Think I Might Join Sons of Confederate Veterans

sons of confederate veteransIn his report to the SCV’s National Leadership Conference Adjutant-in-Chief Steve Ritchie noted the following:

Adjutant Ritchie then announced what he claimed would be a controversial fact, that there is no national constitutional requirement for proof of lineage/descent from a Confederate veteran for membership in the SCV.  The membership packet required at national SCV headquarters includes a completed application, a check and preferably a type written summary of the applicants information but no paperwork for descent documentation is required by national headquarters.  Membership records are kept as hardcopies at SCV National headquarters.  SCV National does no genealogy verification.  The application requires camp officer signatures to substantiate membership satisfaction and camp requirements vary.  Compiled service records are sometimes illegible or inaccurate and many were lost during the War especially when towns were burned and razed such as in Sherman’s march.  Additional resources include the American Civil War Research database and Broadfoot’s records of Confederate veterans.  UCV and pension records are additional resources.  He highlighted that how an ancestor was separated or location of his burial may be unknown and don’t get hung up on those details when completing the application.

You have to wonder why this point was raised and whether it will lead to changes in recruitment policy on the local level.  Dispensing with the lineage requirement in what is clearly the most vocal Confederate heritage organization would certainly make it easier to fill the ranks and even branch out to welcome the descendants of all those loyal black soldiers, who we can’t quite match up with wartime records.  Apparently, we can blame Sherman for the lack of records.  At the same time it could undercut the organization’s own claims to authority based largely on their lineal descent.  We will have to see how this plays out.

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24 thoughts on “Think I Might Join Sons of Confederate Veterans

  1. Dan Weinfeld

    It’s similar for the Sons of Union Veterans. A friend who runs the local SUV post persuaded me to join, even though I know of no ancestor in this country prior to 1903. I applied as an associate or affiliate member (I forget which), and received my SUV card. Makes for a good story at family gatherings.

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  2. Richard Williams

    Kevin – Mr. Ritchie is specifically referring to what the SCV national constitution says (or doesn’t say). I’ve not verified what he’s quotes as saying here, but I assume he knows what he’s talking about. Nonetheless, it’s my understanding that membership still currently requires ancestral lineage and that may be addressed in some other document/bylaw/rules/policy. I honestly don’t know for sure. Associate memberships (without proof of lineage) are available, but associate members are not allowed to vote. That practice is rather common among similar organizations, including the SUV. I know for a fact that individual camp constitutions have verbiage which does in fact requires “proof of lineage/descent from a Confederate veteran for membership.” Here’s one example:

    “No one shall be admitted to membership until satisfactory proof of the foregoing [lineage] qualifications be submitted in duplicate on official blank applications prepared for that purpose, such applications bearing recommendation by a member in good standing of the Camp. The original shall be forwarded to the International Headquarters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Camp shall preserve the duplicate.”

    Proof is not as stringent as what is required for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution.

    However, there are other requirements which can be enforced regarding conduct and loyalty to the organization. Again, that is rather routine among similar organizations but can vary from camp to camp.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for the comment. It’s hard to know what Mr. Ritchie was getting at given that the reference in the post was to a report about what was said. I am curious as to why Ritchie felt a need to bring up the subject of membership at all given that individual camps can continue to enforce their own standards. As you point out, Ritchie is clearly making a point about the requirements as defined in the organization’s national constitution. Perhaps there is more to this story, but we will have to wait and see.

      In the meantime I will hold off on my plans to start an SCV chapter here in Boston. :-)

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    1. Don

      I guess I am a SOB then…split right down the middle…no desire to join either though.

      My idea of fun is not to give up modern life to “historically” re enact on a battle field, eat parched corn and freeze on the cold ground. They create some great photo ops though…

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  3. Marooned

    I actually participated awhile in American Revolution reenactment. There are some good understandings of the situations to be gained. Likewise, I’m sure many Civil War reenactors both approach and find much that is worthwhile.

    Of course, the reenactment community is not necessarily the same as the heritage groups.

    Kevin, I would be surprised if there are not both SCV and UDC chapters in Boston. Many of the Confederate survivors went North for employment.

    One thought that comes as I consider all this – how about the home side of the war? Usually forgotten are the small farmers and urban workers whose families had to try to survive without the income and work of a husband and/or sons. Famously, there were the actions in Richmond. However, out in the smaller towns and rural areas, crops were not produced and even producing food for the family was a crisis for many.

    Always, of course, remembering that the very class divided Southern society ensured that those who went into the war with more assets were more likely to do better during and after. Hence, the numbers of white sharecropper families that were still in poverty for nearly a century after the shooting was over.

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      You make a very good point. I’ve said over and over on this blog that we much too easily conflate Southern heritage with Confederate heritage and within that latter category we have such a narrow focus as to what is worth remembering and commemorating. Within our current political climate it’s common to think of the Confederacy as a last ditch effort to stem the tide of big government, but as you point out there are plenty of opportunities to commemorate the steps taken by ordinary Southerners and slaveholders who stood up against Richmond.

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  4. Bob Huddleston

    “Compiled service records are sometimes illegible or inaccurate and many were lost during the War especially when towns were burned and razed such as in Sherman’s march.” Obviously the CS Adjutant General moved the enlistment records of the Black Confederates to Atlanta to protect them in case Richmond fell……

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Not just Atlanta, but every small town that happened to be be located along Sherman’s march to the sea. :-)

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  5. Brian

    I cannot believe I am actually commenting on here…

    As usual Kevin your wrong…

    I know what your trying to imply with the article. The actual process, although “HQ” might only required the completed application you are still required to show all of your descendants paperwork to your local chapter, who sends it through Division and once it is signed off it goes to HQ.

    The only thing different from SAR is that you don’t need it in quadruplet it doesn’t have to include hand written lineage sheets… Ancestory.com has sped up the process when it comes to hand written lineage charts… marriage certificates, census etc. And all camps now have access to fold3.com.

    I am a member of both organizations and honestly with the data bases that DAR and SAR have compiled they could speed up their process some…

    You cannot be a member of SCV without proving lineage and your ancestor must have served honorably.

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  6. Brian

    Actually I just know how you Roll Kevin…

    After doing a quick search on the NPS website (thats Levin approved right?) there are 21 matches for confederate soldiers named Levin…

    There might be hope yet!

    I would say someone else might be a little insecure now :)
    but NPS doesn’t compile lists of Black Confederates

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