Bedford County TN Biographies

SUMNER ARCHIBALD CUNNINGHAM

Sumner A. Cunningham was the founder and editor of the Confederate Veteran magazine which was one of the New South's most influential monthlies and made Cunningham a central figure in the "Lost Cause" movement of the late nineteenth century. Sumner was raised on a farm in Bedford County, Tennessee. At the outbreak of the Civil War he joined Company B, 41st Tennessee Infantry, CSA and fought at Fort Donelson and was surrendered there. He was sent to Camp Morton in Indianapolis and spent six months as a prisoner of war before being exchanged in mid-1862. He rejoined his regiment in Mississippi and fought at Port Hudson, Yazoo River, Jackson, and Raymond. After the campaign he was incapacitated for a time due to illness. In 1863 he was promoted to sergeant-major and fought in the battles of Franklin and Nashville. After the war Cunningham returned to Shelbyville, Tennessee and worked briefly in the mercantile business. In 1871 he published his "Reminiscences of the Forty-first Tennessee Infantry". His interest in writing continued and he became a journalist, bought and edited the Shelbyville Commercial (1871), Chattanooga Times (1876), and Cartersville (Georgia) Express (1879). In 1883 he entered the magazine field with "Our Day", a monthly directed at Southern audiences. By 1885 his various ventures had failed and he joined the Nashville American newspaper as a staff correspondent where he became a popular columnist. In 1893, he began publication of the Confederate Veteran magazine which became the voice of the United Confederate Veterans and later the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Cunningham said: "The 'Veteran' has had faults and made mistakes all the while, but its motives and loyalty to the highest principles of life have never varied. It has been courteous and heroic in vindication of truth, softened and strengthened by memories of the hundreds of thousands who went down to death with approving consciences".

Contributed by Jody & Lesa Baltz (Find-A-Grave)
Headstone Photo

Sumner Archibald Cunningham, editor and publisher of the Confederate Veteran at Nashville, is a lifelong resident of Tennessee, served the state in the great Civil war, and has spent many years in the quiet pursuits of business and as an editor.

Of Scotch-Irish descent, a son of John Washington Campbell and Mary A. (Buchanan) Cunningham, he was born in Bedford county, this state, on July 21, 1843. He received a fair literary education in the schools before the war, and was about eighteen years of age when the conflict between the states began. As a soldier of the South he served with distinction in the Forty-first Tennessee Infantry, begin- ning as a private and being promoted to sergeant and then sergeant- major. After the war for a number of years he was engaged in merchandising.

In 1893 Mr. Cunningham founded the Confederate Veteran, a monthly journal devoted to the interests of the old soldiers of the South, and publishing well edited articles of historical and current news. During the twenty years of his proprietorship and editorial management he has made this journal a welcome visitor to thousands of households whose memories and associations cherish the old South of war-time. Through this medium also much practical benefit has been done for the Confederate veterans, and its files contain much valuable history that cannot be found elsewhere.

Mr. Cunningham is a member of the Hermitage Club of Nashville, and is one of the active workers in the Cumberland Presbyterian church. He was married in 1866 to Miss Laura N. Davis, who is now deceased.

A history of Tennessee and Tennesseans: the leaders and representative men in commerce, industry and modern activities. By Will T. Hale Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1913

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