The Prattville Dragoons Camp of Sons of Confederate Veterans is “Heading for Extinction”

Prattville Dragoons Confederate Memorial Day 2014

Prattville Dragoons Confederate Memorial Day 2014

The leadership of the Prattville Dragoon Camp of Sons of Confederate Veterans, located just north of Montgomery, Alabama, had a less than successful Confederate Memorial Day commemoration this year. “I think we’re headed for extinction, judging by the crowd,” was the way group chaplain Tom Snowden summed it up. He went on to suggest that, “a degree of political correctness is being thrown into our brains, and it’s affecting us.” 

Stuart Waldo, who is the camp commander, drew some comparisons between the Confederacy and the Ukraine in his address:

“Was the CSA simply ahead of its time; and would it have survived or at least had international endorsement, had the states seceded in the 21st Century?” he asked rhetorically. “The cause for secession was largely an economic one … caused by imposition of oppressive tariffs which disproportionately penalized the agricultural trade in the Southern region, the proceeds of which were disproportionately used in the northern region for infrastructure and industrial projects. Does that sound familiar?

“An eerily similar parallel can be observed today in the recent Ukrainian crisis. The Ukrainian people toppled their president after he refused to sign a trade deal with Europe, which provided a pretext to send in Russian troops. Russia wants control of the region’s natural gas fields. The international response has been that it is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun to dictate what you’re trying to achieve. (Pres.) Obama has said that … the Ukraine is a sovereign, independent nation. Similarly, the states in the CSA were sovereign states who sought to be left alone, but the natural resources and wealth of the South …”

Let me suggest that after reading this address that “political correctness” has nothing to do with the problems facing the Prattville Dragoons. Perhaps the problem is the Prattville Dragoons.

What the above address has to do with the Confederate soldier is beyond me, so it should be no surprise that SCV camps such as this one have been unsuccessful in attracting new blood. They are indeed heading for extinction, but this is part of a larger story of the greying of the centennial generation. You can see the same thing at work at just about every Civil War Round Table event. It will all be over within 25 years.

This doesn’t mean that interest in history is necessarily declining or that Americans, who have come of age in the past few decades, no longer find meaning in the past. It means they are finding it through other means.

 

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20 comments… add one

  • Jimmy Dick Apr 29, 2014

    Looks like the usual nonsense from a person who prefers a fictionalized history that suits his beliefs. Yes, I’d say that camp is going to collapse. A lot of them are heading that way because the younger generation is not swallowing the Lost Cause lie. The facts do not support the Lost Cause. I’m standing in class where the students are telling me these facts before I even get to them. The NPS visitor count shows people are interested in history. Students enjoy history when it is presented to them in a way that they can discover it and work with it. These people want their history to be factually based, not made up of some garbage that is based upon a belief system rooted in a myth of lies.

  • Al Mackey Apr 29, 2014

    Groups that lie about history like that ought to be extinct.

  • Brad Apr 29, 2014

    It’s good to see they’re headed for extinction. Hopefully, their extinction will signify a more balanced approach to history in some quarters. Maybe time heals all wounds. Naah!

    • Kevin Levin Apr 29, 2014

      Make no mistake, the Sons of Union Veterans are headed in the same direction. They are not attracting younger blood either.

      • Michael Lynch Apr 29, 2014

        I’m a little surprised to hear that. Seems like I read somewhere that the DAR has been doing pretty well lately, especially with the emergence of genealogical websites. Are Civil War organizations declining because the Centennial created temporary growth that was unsustainable?

        • Kevin Levin Apr 30, 2014

          Are Civil War organizations declining because the Centennial created temporary growth that was unsustainable?

          That’s one way to put it. You just don’t see many young people at these events. I don’t see the sesquicentennial as a disaster as do others, but to the extent that it has impacted the general public it has done so in ways that reflect current culture.

      • Marian Latimer Apr 29, 2014

        The SUV may be thinning out in ranks but at least the GAR Hall in Detroit has been saved and is being rehabbed for new use. Beautiful old building and if you Google it, I’m sure there are some “Then and Now” photos. The Detroit papers both had stories about it about a year ago. I imagine it should be just about finished now.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 30, 2014

          The GAR Hall in Lynn, MA is also making a comeback, which is good to see. Like I said, I’ve spoken to many round tables in New England and SUV events and they are both dealing with aging membership. I don’t see this changing.

      • Jerry McKenzie Apr 30, 2014

        I agree. The SUVCW camp I belong to is rather long in the tooth as is the Scottsdale Civil War Roundtable (currently the largest in the nation). There have been efforts to reach out to a younger audience, but they don’t last. I was 35 when I started to attend, but I am still one of the youngest 20 years later!

  • Jimmy Dick Apr 30, 2014

    Regardless of the type of group, be it GAR, SCV, or others, many of the fraternal groups have a declining membership since the 1980s. There are a lot of different factors involved, but the general trend is one of decline as two generations of Americans have opted not to join fraternal or civic groups. A major factor is the mobility of Americans today in what constitutes the middle class which is the base for these groups.

    Also, the decline of the middle class mirrors the decline in membership for these groups. The best period for these groups was in the post WWII times through the 70s. The 80s was lethal for them as the middle class suffered from conservative fiscal policies and has ever since. If the decline for these groups is to be halted, then a major restructuring of the American economy will have to take place which rebuilds the middle class. Unfortunately, it appears that is not going to be happening in the near future so one of two things will occur. These groups will continue to decline and in some cases vanish or they will have to alter their charters and get inventive with membership drives. Gender based groups will probably merge with their counterparts and open up to both genders. Time will tell.

  • Brad Apr 30, 2014

    Are these groups heading for extinction because the Civil War is no longer living history, something to be passed down from generation to generation, and is, in fact, just becoming history, facts that will no longer provoke major arguments. I may not be completely clear but people by and large don’t really argue about, for example, the Napoleonic Wars (except for a few I suppose) or the Thirty Years War. Is this what the Civil War is becoming and maybe it’s high time it did so?

    • Jerry McKenzie Apr 30, 2014

      I’m surprised at the large number of citizens who do not have a blood connection to the Civil War. The post-CW immigration brought many peoples from around the world but with no ancestor or relation that lived in the US at that time. Family history I suspect is what made many of us have this intense interest in those times.

  • Ken Noe Apr 30, 2014

    I spoke at a Round Table a few years ago that once had a relationship with a local college that enabled students to get a bit of extra credit for attending. The hope was that once the students got used to coming, they’d stay. Apparently it worked swimmingly until other long-time members complained that the meeting room had become too crowded and noisy, and so they demanded an end to it. Declining civic memberships nationally are not all at the feet of the new generation.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 30, 2014

      Now that’s a great idea. My students come from a pretty broad geographic background and we have a number of round tables in the area. I may try something along those lines for my Civil War class next year.

  • Andy Hall Apr 30, 2014

    Waldo can grumble all he wants about “political correctness,” but (as you suggest) his camp is suffering in part from the same phenomenon that affects all historical/heritage groups. I recently attended a meeting of a local historical group — nothing to do with the CW — that I belonged to almost 20 years ago. I was the youngest member then, and all these years later I was still one of the youngest in attendance. They’re great people and a fine, dedicated group, but the actuarial tables are not in their favor. It’s a challenge for all groups of that type, to make themselves relevant to a younger generation. I don’t know what the answer is, but self-centered navel-gazing and onanistic whinging about “political correctness” ain’t it.

  • Brendan Bossard Apr 30, 2014

    The CSA compares better to the Russian Ukrainians who are seeking to separate from Ukraine.

    As for membership issues, I think that a model can be found in churches. I think one will find, as has been my experience, that churches that prioritize tradition tend to have older attendees and dwindle, while churches that prioritize adapting to modern communication styles tend to grow and have a younger population.

  • Daniel Sauerwein Apr 30, 2014

    As a member of SUVCW, I do want to encourage folks who do not have a blood connection to a Union veteran to remember that we do have an Associate member category. For more information about membership, you can check out http://www.suvcw.org/?page_id=129.

    That said, I do want to consider the issue of declining membership in organizations, like SUVCW and SCV. I believe that it is part of a larger trend among younger folks to not get involved in fraternal organizations and other similar groups, whether because of lack of time, interest, or finances. It’s sad, but hopefully more folks will consider getting involved in such groups, as, with the right folks, SCV does not have to have the reputation that it has.

    • Jerry McKenzie Apr 30, 2014

      Good on you Brother Daniel. We have a number of associates in our group and they have added much to our group. In F, L & C.

  • Donald Brascio May 1, 2014

    Dear Mr. Levin,

    I note that you cleverly leave out the important part of the quote from the story, to make an attack on the Prattville Dragoons. Your readers should have seen “I think we’re headed for extinction, judging by the crowd,” Snowden said, only half-joking. ” instead of your carefully rewritten words ” “I think we’re headed for extinction, judging by the crowd,” was the way group chaplain Tom Snowden summed it up.”

    I understand you hate the SCV and everything Confederate, and make every attempt at slander and hate, but seriously – why lie?

    Oh, and for you and your readers, please know that the Alabama Division SCV is alive and well. Just 2 hours up the road in Ohatchee our men had a very large turnout for the same reasons on the same day. http://annistonstar.com/bookmark/25005369-Speak-Out-Good-crowd-at-Janney-Furnace

    • Kevin Levin May 1, 2014

      Hi Don,

      Thanks for the comment. I apologize if I misquoted Snowden, but perhaps you can explain where I missed his overall message. In the end, Snowden did not offer a very positive assessment of the event or the future of the organization. We can debate the details as to why and as I noted in the comments section this is a problem for other organizations as well.

      Thanks for the link, but you are comparing apples and oranges. Your link is to a reenactment. No doubt, there are Civil War related events that are attracting crowds and I think that is great. It looks like visitation to NPS sites is up in recent years.

      All the best, Don.

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