the early 1940s. From the camp's earliest years, the Commonwealth of Virginia helped fund the institution. In 1892, Lee Camp No. 1 agreed that the property would revert to the Commonwealth in twenty-two years. A later agreement extended that transition to the time when the original purpose of the home was no longer needed. When the last resident died in 1941, the Commonwealth gained ownership of the site. By that time, it had been designated as the Confederate Memorial Park.

Dedicated in 1887 to the Confederate war dead, the nondenominational Confederate Memorial Chapel (also referred to as the Pelham Chapel) served as a place of worship for the residents of R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1. Funded by donations from veterans and private citizens of the Commonwealth, it was designed by architect Marion J. Dimmock in the Carpenter-Gothic style. In the postwar era of reconciliation, Union veterans from Lynn, Massachusetts, donated the organ. By the time the camp closed fifty-four years later, the chapel had hosted approximately 1,700 funeral services for the former soldiers.

The monumental limestone building to the west of the present museum grounds was built in 1932 as a residence for destitute female relatives of Confederate veterans. After relocating the final inhabitants of the Home for Needy Confederate Women to a nursing facility in 1989, the Commonwealth set aside the property for use by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

(The above information was taken from the website "History of the VMFA Grounds".)

Scope and Content Note

The collection's inclusive dates are 1885-1958, with the bulk of the material dating from 1885-1937. The collection is comprised of photographs, postcards, reunion ribbons, press clippings, and a guest register.

Arrangement

The collection is organized into three series, and items are arranged chronologically within each series.

Series 1: Images, 1907-1958, undated

Series 2: Publications, 1885-1914

Series 3: Realia, 1885

Subjects and Indexing Terms

  • Confederate Memorial Chapel
  • Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper
  • Grand Army of the Republic -- Seward Post No. 37 (Auburn, N.Y.)
  • Home for Needy Confederate Women (Richmond, Va.)
  • Lee Camp Soldiers' Home (Richmond, Va.)
  • Leslie, Frank
  • Soldiers' homes -- Virginia -- Richmond -- 19th century
  • Soldiers' homes -- Virginia -- Richmond -- 20th century
  • Sons of Confederate Veterans (Organization). R.E. Lee Camp No. 1 (Richmond, Va.)
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Veterans

Related Materials - VMFA Library

Subject Files

VMFA: Building History: Confederate Memorial Chapel

VMFA: Building History: Confederate Home for Ladies

VMFA: Building History: Robinson House: General

VMFA: Building History: Robinson House: Robinson Family, 1840s-1880s

VMFA: Building History: Robinson House: R.E. Lee Camp: Confederate Soldiers' Home (Fleming Hall)

VMFA: Building History: Robinson House: R.E. Lee Camp: Confederate Soldiers' Museum (Fleming Hall)

VMFA: Building History: Robinson House: "Confederate Memorial Park," Post 1934 and Controversy, 1954


Container List

SC-21-01
Series 1: Images
9 items1 box (2 folders)
1907-1958, undated
Series Description

This series is comprised of photographs and postcards that document the changing landscape of the camp over 50 years.

  • SC-21-01.1
    Series 1.1: Photographs
    1937-1958
    • SC-21 Box 1
      Item SC21.01.1.001
      Aerial view of campus with Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Confederate Women's Home, Robinson House, Benedictine Catholic Church, Battle Abbey and Johnston Willis Hospital, taken by Dementi Studio
      1937
      Black-and-white photographs
      Conditions Governing Use

      Copyright Dementi Studio, 1937

    • SC-21 Box 1
      Item SC21.01.1.002
      Certificate of Authenticity from the Baltimore Sun archives for the 1937 photograph, photo ID AEP-992-BS
      undated
      Certificates
    • SC-21 Box 1
      Item SC21.01.1.003
      Confederate Chapel, Negative 3184
      Jan. 1958
      Black-and-white photographs
  • SC-21-01.2
    Series 1.2: Postcards
    1907-1934, undated
    • SC-21 Box 1
      Item SC21.01.2.001
      Aerial View, Confederate Women's Home, Richmond, Va.
      [ca. 1934]
      Picture postcards
    • SC-21 Box 1
      Item SC21.01.2.002
      Headquarters, The Soldiers Home, Richmond, Va.
      [1907]
      Picture postcards
    • SC-21 Box 1
      Item SC21.01.2.003
      Soldiers' Home, Boulevard Ave, Richmond, Va.
      [ca. 1913]
      Picture postcards
    • SC-21 Box 1
      Item SC21.01.2.004
      Soldiers' Home, Boulevard and Grove Ave., Richmond, Va.
      [1914]
      Picture postcards
    • SC-21 Box 1
      Item SC21.01.2.005
      Soldiers' Home (Boulevard and Grove Avenue), Richmond, VA
      undated
      Picture postcards
    • SC-21 Box 1
      Item SC21.01.2.006
      Soldiers' Home, Boulevard and Grove Ave., Richmond, Va.
      undated
      Picture postcards
SC-21-02
Series 2: Publications
2 items2 boxes (1 folder, 1 register)
1885-1914
Series Description

This series is comprised of publications created while the camp was still in operation, including a rare guest register from 1912-1914. The thousands of guest signatures include some well-known figures such as J.C. Penny, Minnie Sky Eagle and Chief Red Eagle of the Great Sioux Nation, and Sam Rayburn. The highlight of the book is a complete page signed by ten members of the Blackfeet Nation, including four chiefs. The contigent of Blackfeet leaders from Glacier National Park were likely in nearby Washington, D.C. on tribal business, and signed the register on May 19, 1914 with their pictographs: Chief Eagle Calf (also known as John Ground), Medicine Owl, Two Guns White Calf (Chief and best known as a model for the "Buffalo Nickel"), Lazy Boy (Chief), Mrs. Medicine Owl, Frank White Quiver, Fish Wolf Robe (Chief), Mrs. Two Guns White Calf, Mrs. Bird Rattle, Bird Rattle.

  • SC-21 Box 1
    Item SC21.02.0.001
    "The Home for Ex-Confederate Soldiers and Sailors at Richmond, VA," Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, pages 5-6
    Aug. 22, 1885
    Clippings
  • SC-21 Box 2
    Item SC21.02.0.002
    Register: Lee Camp Soldiers' Home
    May 17, 1912-Oct. 14, 1914
    Books
SC-21-03
Series 3: Realia
2 items1 box
1885
Series Description

This series is comprised of two extremely rare artifacts, reunion ribbons that provide material testimony to the reconciliation efforts of Confederate and Union veterans only twenty years after they faced each other as enemies during the Civil War. The ribbons were creates to commemorate the reciprocal visits of the veterans organizations – Seward Post, No. 37, GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) and R.E. Lee Camp, No. 1, CV (Confederate Veterans) – first to Auburn, NY, and then to Richmond. Each organization spared no expense or outlay of effort to wine, dine, and celebrate their counterparts. Among the festivities in Richmond was a special lunch given for the Union veterans at the Soldiers' Home. Only the year before, GAR posts from all over the country were instrumental in helping to raise funds to establish the Soldiers' Home.

  • SC-21 Box 3
    Item SC21.03.0.001
    "Blue and the Gray Re-Union" Ribbon, Seward Post 37, G.A.R., Auburn, N.Y. and R.E. Lee Camp, C. V., Richmond, VA
    July 4, 1885
    Trimming
  • SC-21 Box 3
    Item SC21.03.0.002
    Reunion Ribbon, R.E. Lee Camp No. 1, C. V., Richmond, VA and Seward Post No. 37, G.A.R., Auburn, N.Y.
    Oct. 20, 1885
    Trimming