Witness the End of Sons of Confederate Veterans

Consider the following evidence.

Evidence A

Gary Feis, a contractor from North Carolina on a week-long tour of Virginia battlefields, wore a camouflage cap embroidered with the flag and the words “100% Genuine Rebel.” The flag, he said, was nothing more than “a symbol of a rallying point during the battles, so they could know where their people were.” “People are very ignorant of history in this country,” he said as he perused books, bumper stickers and prints venerating the Civil War.

Evidence B

“There’s obviously a visceral reaction to this wave of cultural cleansing, there’s nothing else to call it,” said Ben Jones, the former Georgia congressman best known as the actor who played Cooter on the ’80s series about good ol’ boys in the rural South. “A lot of people have said to me, ‘This reminds me of Nazi Germany in 1933, when they started burning books.’ When you take ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ off the air, this internationally beloved show, and hint that it is because it is racist . . . it’s a bridge too far.”

Evidence C

This year, a legion of enemies are also present, at least in conversations among the heritage buffs who roamed the exhibits at the DoubleTree Hotel in Midlothian. Jones rattled off a long list of them: the entire northeastern media, academia, the political left, the black caucuses, conventional wisdom, revisionist historians, the politically incorrect movement, the MoveOn people, the Occupy people, the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, mayors, politicians and Democrats.

Evidence D

Wayne Jones of North Augusta, S.C., seemed to embody the odd juxtaposition, at once a bearded rabble rouser and genial Army veteran. Early in the day, he put on a military uniform and addressed his “brothers and sisters in the cause” in what he imagined to be the unwavering voice of Confederate Gen. J.E.B Stuart. “The days of reconstruction are upon us again — and this time we must prevail,” he said.

Evidence E

During the invocation, they prayed for the power “to do what’s right even when the wrong is popular,” followed by the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the salute to the Confederate flag with “reverence and undying devotion.” A ringing cellphone pierced the solemnity of the occasion. “Shoot that thing,” someone yelled.

Evidence F

“You always gotta keep your eye on those Yankees,” joked J. Edwin Ray, commander of J.E.B. Stuart Camp 1343, which hosted the reunion. “Have y’all completed your decision on whether or not to change your name to Sons of Union Veterans of the War of Northern Aggression?” he said to hoots and hollers.

Taken together we glimpse little more than a bunch of reactionary older white men, who have little sense of direction. They perceive enemies at the gates, but fail to acknowledge the extent to which the very ground that they occupy – that of Southerners descended from Confederate soldiers – has shifted dramatically in recent years. I hear a lot of “hate” and very little “heritage.”

No doubt the participants in the SCV’s national convention in Richmond will leave feeling reaffirmed, but they will have done little to change public perceptions.

9 comments… add one
  • Nora Carrington Jul 18, 2015 @ 13:37

    The correct WWII/Hitler analogy with regard to the Confederate flag and it’s current plummet in popularity isn’t Hitler’s attack on books and degenerate art. It’s the post-war denazification efforts that ruthlessly expunged every likeness and every symbol of National Socialism. This was carried out by American (and other Four Power) soldiers and statesmen. It was continued, by law including the new constitution, by the reconstituted German state. In the aftermath of the Civil War the Union did nothing like this. Perhaps we should have. The myth of the Lost Cause and the entire Southern Heritage bullshit is only possible because it was allowed and perhaps even encouraged to be possible. Racism has everything to do with why.

  • Jimmy Dick Jul 18, 2015 @ 7:06

    Fraternal organizations across the spectrum are losing membership. A large part of it is due to the Baby Boom syndrome and solidarity of WWII veterans. Those two generations are declining in size as they age. The next two generations do not share the same experiences or have the same perspectives as the other two generations. Thus the purpose of some of these groups is such that it does not interest younger potential members who look for groups that share their interests.

    Many of the fraternal orders were created for ethnic, religious, or employment reasons. The members literally banded together to develop insurance pools, protection groups, identity support, or proto-unions. Over time, insurance companies began to expand into the various markets. While we today do not realize it, at one time insurance companies would not insure blacks, various ethnic groups, Catholics, etc. Unions evolved from these same groups.

    In the case of the SCV, the organization is dedicated to perpetuating a lie. As long as no one looks beyond the surface of what is essentially ancestor veneration, all is well. When people begin to dig into the records they start to encounter information that conflicts with what they’ve been told. That offends a lot of people who would otherwise be happy to belong to a group of shared ancestral heritage alone.

    The SCV could be an awesome organization if they chose to modernize and expand their scope. They would have to ditch supporting the lie of the Lost Cause. They would have to embrace the history of the Civil War, the racism, the injustice, and the flaws of their ancestors. They could work to make the current world a better place. They could reach out the hand of fellowship to their neighbors and instead of trying to create a fiction black confederate acknowledge what really happened. Then they could expand their membership by defining membership status to include descendents of both free blacks and slaves who were impressed and made to work in support of the CSA in any capacity.

    They could even reach out and embrace descendents of Union veterans and develop a really solid organization dedicated to the preservation of Civil War history with all of its ugly warts and beauty so that this generation and succeeding ones do not make the same mistakes Americans did back in the CW days. That is the organization this country needs.

    The current leadership of the SCV will never do that which is why the SCV is going to become extinct.

  • J Sayon Jul 17, 2015 @ 19:46

    In the early 2000’s, the SCV changed from an organization that truly honored their ancestors, as S.D Lee had charged to them upon their founding, into an organization that was more radical; instead of doing actual work to preserve the memory of the Confederate soldier, they chose a more “in your face” approach. They moved from placing gravestones and educating the public to “flaggings” as they called them, against anyone who they saw as anti-southern, and generally being nothing short of a bunch of bullies when it came to trying to get their way. They forgot you could get more flies with honey. This move took place because of the views of leadership at that time, and an influx of members from the failing League of the South. There were some within the more moderate faction of the organization that saw what this could do to the organization, but they were essentially bullied out by the hotheads of the radical faction. The result? The best and brightest left in droves; folks that could lodge a logical defense of southern heritage packed up and went home. Now the most organized faction that is left is what the SCV calls its “Mechanized Cavalry”, essentially biker types. The genealogical aspect of membership has taken a backseat to numbers. After a mass exodus caused by the radical movement, the SCVs numbers took a dangerous plunge and a lot of shady dealings went on when it came to genealogical proof for obtaining membership to boost numbers. Any Camp committee dealing with membership who balked at half-baked applications were automatically labeled as “elitists” by the radical faction. The end result is a diluted group of folks with no direction, and in most cases no genealogical tie to the legacy they are supposed to preserve, who will be eaten alive by their enemies.

  • Marian Latimer Jul 17, 2015 @ 18:20

    Godwin’s Law: When you bring in Hitler, and/or the Nazis, you automatically lose the argument. Case closed.

    • Jeffry Burden Jul 23, 2015 @ 3:15

      Actually, Godwin’s Law merely states that any online debate eventually includes someone using the terms “Hitler” or “Nazi”. The “Corollary to Godwin’s Law” posits that that participant loses the debate. Not to be pedantic… 🙂

  • Barry Wells Jul 17, 2015 @ 12:44

    And their dead ancestors were the ones who started revisionist history!

  • John Fulton Jul 17, 2015 @ 11:38

    The SCV (and the SUVCW) are nothing but a bunch of old guys who like to sit around and talk about their dead ancestors. And, yes, I belong to both organizations for exactly that reason.

    They will fade away in a few years. Just the natural life cycle of all such fraternal organizations.

    Neither group is able to connect with Millennials. Without a new generation to take up the banner, with it’s own Civil War Memory, there is is no future for the SCV.

    It has nothing to do with the current ‘attack’ on the Confederate Flag.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 17, 2015 @ 11:41

      The SCV (and the SUVCW) are nothing but a bunch of old guys who like to sit around and talk about their dead ancestors.

      The problem with this statement and with the SCV is that I don’t hear much of anything about their dead ancestors.

      • Laqueesha Jul 18, 2015 @ 0:05

        Now, now. I myself am quite a big fan of the SUVCW, though I wish they’d speak out against neo-Confederate negationism a bit more.

        Now, the reason you don’t really hear much about the dead C.S. ancestors is that, once you start doing even basic and rudimentary research into the time period, reading primary source documents, contemporary speeches, articles, and the like, the negationist SCV narrative of “fighting for freedom and liberty” falls completely apart.

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