Sons of Confederate Veterans
|Established||July 1, 1896|
|Founder||R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1,|
|Founded at||Richmond, Virginia|
|Type||501(c)(3), charitable organization:5|
|Purpose||Patriotic, historical, educational, fraternal, benevolent, non-political, non-racial and non-sectarian:5|
|Paul C. Gramling, Jr.|
|Douglas W. Nash, Jr.|
|General Executive Council:17–19|
|United Sons of Confederate Veterans|
The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is an American nonprofit and charitable organization:5 of male blood-descendants of Confederate veterans:6–9 headquartered at the Elm Springs in Columbia, Tennessee.:29 The SCV was founded on July 1, 1896, at the City Auditorium (present-day Virginia Commonwealth University Cary Street Gym) in Richmond, Virginia, by R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans. It is known for erecting and maintaining American Civil War memorials and graves, observing Confederate Memorial Day, and encouraging Southern historical study. In recent decades, governors, legislators, courts, corporations, and anti-racism activists have placed new emphasis on the increasingly controversial public display of Confederate symbols—especially after the 2014 Ferguson unrest, the 2015 Charleston church shooting, and the 2020 killing of George Floyd. SCV has responded with its coordinated display of larger and more prominent public displays of the battle flag, some in directly defiant counter-protest.
The proclaimed purpose of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is "to encourage the preservation of history, perpetuate the hallowed memories of brave men, to assist in the observance of Confederate Memorial Day, to aid and support all members, and to perpetuate the record of the services of every Southern soldier". Significant debate has occurred on whether their views represent an accurate interpretation of history or a deliberate distortion of history based on the mythology and ideology of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. A project of the group, the National Confederate Museum, has continued this debate with supporters claiming the museum "will be out of the reach of the long arm of political correctness". Detractors have stated that "casting the Confederacy as a honorable force standing strong against Northern aggressors is a willful misreading of the historical truth that the institution of slavery was at the core of the Civil War".
Male descendants of those who served in the Confederate armed forces, or one of the constituent states, to the end of the war, died in prison or while in actual service, were killed in battle, or were honorably retired or discharged, are eligible for membership. Membership can be obtained through either lineal or collateral family lines. Kinship to a veteran must be documented genealogically. The minimum age for full membership is 12 years, but no minimum exists for cadet membership.:6–9
Forty delegates from 24 camps and societies from the various Southern states were called by the R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans (also known as United Confederate Veterans), of Richmond, Virginia, to meet on June 30 and July 1, 1896, at the City Auditorium (present-day Virginia Commonwealth University Cary Street Gym), for the purpose of forming a "national organization, adopting a constitution similar in every respect to that governing the United Confederate Veterans, and permanently organized under the name United Sons of Confederate Veterans" (USCV). The preamble to the USCV constitution reads in part: "To encourage the preservation of history, perpetuate the hallowed memories of brave men, to assist in the observance of Memorial Day, and to perpetuate the record of the services of every Southern soldier". Its aims, objects, and purposes are "not to create or foster, in any manner, any feeling against the North, but to hand down to posterity the story of the glory of the men who wore the gray". On July 1, the delegates elected Mr. J. E. B. Stuart, of Newport News, Virginia, son of the famous cavalry leader, Commander-in-Chief of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans.
In the 1990s, disagreements over the purpose of the organization emerged within the Sons of Confederate Veterans. At issue was an alleged shift in the Sons of Confederate Veterans's mission from "maintaining gravestones, erecting monuments and studying Civil War history" to more issue-centric concerns. The Sons of Confederate Veterans's new concerns included "fight[ing] for the right to display Confederate symbols everywhere from schools to statehouses". The more "activist" members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans gained electoral support and were increasingly elected to its leadership positions. Members of the more traditionalist camp alleged that the League of the South had influenced their organization's new direction. One ally of the activist wing claimed that thousands of Sons of Confederate Veterans members are also League of the South members. News reports state that the activists advocate "picketing, aggressive lobbying, issue campaigning, and lawsuits" in favor of what they term "heritage defense" to prevent "heritage violations". The Sons of Confederate Veterans defines those as "any attack upon our Confederate heritage, or the flags, monuments, and symbols which represent it".
In 2002, dissidents within SCV formed a new organization, Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans, composed of members and former members of SCV. According to Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans co-founder Walter Charles Hilderman, "about a hundred or so individuals and groups identified themselves on the Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans web site as supporting Save the SCV" not long after the group was founded, though the current membership numbers for the Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans are not available. Boyd Cathey reported in the Southern Mercury that most of the dissension had ended by 2003, and the majority of the members of SCV agreed with the heritage preservation activities espoused by the new SCV leadership. One of the main figures in that new SCV leadership, South Carolina politician and investment advisor Ron Wilson, served as Commander-in-Chief from 2002 to 2004. In 2012, he was sentenced to prison for running a Ponzi scheme as part of his investment business; ironically, among those he defrauded were members of the SCV.
In early 2005, the SCV General Executive Council sued to expel Commander-in-Chief Dennis Sweeney from office. The court initially granted the council temporary control of the organization, but its final decision returned power to Sweeney. Thirteen of the 25 council members were expelled from the council shortly after Sweeney regained control. Nine of the council members expelled were former commanders-in-chief, a status that heretofore had come with a life membership on the council. In February, Cathey wrote in the Southern Mercury that most of the members of SCV had united against the War on Southern Culture. By the SCV's summer 2005 convention, activists firmly controlled the council. They severed much of the long-standing relationship between SCV and the more traditionalist Military Order of the Stars and Bars (MOSB). The MOSB, founded in 1938, had been closely involved with the SCV, sharing its headquarters since 1992 and co-publishing Southern Mercury. The MOSB's Commander General, Daniel Jones, citing "the continuing political turmoil within the SCV," moved the MOSB out of the shared quarters, ended the joint magazine publishing enterprise, and separated the two organizations' finances. In 2006, for the first time, the two organizations held separate conventions.
Mississippi: In 2011, the Mississippi Division of SCV launched an unsuccessful campaign to honor Confederate Lieutenant General and KKK Grand Wizard Nathan B. Forrest with a specialty license plate.
Texas: In 2013, the state of Texas denied a request for a Confederate Battle Flag specialty license plate, a decision later upheld in state court. That state court decision was later overturned in Federal court, and the matter was ultimately heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, which held that Texas was allowed to deny the request for a specialty license plate featuring the group's logo.
Virginia: The Virginia General Assembly approved a specialty license plate for the SCV in 1999, but lawmakers forbade the group from displaying the Confederate insignia. The organization sued for the right to display the Confederate battle flag on the license plate, and won a 2001 injunction from a Federal judge requiring the state to include the Confederate insignia. The injunction was upheld by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2015, following the murder by a white supremacist of nine African Americans at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the Commonwealth intended to phase out the state-sponsored specialty license plate. More than 1,600 Virginians had the license plates displaying the confederate flag on their vehicles, and the SCV challenged the governor's authority to recall the license plates, citing the 2001 injunction. However, in August 2015, the court dissolved the 2001 injunction, referencing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Texas case. Despite the ruling, hundreds of SCV members who had the specialty plates refused to remove them from their vehicles and exchange them for new plates even after the specialty plates ceased to be valid.
Jefferson Davis Highway markers
During the late 1990s, a granite marker stone for the Jefferson Davis Highway was removed from its prominent location in the city of Vancouver in Clark County, Washington, resulting in an outcry from the local Northwest Chapter of SCV. The marker stone was eventually placed outside of the Clark County Historical Museum.
As Vancouver city officials continued to press for the removal of the stone from any public property within the city's boundaries, the chapter purchased land outside the nearby city of Ridgefield, Washington, during 2007. The chapter then placed the marker stone and a similar highway marker from the city of Blaine, Washington, on its property which faces the busy Interstate 5. The organization then surrounded the stones with large Confederate flags, thus creating a prominent display within an open space that the chapter named Jefferson Davis Park.
The chapter's actions brought public outcries, but the governments of Ridgefield and Clark County could do little, as the park is located on private property. The park's prominent location and events in other parts of the nation continue to make the park a local focus of strong emotions, which the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in August 2017 has exacerbated. The vandalism of the stones on August 17, 2017, raised concern for the park, as one marker was covered in black tar or paint and the other was covered in red. In October 2017, the city of Ridgefield formally asked the Clark County Historic Preservation Commission to remove the marker from the County's Heritage Register. The Commission approved the city's request by a 6 to 0 vote.
Marshall House plaque
In 2017, Marriott International removed a bronze plaque that had been placed years earlier by SCV within a blind arch near a corner of a prominent hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, that Marriott had recently purchased. The plaque commemorated James W. Jackson, who had flown a large Confederate flag on the roof of the Marshall House, an inn that Jackson had owned at the onset of the Civil War. The Marshall House stood at that time on the property that Marriott later acquired.
When the Union Army entered Alexandria during the morning after Virginia voters ratified secession, a Union Army colonel, Elmer E. Ellsworth, took down the flag, whereupon Jackson fatally shot Ellsworth. A Union Army soldier, who subsequently received the Medal of Honor for his action, immediately shot and bayonetted Jackson, killing him. Shortly after their mutually fatal encounter, Jackson and Ellsworth became heroes to promoters of their respective causes, who hailed them as martyrs during recruiting campaigns.
Confederate flag installations
SCV took a more active approach after both the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, and moves by some municipalities to remove Confederate monuments and flags from public places because of their racist symbolism and historical connection to white-supremacy movements. SCV began installing large Confederate battle flags or "mega flags" on private property overlooking major highways, a project they called "Flags Across the Carolinas". In January 2018, the North Carolina chapter vowed to install one flag in every county. Antiracist activists, such as Roland Stanton, criticized the project. Stanton, president of the Durham branch of the North Carolina chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said the Confederate flag: "is a symbol of oppression, genocide and slavery". Stanton described the project as "abominable and shameful", while acknowledging that the mega flag project activities were protected by the First Amendment.
In June 2020, a plane with a Confederate flag banner reading "Defund NASCAR" was flown over Talladega Superspeedway during the 2020 GEICO 500, protesting NASCAR's recent decision to ban the display of the flag during its events. Sons of Confederate Veterans took credit for the flyover, arguing that NASCAR's actions were a "slandering of our Southern heritage", and "nothing less than trampling upon Southerners' First Amendment Right of free expression".
Relationship with SUVCW
SCV has a longstanding and mildly friendly relationship with the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). The Commander-in-Chief of the SUVCW has attended the SCV annual reunions on multiple occasions, including in 1995, 1996, 1997, 2005, and 2017. The SUVCW cooperates with the SCV in preserving American Civil War graves, monuments, and markers.
Buildings and sites
Notable members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have included:
- Pat Buchanan, politician and commentator
- Clint Eastwood, actor and film director
- Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States
- H. K. Edgerton, African-American activist for Southern heritage
- List of fraternal service organizations
- Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum
- Confederate Medal of Honor (Sons of Confederate Veterans)
- Flaggers (Confederate flag erectors)
- Military Order of the Stars and Bars
- Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
- United Confederate Veterans
- United Daughters of the Confederacy
- Hopkins, Walter Lee, ed. (1926). Year Book and Minutes of the Thirty-First Annual Convention of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the City of Birmingham, Ala., May 18–21, 1926. Richmond, Va.: Dudley Printing Co. p. 104. LCCN 2005204063. OCLC 11733530 – via Internet Archive.
- Sons of Confederate Veterans Constitution (revised and adopted at the 121st Annual Reunion, Richardson, Texas, July 13th to 17th, 2016). Columbia, Tenn.: Sons of Confederate Veterans. 2016.
- Shaw, Lynn; Massey, James Troy, eds. (1997). Sons of Confederate Veterans: Our First 100 Years (Centennial Edition). I. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 1-56311-285-X. LCCN 96-61911. OCLC 36981188.
- Neale, Rick. "Sons of Confederate Veterans insist it's heritage, not hate". floridatoday.com. Florida Today. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
- Waldman, Katy. "Guardians of White Innocence". slate.com. Slate. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
- Raymond, Gabby (July 21, 2018). "Still Fighting: Inside the Dedication of the National Confederate Museum". Time. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
- Lewis, Danny. "A Controversial Museum Tries to Revive the Myth of the Confederacy's "Lost Cause"". smithsonianmag.com. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
- Staff writers (1926). Hopkins, Walter Lee (ed.). Year Book and Minutes of the Thirty-First Annual Convention of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the City of Birmingham, Ala., May 18–21, 1926. Richmond, Va.: Dudley Printing Co. pp. 102–105. LCCN 2005204063. OCLC 11733530 – via Internet Archive.
- Dan Gearino, "A Thin Gray Line", The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), August 28, 2002; Tracy Rose, "The War Between the Sons: Members fight for control of Confederate group". Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC), February 5, 2003, vol 9 iss 26; Jon Elliston, "Between heritage and hate: The Sons of Confederate Veterans' internal battle rages on". Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC), August 18, 2004, vol 11 iss 3; "The battle over flag's meaning: Arguing over the Confederacy's essence", Daily Record/Sunday News, (York, PA) September 3, 2006.
- "Reporting a Heritage Violation". July 10, 2007. Archived from the original on July 10, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "SSCV Introduction". Savethescv.org. Archived from the original on August 6, 2006. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
- The Times and Democrat, interview of Walter Charles Hilderman, October 25, 2004
- Cathey, Boyd D. (February 2005). "Principles and Priorities: The Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Battle for Southern Culture". Southern Mercury. 3 (1): 30–31.
- "Ron Wilson Receives Additional Prison Time". justice.gov. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
- McWhirter, Cameron (October 2, 2005). "Gray vs. Gray: Factions in Sons of Confederate Veterans exchange salvos in latest Civil War battleground". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Fitts, Deborah (June 2005). "SCV Supports Leaders And Ousts Dissidents". Civil War News. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
- [dead link]
- Hunt, Kasie. "Barbour: I'd veto KKK license plate". POLITICO. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
- Antoinette Campbell. "Mississippi governor asked to denounce attempts to honor KKK leader". Cnn.com. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
- "Appeals court hears Texas dispute over Confederate flag license plate". Dallasnews.com. November 6, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 26, 2017. Retrieved September 14, 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Liptak, Adam (June 18, 2015). "Supreme Court Says Texas Can Reject Confederate Flag License Plates". The New York Times.
- "Sons of Confederate Veterans challenge Gov. McAuliffe's authority". Wtvr.com. June 30, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
- "Suffolk man's passion for Confederate flag could get him in trouble with police". Wtkr.com. October 15, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
- "Virginia Confederate Flag License Plates Recall Rejected By Hundreds Of Drivers". Ibtimes.com. October 19, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
- Sanburn, Josh. "Designer of Georgia's Confederate License Plate Doesn't Understand Why People Are Upset". Nation.time.com. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
- Times-Picayune, Kevin Litten, NOLA com | The. "Confederate license plate requests quadrupled in Louisiana last year: OMV". NOLA.com. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
- "Road Named for Jefferson Davis Stirs Spirited Debate". The New York Times. February 14, 2002. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
Another granite marker proclaiming the road's designation as the Jefferson Davis Highway was erected at the time in Vancouver, Wash., at the highway's southern terminus. The stone was quietly removed by city officials four years ago and now rests in a cemetery shed there, but publicity over the bill has brought its mothballing to light and stirred a contentious debate there about whether it should be restored.
- "History of the Jefferson Davis Park". Scvportland.org. Archived from the original on August 28, 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
- "Jefferson Davis Park". Scvportland.org. Archived from the original on July 23, 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
- Bannan, Rick (October 9, 2017). "Confederate monument taken off county historic register". The Reflector.
- Wilson, Jamie (August 16, 2015). "Some calling for removal of Confederate flag at Ridgefield park". Fox12 News.
- Westneat, Danny (June 24, 2015). "Confederate flag is flying here, too, along I-5". The Seattle Times.
- Littman, Adam (August 18, 2017). "Confederate monuments in Ridgefield defaced". The Columbian.
- Solomon, Molly (October 4, 2017). "Clark County Removes Confederate Monument From Historic Registry". KUOW News.
- Vogt, Tom (October 3, 2017). "Commission votes to remove Davis marker from register". Columbian.com. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- (1) "Wayfinding: Marshall House". City of Alexandria, Virginia. March 28, 2018. Archived from the original on January 26, 2019. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
(2) Pfingsten, Bill (ed.). ""The Marshall House" marker". HMdb: The Historical Marker Database. Archived from the original on January 26, 2019. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
(3) Text and October 2017 responses in Groeling, Meg (October 23, 2017). "Colonel Elmer Ellsworth and the Marshall House Hotel Plaque". Emerging Civil War: Battlefield Markers & Monuments. Archived from the original (blog) on January 25, 2019. Retrieved January 25, 2019 – via WordPress.
- (1) "The Murder of Colonel Ellsworth". Harper's Weekly. 5 (232): 357–358. June 8, 1861. Retrieved January 28, 2019 – via Internet Archive.
(2) "The Murder of Ellsworth". Harper's Weekly. 5 (233): 369. June 15, 1861. Retrieved January 28, 2019 – via Internet Archive.
- "Group plans to fly 100 Confederate battle flags across NC. One for every county". Heraldsun.com. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
- "Sons of Confederate Veterans takes responsibility for 'Defund NASCAR' banner that flew over Talladega". CBSSports.com. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
- "Nascar's race issues deepen as noose found in Wallace's stall". SportBusiness. June 22, 2020. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
- "SUVCW -- Past Commanders-in-Chief Encampment Reports". Suvcw.org. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
- "SUVCW -- Past Commanders-in-Chief Encampment Reports". Suvcw.org. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
- "SUVCW--THE BANNER--SCV Official at National Encampment". Suvcw.org. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
- "SUVCW--Our Confederate Cousins". Suvcw.org. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
- Bliss, Jessica (August 18, 2017). "Meet the caretaker of Nathan Bedford Forrest's boyhood home in Tennessee". The Tennessean. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
- United Sons of Confederate Veterans (1902). United Sons of Confederate Veterans Constitution (revised and adopted at the Seventh Annual Reunion, Dallas, Texas, April 22d to 25th, 1902). St. Louis: W. F. Rower & Co. p. pmbl. LCCN 08032751. OCLC 6073708. OL 7002238M – via Internet Archive.
- United States. Cong. Senate (1918). Proceedings of the Twenty-seventh Annual Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, the Eighteenth Annual Convention of the Confederated Southern Memorial Association, and the Twenty-second Annual Reunion of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Washington: Government Printing Office – via Internet Archive.
- Savage, John (August 10, 2016). "Where the Confederacy Is Rising Again". Politico.
- Waldman, Katy (September 25, 2017). "Guardians of White Innocence". Slate.
- Official website
- Sons of Confederate Veterans articles in the archive of the Chicago Tribune
- Sons of Confederate Veterans Politicians at The Political Graveyard
- Works by or about Sons of Confederate Veterans at Internet Archive
- Works by or about Sons of Confederate Veterans in libraries (WorldCat catalog)