If you are one of my family members or a friend you probably know that I am a proud member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. But, I am not certain all of you know just what our organization is, what we stand for or what we do. So, if you are a fellow compatriot or are acquainted with the SCV, I apologize in advance because much of this you probably already know. But, I hope you continue reading because during my research I discovered a few things that I was not aware of.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is the direct heir of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV). Prior to 1889 Confederate Veterans had no national organization similar to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). There were several separate fraternal and memorial groups that existed on a local and regional level but there was no national organization. During a meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1889 several of these groups united and formed the United Confederate Veterans Association. The organization was founded to serve as a benevolent, historical, social and literary association. The UCV was active well into the 1940s. Its final reunion was held in Norfolk, Virginia in May of 1951. The primary functions of the organization were to provide for widows and orphans of former Confederate soldiers, preserve relics and mementos, care for disabled former soldiers, preserve a record of the service of its members, and organize reunions and fraternal gatherings. At its height the membership in the organization was approximately 160,000 former Confederate Soldiers, Sailors and Marines organized into 1,885 local camps. A privately produced magazine called Confederate Veteran was popular with UCV members with articles about events during the war and providing a forum for lost comrades to locate one another. The organizational structure of the UCV was based on a military-style hierarchy with a national headquarters, three departments, divisions within those departments, and finally the local camps. The national officers were at first known as “Generals Commanding” and later as “Commander-in-Chief.” Commanders were not based on the actual rank of the veteran while in service. Commanders-in-Chief ranged from former generals to former privates. Former Confederate General John Brown Gordon was the First Commander of the UCV in 1890, holding this position until his death in 1904 when he was succeeded by Stephen D. Lee.
A more detailed article about the history of the UCV by S. A. Cunningham who was the founder and editor of the Confederate Veteran Magazine can be found here: http://www.civilwarhome.com/confederateveterans.htm.
By the mid-1890s the United Confederate Veterans were getting on in years and began to look at how to best preserve the legacy of the Cause for which they had fought. To accomplish this honorable goal they established an organization for their descendants – the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It was during the 1896 United Confederate Veterans’ National Reunion in New Orleans, Louisiana; former Confederate Lieutenant General Steven Dill Lee proposed and won approval for the founding of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. To this organization and to all of their descendants the Men in Grey left what is today called “The Charge:” “To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish.”
Lt. General Stephen Dill Lee
United Confederate Veterans
New Orleans, Louisiana, April 25, 1906.
Today the Sons of Confederate Veterans has over 32,000 members in all fifty states and in almost a dozen countries in Europe, Australia and South America and we still recognize “The Charge” as our primary purpose. We are active in the defense of confederate symbols, monuments, and the good name of our confederate heroes, which have often come under attack by various racist and political organizations around the country. Some of these attacks have sought to label the SCV as hateful and bigoted. These allegations are untrue, unfounded and unfair, and the SCV calls on these pundits to retract these ill-informed attacks. We believe Confederate heritage is one part of America’s diversity which must be preserved. This includes educating the public about the ethnic diversity that existed in the Confederate ranks.
The SCV has ongoing programs at the local, state, and national levels which offer members a wide range of activities. Preservation work, marking Confederate soldier’s graves, historical re-enactments, scholarly publications, and regular meetings to discuss the military and political history of the War Between the States are only a few of the activities sponsored by local units, called camps. All state organizations, known as Divisions, hold annual conventions, and many publish regular newsletters to the membership dealing with statewide issues. Each Division has a corps of officers elected by the membership who coordinate the work of camps and the national organization. Internationally, the SCV is governed by its members acting through delegates to the annual convention. The General Executive Council, composed of elected and appointed officers, conducts the organization’s business between conventions. The administrative work of the SCV is conducted at the national headquarters, ‘Elm Springs,’ a restored antebellum home at Columbia, Tennessee.
In addition to the privilege of belonging to an organization devoted exclusively to commemorating and honoring Confederate soldiers, members are eligible for other benefits. Every member receives The Confederate Veteran, the bi-monthly national magazine which contains in-depth articles on the war along news affecting Southern heritage. The programs of the SCV range from assistance to undergraduate students through the General Stand Watie Scholarship to medical research grants given through the Brooks Fund. National historical symposiums, reprinting of rare books, and the erection of monuments are just a few of the other projects endorsed by the SCV. The SCV works in conjunction with other historical groups to preserve Confederate history. However, it is not affiliated with any other group.
Since Confederate veterans and their descendants include individuals from all races, we invite all male descendants regardless of skin color, ethnicity, and creed to join us in protecting the memory of the Confederate soldier. We defend the right of millions of Americans to express their pride, without harassment and discrimination, regarding their national origin including that which was derived from the former Confederate States of America. The heritage of all Americans is very important and “should be recognized and respected.”
We also reject the abhorrent doctrines of the “Klan” and their defilement of our cherished Confederate flags for the purpose of racial hatred. They no more represent the flag’s true symbolism than their defiling of the cross that represents Christianity.”
The citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America. The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution. The tenacity with which Confederate soldiers fought underscored their belief in the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. These attributes are the underpinning of our democratic society and represent the foundation on which this nation was built. The Sons of Confederate Veterans are preserving the history and legacy of these heroes so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause.
So, if you are interested in perpetuating the ideals that motivated your Confederate ancestor, the SCV needs you. The memory and reputation of the Confederate soldier, as well as the motives for his suffering and sacrifice, are being consciously distorted by some in an attempt to alter history. Unless the descendants of Southern soldiers resist those efforts, a unique part of our nations’ cultural heritage will cease to exist.