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Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), originally the United Sons of Confederate Veterans, is an American national heritage organization with members in all fifty states and in almost a dozen countries in Europe, Australia and South America. SCV membership is open to all male descendants age 12 and over (lineal and collateral) of soldiers or sailors who served the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War  The SCV has a network of genealogists to assist applicants in tracing their ancestors' Confederate service. The SCV has programs at the local, state, and national levels for its members, such as marking and restoring Confederate graves and monuments, performing memorial ceremonies, conducting or supporting historical re-enactments, and holding regular meetings to discuss the military and political history, causes and consequences of the American Civil War. Local units of the SCV are called "camps". The SCV publishes books and other media, including the magazine Confederate Veteran. It also provides scholarships to undergraduate students, supports medical research and conducts a national youth camp.
In recent years, the SCV has been active in "heritage defense" in response to what it considers unjust criticism of the Confederacy and its symbols and of the South in U.S. history.
Following the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of veterans, North and South, joined veterans' organizations for mutual support and camaraderie. Union veterans established the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in 1866. Most of the Confederate veteran organizations merged into the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) in New Orleans in 1889.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is the direct heir of the United Confederate Veterans. The SCV was organized at Richmond, Virginia, in June 1896. At first the SCV took care of their literal fathers, but as the veterans died, the organization took on the task of maintaining their graves and monuments and keeping the public aware of the principles for which they had fought.
Reflecting the social and charitable nature of the organization, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush tendered letters of commendation to the SCV and affiliates, as have members of the United States Congress.
On May 25, 2009, President Barack Obama garnered praise from SCV Commander Chuck McMichael, who stated, "He upheld the tradition of the office to which he was elected. I do intend to send him a thank you letter. This is the kind of thing that transcends politics." This statement was in response to Obama's decision to continue the tradition going back sixteen presidents of the U.S. President sending a wreath to the Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
Some notable members of the SCV are or have been President Harry S. Truman, Hank Williams Jr., a country music star; Clint Eastwood, actor and director; R. Michael Givens, film director; and Patrick J. Buchanan, political commentator.
To mark the 150th anniversary of secession, the Georgia chapter of the SCV produced an advertisement in December 2010 presenting its version of the war. The History Channel refused to show the ad during their series on the Civil War, calling it "a partisan position on a controversial issue".
The SCV has a four tier system of organization that consists of Departments, Divisions, Brigades and Camps. The basic unit of organization is the Camp. A Camp can be chartered by the application to the General Headquarters of a group of at least seven individuals meeting the eligibility requirements. Each Camp is assigned a name and number by the General Headquarters. Camps are autonomous within the limits of the SCV Constitution and Standing Orders and can write their own constitutions, elect (or cause to be appointed) their own officers and define their officers' duties. Camp officers must include four offices whose duties are defined in the SCV Constitution, and such others as they see fit. The required officers are: Camp Commander (president); Lieutenant Commander (vice-president); Adjutant (treasurer); and Chaplain. These officers are collectively known as the Executive Committee.
When five regularly chartered Camps are formed in any state or territory of the Union, or region outside the United States, they may be chartered as a Division by the General Executive Council. All Camps within the Divisions jurisdiction must be a member of their Division. Divisions draw up their own constitutions and may elect (or cause to be appointed) their own officers, provided that a majority of the members of the Division Executive Committee shall be elected by the membership. These officers consist of: the Division Commander, Lt. Commander, Adjutant, Treasurer, Chaplain, Sergeant-at-Arms, Historian, Editor, Public Affairs Officer, Chief of Staff, Parliamentarian, and Color Sergeant. Each Division holds a convention at least every year. A Division may be subdivided into Brigades for administrative and representational purposes, and to foster the formation of Camps in their area. Those Divisions who wish to have Brigades may specify the numbers, boundaries, and method of electing officers, if any, in their constitutions. The heads of Brigades are known as Brigade Commanders.
The SCV divides the United States geographically into three Departments which comprise all Divisions and Camps not attached to a Division within their jurisdiction. Camps formed outside the US are assigned Departments by the General Executive Committee. These Departments are named after Civil War-era Confederate Army formations:
Camps within the Department elect one Department Councilman to represent them on the General Executive Board. There is also a Department Commander who acts as an intermediary between the Camps and Divisions and General Headquarters, and can also call Department meetings as his pleasure, though the Department does not have any legislative power and cannot levy fees or dues.
With the consent of the General Executive Committee any Camp or Division may incorporate itself under the laws of their jurisdiction as a non-profit corporation, provided that they state in their incorporation papers that they are a subordinate to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans describes its mission as "preserving the history and legacy of Confederate heroes, so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause".
Stephen D. Lee's 1906 charge to the SCV is widely cited by members as one of the organizing principles:
To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will submit 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, and the perpetuation of those principles he loved and which made him glorious and which you also cherish. Remember: It is your duty to see that the true history of the South is presented to future generations.
The SCV's most well-known activities are campaigns to keep parks commemorating the Confederacy from being renamed or rededicated to non-Confederate themes. The organization uses Confederate parks for rallies. The SCV has protested against Ku Klux Klan rallies in the same parks, arguing that the KKK should not be identified with the Confederacy. However, in the past, the Klan has actively sought recruits from SCV members.
Members are predominately but not exclusively white: notable black members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans include Nelson W. Winbush, a retired educator; Major Willie Levi Casey Jr., a U.S. Army officer; and H. K. Edgerton (associate member), a former president of an NAACP chapter.
The SCV encourages members to buy state-issued specialty automobile license plates available to vehicle drivers in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In each case, the license plate features the Sons of Confederate Veterans logo, which incorporates the square Confederate Battle Flag.
Some residents of these states oppose putting the Confederate battle flag on state license plates, as historically the flag has widely been associated with racist causes. The North Carolina appellate court upheld the issuance of such license plates in Sons of Confererate v. DMV (1998) and noted: "We are aware of the sensitivity of many of our citizens to the display of the Confederate flag. Whether the display of the Confederate flag on state-issued license plates represents sound public policy is not an issue presented to this Court in this case. That is an issue for our General Assembly."
In the 1990s, disagreements over the purpose of the organization emerged within the SCV. At issue was an alleged shift in the SCV's mission from "maintaining gravestones, erecting monuments and studying Civil War history" to more issue-centric concerns. The SCV's new concerns included "fight[ing] for the right to display Confederate symbols everywhere from schools to statehouses".
The more "activist" members of the SCV 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 SCV 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 SCV defines those as "any attack upon our Confederate Heritage, or the flags, monuments, and symbols which represent it".
In 2002, SCV dissidents formed a new organization, Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SSCV), composed of members and former members of SCV. According to SSCV co-founder Walter Charles Hilderman, "about a hundred or so individuals and groups identified themselves on the [SSCV] Web site as supporting Save the SCV" not long after the group was founded, though the current membership numbers for the SSCV 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 the SCV agreed with the heritage preservation activities espoused by the new SCV leadership.
In early 2005, the SCV council sued to expel SCV president 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" of the SCV, a status that heretofore had come with a life membership on the council.
In February 2005, Cathey wrote in the Southern Mercury that most of the SCV's members 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 SCV's long-standing relationship with the more traditionalist Military Order of the Stars and Bars (MOSB).
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 W. 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.
In 2002, some reporters and a group of SCV dissenters criticized the SCV for its views of Civil War history and the organization's alleged association with neo-confederate individuals and organizations. Joe Conason, writing in Salon, and Jason Zengerle, writing in The New Republic, argued that the SCV had morphed from an apolitical organization dedicated to Civil War history to a politicized organization dedicated to preserving the "Lost Cause" version of the war and its era. The SCV says that "the preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South's decision to fight the Second American Revolution".
The Civil War historian James M. McPherson has associated the SCV with the neo-confederate movement and in 2007 described board members of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia as "undoubtedly neo-Confederate". He said that the SCV and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) have "white supremacy" as their "thinly veiled agendas". McPherson became considered a controversial figure among Confederate history groups; the UDC called for a boycott of his books and a letter-writing campaign against him. In response, McPherson said he did not mean to imply that all SCV or UDC chapters or everyone who belongs to them promotes a white supremacist agenda. He said that some of the people have a hidden agenda.
Some SCV divisions have auxiliaries or support groups known as the Order of the Confederate Rose. The OCRs are primarily the ladies auxiliary to the SCV. The organization was inspired by a conversation in January 1993, at a dinner in Birmingham, Alabama to commemorate Robert E. Lee's birthday. The speaker Charles Lunsford told Jane Latture that a women's group called the Order of Robert E. Lee had been organized in Georgia. Latture felt that many women in Alabama were concerned about "attacks on their confederate heritage", and suggested to several friends that they create their own order. On May 1, 1993, 11 wives and daughters of members of the SCV met during the state convention and organized the Order of the Confederate Rose. Latture suggested the name based on the TV movie The Rose and the Jackal, about Rose O'Neal Greenhow, a Confederate spy. The organization was formally chartered with 65 members on October 16, 1993.
The OCR does not have a national organization but a loose confederation of independent state societies. To form a state society, the minimum number of chapters is two. The following states have OCR societies: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Chapters or contacts exist in Maryland, New York, Indiana and Oregon.
Membership requirements vary among the states. Most do not have lineage or ancestor requirements, and welcome males as well as females. Usually the only membership requirement is recommendation by a current OCR or SCV member. Some societies state that they do not compete with the UDC. The South Carolina society is unique in allowing its chapters to determine membership requirements, other than stating that no members may be "known felons" and that all members should conduct themselves as "ladies".
Some societies have specialized auxiliaries called the Order of the Black Rose or Society of the Black Rose. Yvonne Brown suggested these at the 1998 North Carolina OCR convention. Members of this subset take on the persona of Civil War mourners or widows; they dress in all-black period attire at SCV functions, memorials and grave dedications. Each such society is led by a "Keeper of the Rite" who is the contact person; she keeps a list of "widows" available for particular functions. Black Rose societies have been formed in Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and Louisiana.