Caroline Meriwether Goodlett – Founder
Caroline Douglas Meriwether Goodlett was born on November 3, 1833, just over the Tennessee-Kentucky line at the Meriwether family home “Woodstock” in Todd County, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Charles Nicholas and Caroline Huntley Barker Meriwether.
On December 3, 1853, Caroline married John Sturdevant of Christian County, Kentucky. After her marriage, Caroline’s father gave her three hundred acres of land near “Woodstock” but in Montgomery County, Tennessee. On it was a large comfortable two-story log house in which he had lived before he built Woodstock. The couple had one child, Charles James, but unfortunately the marriage was not a happy one and the couple separated.
As soon as the War started, Caroline’s brother Edward enlisted. After Edward was killed on December 28, 1861, at Scaramento, Kentucky, Caroline put everything aside and applied all of her energies to aid the South. She converted her large tobacco barns into rooms where the women of the neighborhood met to sew, knit, and make bandages and clothing for the soldiers.
She also nursed and cared for wounded soldiers that were brought to her home until they could be moved to a hospital. An excellent horsewoman, she would often mount one of her thoroughbreds and carry medicine and supplies through the Federal lines.
After the War, Caroline obtained a divorce, had her maiden name restored and had her son’s name changed to Meriwether. Ready to start life anew, she sold her land, stock and some household furnishings and she and her son moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
Through the years following the War, Caroline continued working with various Confederate veterans’ organizations. In 1866 the Benevolent Society was organized for the purpose of securing funds for artificial limbs for Confederate veterans. Realizing the South’s everlasting debt of gratitude to the “Confederate Veteran,” she persevered until the first old soldiers home was established in Nashville, followed by hundreds of others throughout the country, where care and comfort were provided for the helpless.
It was largely through her efforts that the state deeded part of the Hermitage tract for a home for needy Confederate soldiers. In 1870 the Confederate women of Nashville organized a Memorial Association and bought a lot in Mount Olivet Cemetery, where they buried the remains of Confederate soldiers in the vicinity of Nashville. Caroline was a charter member of the Board of the Confederate Monumental Association that erected a monument over the Confederate soldiers buried in the circle.
In 1869 Caroline met and married Colonel Michael Campbell Goodlett, a Confederate veteran and a widower with four children. The couple’s only child, Caroline Barker Goodlett, was born on October 3, 1871. Caroline’s son, Charles James, had just graduated from Vanderbilt University and she had just set him up in business when he died at the age of twenty-five.
In 1890, “The Auxiliary of the Confederate Soldiers’ Home” was organized in Tennessee and Mrs. Goodlett was elected President.
The Auxiliary’s aims were benevolent and social; it helped support the Confederate Soldiers home in Davidson County, Tennessee, and tried to help the widows, wives and children of the Confederate veterans. Gradually, the Auxiliary began to operate as “Daughters of the Confederacy,” and on May 10, 1892, the following notice appeared in the Nashville American newspaper: “At a meeting of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Confederate Home yesterday, it was decided to change the name to ‘Daughters of the Confederacy.”‘ The names of the various officers were listed with Mrs. Goodlett as the State President.
During all the years following the War, Mrs. Goodlett had dreamed of an organization which would have as one of its objectives that of keeping alive the sacred principles for which Southern men and boys fought so bravely. This dream became a reality when the National Daughters of the Confederacy was organized on September 10, 1894, and she was elected its first President. When the Tennessee Division was organized on January 28, 1896, Mrs. Goodlett was elected its first president and served two years.
In 1905, the title of “Founder” of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was conferred upon Mrs. Goodlett at the General Convention in San Francisco.
In her declining years, members of Nashville Chapter 1, to which she belonged, came to see her after every meeting with a full report not only on the Chapter but on the Organization in general.
Little is known about the last few years of Mrs. Goodlett. At the time of her death she was living in Nashville with a relative of Colonel Goodlett who saw to her every need.
Mrs. Goodlett died on October 16, 1914. She is buried in the family lot in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee, near the Confederate Circle where 1,492 Confederate Soldiers rest. One month after her death a letter she had written to be read at the General Convention in Savannah appeared in the Nashville Tennessean and read in part:
“It is my earnest prayer that it (United Daughters of the Confederacy) may continue to be the crowning glory of Southern womanhood to revere the memory of those heroes in gray and to honor that unswerving devotion to principle which has made the Confederate Soldier the most majestic figure in the pages of history.”
- Caroline Meriwether Goodlett, Founder of UDC