Who Do Sons of Confederate Veterans Represent?

Yesterday’s post on the sparsely attended Jefferson Davis reenactment in Montgomery, Alabama generated a great deal of interest and comments.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans, which hosted the event, has crafted a narrative that imagines itself as uniquely qualified to set the terms of how Confederate soldiers and the war as a whole ought to be remembered and commemorated.  They fashion themselves as engaged in a gallant defense of a history that is supposedly under assault by various individuals and organizations.  The zeal for their cause is wrapped up in the assumption that their lineage is both a necessary and sufficient condition for their preferred view; this functions to create a battle of us v. them.  The war being waged is against vague notions of political correctness, “carpetbaggers” the liberal media, and, of course, academics engaged in revisionist history.

The strategy works well enough to define the ideological boundaries of the organization; however, it also reveals its limitations as well.  The SCV doesn’t simply bring together descendants of Confederate soldiers, it brings them together around a set of shared beliefs that have little do with remembering individual soldiers.  I say this as an outsider, but I can’t help but notice how little time is actually devoted to remembering the Confederate soldier as a dynamic historical agent.  Instead we are bombarded with Confederate history month proclamations and Nathan Bedford Forrest vanity tags.  Where is the common soldier?  When was the last time the intellectual arm of the SCV organized a conference around the history of Confederate soldiers as opposed to trying to justify secession and highlight the evil intent of Abraham Lincoln?  Even more disturbing is the impression that membership implies a certain belief about the legitimacy of the Confederate experiment, whether it has to do with secession and/or treason.  Finally, yesterday’s ceremony reinforced the impression that the organization is concerned as much with contemporary politics as it is with heritage/history.

I can’t help but wonder how many proud descendants of Confederate soldiers are being left out as a result.  Where do Robert Moore, Will Stoutamire, and Andy Hall fit in?   If the mission of the SCV is to honor and commemorate the Confederate soldier, why does it choose to take stances on issues that detract from this mission?  Here is what I believe:

  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and not believe that secession was constitutional.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and not believe in states rights.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and believe that Lincoln was one of this nation’s greatest presidents.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor without believing that Lee and Jackson are worthy of adulation.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and be thankful that the Confederacy lost the Civil War.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and be a member of the Democratic Party.
  • You can honor your Confederate ancestor and read books published by university presses.

Continue with the list as you wish.  My point is that none of that really matters in the end.  What matters is the individual’s identification with an ancestor that he/she may or may not know much of anything about.  The goal of the organization ought to be to help one another to better understand what this generation experienced.  I suspect that Andy, Robert, and Will represent a large constituency of folks, who would embrace such an organization.   So, why does the SCV only represent some Confederate descendants?

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78 comments… add one
  • George Nov 3, 2016 @ 8:46

    I am a descendant of two great great confederate soldiers. One enlisted, fought through the entire war, was captured and imprisoned twice, was a guerrilla cavalry man and quit only after Lee surrendered. The other one enlisted one day and was imprisoned a week letter for desertion. All my genealogy research shows that the average soldier had much more in common with the slaves than with the planters who bought their way out and continued their genteel way of lif.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 3, 2016 @ 9:49

      All my genealogy research shows that the average soldier had much more in common with the slaves than with the planters who bought their way out and continued their genteel way of lif.

      Your Confederate ancestors would certainly vigorously disagree with this assessment.

    • Andy Hall Nov 4, 2016 @ 8:28

      What made them great, let alone doubly so?

      Just wondering.

  • MH Nov 22, 2013 @ 8:17

    Thanks for this. I found out recently that I am a direct descendant of a Confederate soldier (my great-great-great grandfather) and am very proud of this. I spoke with SCV and was impressed with the organization but felt that my being an atheist/heathen and anarcho-leftist would not sit well with the membership, so I did not join. Since I am an outspoken person who refuses to keep his mouth shut to appease others it seemed to me that attending SCV events and meetings would likely result in offense and just plain be disrespectful. I try to be respectful of peoples’ organizations so I felt it best that I not attend. The money was an issue as well, I don’t need to join any organization to be proud of my ancestry and heritage. Glad to know I am not alone in this…

    • Michael C Williams Sep 14, 2014 @ 2:03

      I know I’m a little late to this but here is what I have to say.

      They represent the Confederate soldier.

      • Kevin Levin Sep 14, 2014 @ 2:16

        Unfortunately, they do a really bad job of it.

      • Michael Rodgers Sep 14, 2014 @ 4:53

        The Confederate soldier was a subsistence farmer who fought when his government required him to and returned to farming afterwards. He didn’t form a non-governmental, pseudo-terrorist organization with ridiculous military-style titles in a childish and futile effort to white-wash the past. His sons did that.

        • Kevin Levin Sep 14, 2014 @ 5:08

          The SCV is no a “pseudo-terrorist organization.” Let’s be serious.

  • Rzr May 11, 2013 @ 4:57

    Here in WV it is common to have ancestors who served on both sides. I grew up thinking the North was right, the South wrong. Thats because my mothers parents were all Yankees. As I grew older I realized war is a result of one side trying to impose it’s will on the other.I am certain had my mothers parents lived in a different area her family would have been Confederates. Both sides believed that the conflict would be over in a very short time. I believe there was tremendous prejudice against Southerners for years after the war. Gettyburg is a prime example, 99% of whats there is about the North. THe South’s contributions were only added about 1920’s. I have considered joining the SCV but do not want to be involved in a political agenda.

  • Arleigh Birchler Sep 21, 2012 @ 17:19

    My cousin Marc was a frequent contributor here and on Crossroads. Brooks tells me that he has passed away. He will be missed.

  • Virginia S. Wood Sep 21, 2012 @ 15:29

    Re-enactors, too. I’ve been in touch with some for help with my research and, quite frankly, not a few are a little scary. Although I have scads of Confederate veterans in my family tree, I wouldn’t joint the Daughters of the Confederacy for the same reason. They don’t represent me!

  • Randy Mar 21, 2011 @ 5:09


    I read your post.

    Seems like you need to join.

    Better to be part of the improvement than a nay-sayer and a detractor.

    After all, if you are motivated enough to become aware of the organization and write about it then you should bring your ideas to the table with us.

    I’ll send you an application.

    • Andy Hall Mar 21, 2011 @ 7:25

      Randy, I know several long-time SCV members who’ve either quit active participation, or resigned entirely from the organization over the state- and national leadership’s activities, including their promotion of a false historical narrative and determination to inject themselves into partisan political debates in the name of “Southern heritage.” The SCV isn’t interested in brings dissenting voices “to the table,” regardless of the quality of the scholarship behind them, and in fact have worked hard over the last 15 years or so to effectively purge such members from their ranks.

      • Margaret D. Blough Mar 21, 2011 @ 8:17

        Andy-That is particularly true in North Carolina. One officer who was purged was an acquaintance (through the Longstreet Memorial Fund) who I once had a rather intense debate with over what role, if any, tariffs played in causing the war (he was vehemently a member of the blame tariffs school). I remember thinking, when I heard that he had been purged by the League of the South faction, that if they felt that this guy wasn’t sound enough on Confederate “heritage” as they define it, that said volumes about them.

  • phillip Mar 19, 2011 @ 7:46

    Thats your opinion my friend but I do not apologize for men who fought for their rights nor do i suggest what side was right or wrong. Depending on your view or whose eyes you view the
    Civil War thru, determines how receptive you are to read, research and come to your own views. My gg family was completely burned out, livestock taken, land stolen, civilain relatives shot and hung at the hands of the Union Army, so you can give a one word response to a complex question, but in my view, my families had due cause to fight and still hold a bunch of Yank’s in contempt. In my humble opinion however, if you do not beleive in the memory of one’s ancestor, then its better off not too out of respect for that ancestor. You can respect one’s ancestor but to honor is a seperate respect.

    • Margaret D. Blough Mar 19, 2011 @ 9:09

      Those who choose to resort to self-help and the bayonet when they dislike the result of the ballot box must be held responsible for the suffering they brought upon their own people. Secession began because a Republican was elected president (and the fire-eaters bear a great deal of responsibility for that, too. Lincoln’s chances in the election were greatly increased when the secessionists and their allies walked out of the 1860 Democratic Party National Convention in Charleston and later fielded their own presidential candidate). Up until secession began, the federal government was supportive of slavery. Buchanan supported the attempt to admit Kansas as a slave state on the basis of the Lecompton constitution (a document so based in fraud that even Stephen Douglas opposed it), Presidents Fillmore and Pierce each sent federal troops into Boston to recover (successfully, in Pierce’s case) individual fugitive slaves who had been given refuge there. Andrew Jackson’s administration condoned the destruction of abolitionist literature that was sent to whites.

      To say that they were fighting for their rights is one thing, but that, IMHO, requires confronting exactly what rights were at issue. Compare the US and Confederate constitutions and the primary difference is the protections for slavery, even if it meant restricting or eliminating the rights of individual states, to, at some point in the future, decide to become a free state.

      • Andy Hall Mar 19, 2011 @ 9:22

        To say that they were fighting for their rights is one thing, but that, IMHO, requires confronting exactly what rights were at issue. Compare the US and Confederate constitutions and the primary difference is the protections for slavery, even if it meant restricting or eliminating the rights of individual states, to, at some point in the future, decide to become a free state.

        Stand by for “but my granddaddy didn’t own slaves!” in four, three, two, one. . . .

  • Greg deGiere Mar 18, 2011 @ 21:38

    You can honor your Confederate ancestor (such as my great-grandfather) and believe he fought on the wrong side.

  • anonymous Mar 2, 2011 @ 10:07

    I came across this blog while looking for the SCV website. I’ve spent the last 15 minutes reading your article and comments and all it has done is give me the incentive to finally go ahead and join. Now, I’m off to print my membership application.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 2, 2011 @ 10:10

      All the best to you.

    • Phillip Mar 2, 2011 @ 10:32

      Hope you have some fun. I enjoy it as does my family.

  • Phillip Mar 2, 2011 @ 7:09

    I can see that none of you including the author are members of the SCV. I find it disrespectful, all of you, that you can comment, over and over, on something you know nothing about or are a member of. I know our organization has been placing ads on TV and Radio and newsprint, but this is still a free society. Just like you have a right to write post after post of your thoughts and opinions on something that you vaguely know about except what you read of the internet or your personal bias view on the subject. Go vote for more government if you like, its the only real right you have left.

    For me, we honor our ancestors, nothing more. We stand for something, more then i can say about most people today who stand for nothing. I cannot speak for every camp, but our camp works to maintain grave markers, place new stones, locate unmarked graves, participate in living history events and remember certain days and events. If you have a problem with that, then what else can i can say. When was the last time you went to any cemetery and cleaned up a little regardless of who it was. No, you leave that to other people don’t you.
    On Friday, March 5, we are going to place 2 markers for veterans that died in 1885 in Colorado. They we been buried in unmarked graves for 125 years. These men are not any relation to me except they fought honorably and deserve my respect. This memorial day, i challege you to go out to an old cemetery that may have been neglected over the years and do a little maintenance, someone may do the same for you a hundred years from now…

    • Kevin Levin Mar 2, 2011 @ 7:35


      Thanks for taking the time to comment. You are correct. It is indeed a free society and the SCV has the right to do all the things you described. The rest of us also reserve the right to comment on its activities.

      I applaud the work that your local chapter is doing. The local chapter here in Charlottesville has been working on placing markers in a small cemetery adjacent to the University of Virginia. I take my students to this cemetery every year to discuss issues related to the common soldier and postwar commemorations. Best of luck with your March 5 event.

  • bill Feb 24, 2011 @ 15:30

    well snippy might be a better term. We bring our current politics into the discussions and make comments in brackets which are added only to make someone feel superior or imply that others are inferior based on their lineage or place of birth. Th ecomment of even if thye were on the wrong side of history is an example. Why cloud the point you are trying to make. I want to listen to your arguments. I often find them enlightening, humorous and down right wrong but I still enjoy the difference of opinion and the thought behind each statement.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2011 @ 15:32

      Thanks for making CWM part of your day.

  • bill Feb 24, 2011 @ 15:21

    Noone forfeits their right to be southerners. I don’t feel better about Jubal Early than I do about the southerners who remained in the Union. Hard choices were made and men died. Both sides should be ashamed we had to fight when we could have lived in peace. Sometimes I think those that could have stopped the bickering encouraged it for thie own benefit or amusement. We should be able to have a discussion without fighting now too.

  • bill Feb 24, 2011 @ 15:15

    gosh fellas how come all these blogs make people angry and make them get personal. The war was over 150 years ago we lost. In some ways we caused the evermore rapid downfall of our great nation.by solidifying the dominance of the Federal Government. Trust me the US as we know it will be lucky to last another 40 years . I thank God I lived through some of the good years. I am not mad that Yankees killed my ancestors we were trying our best to kill them first.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2011 @ 15:16

      Are people angry?

  • bill Feb 24, 2011 @ 6:52

    As a side note my first wife had two relatives that fought in the war. Both were named Jim Brady and both were officers from North Carolina. One was a US Army officer who was over the security of the State of North Carolina after the War, serving as a provost. The other is buried in a grave in a Richmond battlefield cemetery within view of a public housing project. Many years ago we put a stone on his four man grave.

    • Andy Hall Feb 24, 2011 @ 7:59

      Bill, I still think you’re not following Kevin’s point. When you said you’re putting yourself “in the role of a North Carolinian in 1861,” you’re talking about only one minority segment of North Carolina — white male supporters of secession and the Confederacy. There are a helluva a lot more voices and perspectives in North Carolina than that, those of enslaved and free African Americans, women, Unionists, and on and on.

      This is representative of the problem that, in my opinion, the SCV has in connecting to the larger historical community. Instead of saying simply, “we speak for our members,” the SCV has long taken the position that it speaks on behalf of all Southerners, and all descendants of Confederate veterans. As a member of both those groups, I can say with some authority that that is simply not true.

      • James F. Epperson Feb 24, 2011 @ 8:12

        Mr. Hall, I suspect we are in agreement here, but let me point out that the SCV would almost surely say that you (and I), by virtue of our attitudes, have forfeited our right to be considered southerners.

        • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2011 @ 8:14

          They would explain it by suggesting that you’ve somehow become corrupted either by where you live, how many degrees you hold or that you frequent CWM. 🙂

          • James F. Epperson Feb 24, 2011 @ 8:19

            Yeah, well, I’m guilty on all three counts: I live in the People’s Republic of Ann Arbor, MI, I hold a Ph.D. (in math), and I do check this blog every day 🙁

            • Arleigh Birchler Feb 24, 2011 @ 9:12

              What I have been unable to understand is why it bothers anyone? what does it matter what the SCV does, thinks, or says?

              • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2011 @ 9:14

                What is there to understand beyond thinking about why you find certain things to be of interest and worthy of comment?

              • Andy Hall Feb 24, 2011 @ 10:01

                It matters because the SCV presents itself as an historical authority, and in that way foists all sorts of misinformation onto both the general public and to school groups. Foolishness about tariffs and black Confederates gets traction in the mainstream press not because SCV members have convinced themselves of it, but because they’re very aggressive in pushing it out onto unsuspecting listeners who, for better or worse, don’t have the background to recognize it for what it is.

                • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2011 @ 10:04

                  Yes, that pretty much sums it up.

        • Andy Hall Feb 24, 2011 @ 8:25

          Indeed, yes. You and I would be deemed “scalawags,” as opposed to Kevin, who’s merely a “carpetbagger.”

  • bill Feb 23, 2011 @ 6:35

    Well I am white and from the mountains near Asheville. My fathers side of the family are Portugese from Connecticut whose children fought for the confederacy and Seneca Indian. My mothers side of the family were poor white trash from central North Carolina . Mostly Scot and Irish with a German or two thrown in. I believe that Confederate soldiers fought Northern invasion and that most strategic reasons for the war meant little to him. Although I am a college graduate back then I could probably barely read and write if at all. I think too much strategic thinking and causes for the war are listed for why the southerners fought. Most fought invasion.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 23, 2011 @ 6:48

      Thanks for the response, Bill. I wasn’t so much asking for you to clarify your background, but to point out that your sketch of what North Carolinians believed in 1861 doesn’t do much more than scratch the surface.

      • Connie Chastain/180 DTS Feb 24, 2011 @ 13:39


        You have a blog so I suggest you use it. All you do on this site is whine and complain, but you never add anything substantive to the discussion. You seem to relish the opportunity to troll this site and police my comments. I suggest that you start a series of posts on your own blog. I am finished with you wasting our time.


  • bill Feb 23, 2011 @ 6:12

    I put myself as much as possible in the role of a North Carolinian in 1861. I do not own slaves and do not care who does. I do know that my state is threatened by some crazy Republican who was just elected president and I know he’s coming to take my home away. I know that the south is losing its influence in Washington and although we have made all these agreements the new and ever more Yankee States are changing the deal constantly. I know that some rich Yankees paid John Brown to rally negroes to riot and I am afraid what will happen next. When the Yankees get up an army I guess I will have to fight just like my folks fought at Kings Mountain and Cowpens I will have to fight too. If we could just stay like we were or just have the North leave us alone we could all get back to farming. To me that is what the Sons of Confederate Veterans stands for. Not some State seceding from the Union but a citizen standing for whtat he thought was right. It is not some huge historical assessmeny by some Lincolnfile or Lincoln hater. It is about fighting for what YOU believe in. If tomorrow the Federal Government invades North Carolina with an Army killing men,women and children I guess I will have to quit farming again.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 23, 2011 @ 6:15

      Hi Bill,

      Which North Carolinians in 1861 are you referring to here: white, black, Unionist…?

      • Arleigh Birchler Feb 23, 2011 @ 7:22

        I cringe at making it look like I agree with Kevin, but you are both right. It depends on where you live relative to the “Fall Line” (North Carolina actually has a transition zone and not a fall line, but that is a discussion for a different group.) If you live east of the fall line, Bill is right. If you live very far west of the fall line, and especially if you are above 100o feet elevation, chances are you and your neighbor’s are unionists, and you will run up the United States Flag at the courthouse on July 4, 1863, and have a big Unionist Celebration over the defeat of the Confederate Army at Gettysburg (despite the fact that many of your young men are in the Confederate Army).

        Part of that has to do with slavery, but more of it has to do with cotton. Cotton has recently become a very lucrative crop. It is still sufficiently labor intensive that it requires a cheap source of labor to produce and make a good profit. The labor is not free, however. It requires a large capital outlay and operating expenses. Contrary to popular belief, that labor force is neither unthinking nor lacking motivation. If you are smart enough to provide incentives to your labor force and treat them reasonably well, you will have increased profits.

        For a few of us, that is exactly the problem. It isn’t how badly some or most of the labor is treated, or what indignities they suffer. It is the fact that the rich own all of the profit, and the labor force is unable to accumulate any of it. The precise conditions that spelled the doom of Feudalism in Europe and the rise of Capitalism.

        Perhaps there is some analogy here to what is going on in the world today, or maybe even in Madison, Wisconsin.

  • Chris Evans Feb 22, 2011 @ 11:43

    I think some of the best writing on the Lost Cause and the Confederate Soldier is contained in the excellent novel by Howard Bahr, ‘The Black Flower’:

    “…For generations they vilified the Yankee race so the thief would have a face, a name, a mysterious country into which he had withdrawn and from which he might venture again. They banded together into a militant freemasonry of remembering, and from that citadel held out against any suggestion that what they had suffered and lost might have been in vain. They created the Lost Cause, and consecrated that proud fiction with the blood of real men. To the Lost Cause they dedicated their own blood, their own lives, and to it they offered books, monographs, songs, acres and acres of bad poetry…”

    “But their greatest, their supreme and most poignant accomplishment, was the Confederate Soldier. Out of the smoke they plucked him, and set him atop a stone pedestal in the courthouse yard where he stood free at last of hunger and fear and raggedness and madness and violence; where he would never desert nor write home for a substitute, never run, never complain of short ration, never question the sacred Cause of which he was protector, and for which he had marched forth to willing sacrifice. But his musket was always at rest, and not for nothing was he always young, his eyes always soft as he looked backward over the long years. For he really was no soldier at all, but an image created by women, and he was born not of war but of sorrow and of fierce desire…”
    (Pgs. 123-124)

    I am always struck by how in reading these passages how close to the mark Bahr really gets in the remembrance of the war compared to what the Sons of Confederate Veterans have been saying in recent years. Being a descendant of Confederate soldiers I believe they keep getting further and further away from the mark and should not try to be so extreme in their views.


    • Kevin Levin Feb 22, 2011 @ 11:49


      Thanks so much for the Bahr reference. I tend to stay away from historical fiction, but I’ve read a number of positive reviews about his work. We tend to grow more detached from controversial events the further removed we are, but the SCV is clearly works as a counterexample to this generalization. The problem is that there are a lot of folks out there who are more detached, but would welcome the opportunity to interact with others to better understand the experience of their ancestors. That is unlikely to happen within the SCV.

    • Virginia S. Wood Sep 21, 2012 @ 15:40

      I’m a year and a half late to this discussion, but man, what a beautiful passage. Thank you for sharing that.

  • Andy Hall Feb 22, 2011 @ 11:37
    • Kevin Levin Feb 22, 2011 @ 11:37

      Thanks Andy.

  • Thornhill Feb 22, 2011 @ 10:35


    I think it was actually fairly well attended, at least compared to other rallies that are held on Dexter Ave. If the SCV wanted a big attendance, Montgomery was one of the worst places to do it — it’s simply not near anything.

    I have pictures on my blog (I was the one who posted the video on YouTube).


    It’s hard to see, but there were a lot of people to the sides of the Capitol steps because that area was shaded — it was a pretty warm day.

    What they pictures do show, is that the age range of the people in attendance skewed pretty old, including reeneactors.

    Some people brought their kids, but generally the non-AARP participants appeared to be bikers.

    It’s not all that surprising people under 40 aren’t obsessed with downplaying the fact that slavery was a factor in the Civil War.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 22, 2011 @ 10:36

      Thanks for providing the link and for the video as well.

  • James F. Epperson Feb 22, 2011 @ 3:59

    I have at least one Confederate ancestor (Joseph CF Epperson, 2nd Virginia Cavalry, Co. A), and probably more. The current SCV leadership would say that my views on the Civil War (including my use of that name for the conflict) dishonors his memory, but I don’t see it that way.

  • Billy Bearden Feb 21, 2011 @ 17:05

    I can only offer my personal observations

    In my own little camp, times are real bad. 4-6 have lost jobs, 2-3 have died this past year, and 3-5 have had no funds to re-up. Gosh, I suppose our membership is down due to what some guy in Tennessee does or doesn’t do!

    I have seen people pay the dues, get the certificate, then never show again. Others are unable to attend any meetings for health or age or employment reasons and give up, so obviously attrition is not the answer, it is radicals as deemed by the splc, naacp, msnbc, cbs, nbc, abc, fox, Andy, Kevin, Robert, and Will.

    Other than organized labor unions and membership in the communist party USA, are all other groups and orgs memberships on the rise? Perhaps attrition and economic situations might play a small tiny role there too?

    I would refer to a certain 1991 resolution calling the Confederate flag an ‘odious blight on the universe” other political leaders calling the flag a Confederate swastika, and CS Soldiers traitors nazis terrorists, etcc… and the declared war against all things Confederate beginning at that time which helped direct folks to take a more hardened stand against such vitriol.

    It is one thing to have someone say “oh I am offended by such and such Confederate thing” and a whole new ballgame when stated “they are nazi terrorists and the statues, names etc… all have to be dug up and forever removed”

    • Kevin Levin Feb 21, 2011 @ 17:10

      Do I really deserve more blame than the decisions made by the SCV? So, basically it sounds like you are suggesting that the SCV doesn’t deserve any blame at all. I would love to read a response to the content of my post. Sorry, but you will get no sympathy from me. The SCV has done a thorough job of digging its own hole.

    • TheRaven Feb 21, 2011 @ 20:51

      You can honor your Confederate ancestor and read books published by university presses.

      Understated, and over their heads, but excellent nonetheless.

    • Robert Moore Feb 21, 2011 @ 21:45

      Re: “radicals as deemed by… Robert”, Mr. Bearden, apparently you missed something I’ve said here a time or two. When it comes to the SCV, “been there, done that”, and left in 2006, after 20 years. Perhaps you know better than me, my own experiences, and reasons why I became fed up with the nonsense… and the radicals and their antics.

  • Francis Hamit Feb 21, 2011 @ 14:07

    “The Lost Cause” is a myth. So is “The War of Northern Aggression”. I’ve heard both of these expressed at my book signings with some ferocity, but these are actually products of the decades-long, post-war, disinformation campaign bu Jubal Early and others in the so-called Southern Historical Society. This further clouds and already confused picture of what actually occurred since every source from that era is slanted or compromised in some way.

    What is certain is that there was error and misrule on both sides. Honor Confederate ancestors for their bravery and for fighting for what they believed (even if they were on the wrong side of History) and let it go at that. Don’t try to refight the whole war.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 21, 2011 @ 14:25


      I think there is plenty of myth to go around. I would suggest, however, that there must be room for a descendant who doesn’t have a need to honor or identify in an emotional way with his Confederate ancestor. He may not even approve of what his ancestor fought for; rather, he may simply want to know more about his experiences. Thanks for the comment.

    • bill Feb 24, 2011 @ 15:08

      The only reason we are on the wrong side of history is we lost. Menachem Began blows up the King David Hotel in Israel killing over 100 British citizens and is later head of Isreal . Victory makes you on the right side of history. I worked for the Justice Dept. before I retired and I have said this before and I believe it. If Timothy McVeah had been able to rally people to his cause and actually overthrow the US government historians would call te day the Murrah Building Fell FOUNDERS DAY. I have read the writings of liberal historians who extoll the virtues of the American Pharoah and it makes me realize that one should discover the facts for himself and take some historians with a grain of salt.

      • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2011 @ 15:10


        You are going to be taken much more seriously if you cite specific “liberal” historians you have in mind and clearly state what interpretive point you are challenging.

  • Commodore Perry Feb 21, 2011 @ 12:47

    Here is the statement from the very defunct (August 2007) Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans website :


    IN RECENT YEARS, THE SCV HAS BEEN DRAWN INTO MODERN AMERICAN POLITICS. Extremists on both ends of the political spectrum have intentionally merged the concepts of “Confederate” heritage and “Southern” heritage in order to galvanize support for their respective agendas. Left-wing extremists condemn conservative attitudes and progressively link those attitudes with Confederate heritage, Southern heritage, the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and racism in an effort to demonize conservatives. Right- wing extremists use “Southern heritage” to connect legitimate Confederate heritage defense (and the SCV) to their fringe-group views on race, immigration, religion, neo-secessionism, etc. The SCV’s mission of Confederate heritage guardianship is being transformed into modern political extremism that often has little to do with defending the proud record of the Confederate soldier. Many SCV leaders are participants in this transformation.”

    I gather that the SSCV group is totally defunct and that most of its adherents gave up, but I don’t really know the history since I wasn’t following things back then (anyone?). But I still think the SSCV’s brief existence makes clear the fact that there are those who want to honor Confederate ancestors, seek the truth, and still be proud enough to join a heritage-but-not-politics group. Of course, some prefer the politics, and that’s their right, which is why the SCV expelled members instead of becoming “saved”.

    Does anyone really actually know what happened to the SSCV? And more importantly, why isn’t the group, or any of the last decade’s unrest within the SCV, discussed within the current CW blogosphere’s focus on who is and who isn’t represented accurately or inaccurately by whichever Southern heritage group? This could be a huge addition to our understanding and discussion that has flared up recently regarding the SCV, but it seems largely ignored. Maybe I am missing this because I’m late to the party; if so, please let me know.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 21, 2011 @ 13:18

      Thanks for sharing this.

      I really do believe that the SCV could find a way to preserve their Lost Cause tradition as expressed in their early documents and still leave room for members, who hold to a wide range of beliefs about the Confederacy and the Civil War. That’s right, you could bring together people who refer to the War Between the States and the American Civil War. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they want to remember their Confederate ancestor. The SCV should sponsor a nation wide project of profiling as many soldiers as possible. This has nothing to do with your view of Lincoln or secession or defeat or slavery or Lee…

    • Arleigh Birchler Feb 21, 2011 @ 14:12


      Your information matches what little I know. I was far on the side-lines of all of this. I asked a few people who were more involved some questions, and made my guesses as to what was going on. It is my understanding that the folks who want to attach the mission of the SCV to 21st Century Politics won. In the process they kicked out a lot of the people who only want to honor their confederate ancestors. I think membership is way down now.

      My opinion is of little value in this world, but I think that folks who take a confrontation stance with them are only playing into their hands. I have long believed that the surest way to dishonor any soldier who was killed is to claim that they “died for” some principal you currently support.

  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 21, 2011 @ 11:14

    Because people who are eligible to join and fight for their own views choose not to. A small group is then able to take over and promote their own agenda. I did not pay my dues this year, and have stopped going to meetings. The folks I knew there were generally good people. I am sure there are many African Americans in this area who would be eligible for membership, if they were interested.

    • bill Feb 24, 2011 @ 15:50

      I stopped paying ACLU dues for the same reason . I feel good about my support back in the day and good about saying goodbye when I did. Same thing as you and the SVC.

  • Charles Lovejoy Feb 21, 2011 @ 11:14

    Can you can honor your Confederate ancestor and be a member of the Democratic Party? I’m a member of the Green party and honor my Confederate ancestors. Looks like I’m going to vote Democratic in the next presidential election, and still honor my Confederate ancestors. Me honoring my Confederate ancestors has nothing to do with my modern politics. It’s a historical honor. My Confederate ancestors did what they did in 1860-65 and that was 150 years ago, and it in part , is what brought me to where I am today. And I’m very content with who I am and where I am. I like being a southerner from the lower south.

    Kevin my 23 year old son Carlo & I had an interesting conversation the other day , He had one grandfather that fought in the US Army air corps WWII and one in that was in the Italian army in WWII. He honers both equal , he also honers his Confederate ancestors. Guess its an ancestor worship ‘thang’. 🙂

    • bill Feb 24, 2011 @ 15:46

      excellent response Charles and I will undoubtably vote Republican while holding my nose

  • Brooks D. Simpson Feb 21, 2011 @ 10:58

    The decision of the SCV to offer a more political message over the years has left many members disaffected and alienated. It has also curtailed efforts to attract new members who might indeed view it as a heritage organization. That said, the SCV has always had a political message: it is the increasing distance between that message and the contemporary world that has become more noticeable. It is in part to try to tweak that message to somehow make it more acceptable to modern ears that we’ve seen some SCV leaders, including Mr. Barrow, become engaged in black Confederates and the notion of a multicultural and integrated Confederacy. That, of course, make invoking Rosa Parks and using a particular line of march even more discordant to many observers.

    SCV members need to decide if this is how they want to be represented in the public eye.

    • Andy Hall Feb 21, 2011 @ 11:20

      That said, the SCV has always had a political message: it is the increasing distance between that message and the contemporary world that has become more noticeable.

      Yes. I recently stumbled upon the Sons of Confederate Veterans Gray Book, published in 1920, and its contents reads like a bullet list of SCV talking points today:

      The Generally Misunderstood Emancipation Proclamation
      The South Not Responsible for Slavery
      Treatment of Prisoners in the Confederacy
      Injustice to the South

      • Andy Hall Feb 21, 2011 @ 11:22

        Sorry, hit “send” too soon. Continuing:

        The Secession of 1861 Founded Upon Legal Right

        They’re the same arguments, the same issues, virtually unchanged. As Brooks suggests, the difference is not the message, but how separate it has become from mainstream thought, and how shrill the group has become in consequence.

      • Kevin Levin Feb 21, 2011 @ 11:33

        You are absolutely right and this has been well documented. It seems to me that the SCV could still maintain the tradition of this aspect of their history without it alienating potential members. I work at a school that was at one time affiliated with the Episcopal Church. Although we no longer have an official affiliation we continue with weekly chapel service and all students take a religion course. Students are expected to be respectful during service, but they are not expected to do anything that would make them feel uncomfortable or violate their own religious faith. Services also include speakers from outside the Christian tradition. It seems to me that the SCV could achieve the same kind of balance.

        • Robert Moore Feb 21, 2011 @ 17:41

          When it comes to the ability to reflect on Confederate ancestry, I’m almost of the opinion that it is best to be a “GDI”, rather than be affiliated organizationally. The ability to associate with others of a like mind still exists. I have thoroughly enjoyed running into folks like Craig, Andy, Will, Sherree, and many others. We aren’t hemmed-in by the rhetoric of the SCV or any other organization, but we are, I believe, of a like mind… and in a way, our ability to think outside the “SCV box” shows more originality and spirit than the SCV’s numbers on paper can muster. We can reflect on our heritage… our Confederate ancestors… and yet we don’t have to do so at the expense of history, or at the expense of the very people who are supposed to be at the center of that reflection. We also don’t have to hate or feel animosity in order to reflect. We don’t need to pay dues to an organization to “honor” or to express our thoughts about our ancestors. We don’t need “them” in order to take care of either the headstones or memory of our people.

          On top of this, fact of the matter is, because of our ability to embrace the diversity of the people of the Civil War era South, I believe we are more Southern than the SCV can ever hope to be.

          • Kevin Levin Feb 22, 2011 @ 3:30

            You might be right, Robert, and I am in no way suggesting that the SCV is anywhere close to shifting gears to broaden their membership base. I think the post is a worthwhile exercise to highlight the organization’s narrow definition of what it means to legitimately remember/commemorate one’s Confederate forebears.

            “…I believe we are more Southern than the SCV can ever hope to be.”

            Now that is an understatement.

          • Arleigh Birchler Feb 22, 2011 @ 5:25

            Gasoline direct injection
            Gay Doctors Ireland
            Gender-related Development Index
            Global Defense Initiative
            Gonzaga Debate Institute
            Graphics Device Interface
            Gross domestic income
            Guanosine nucleotide dissociation inhibitors
            Los Guerreros del Infierno
            God Damn Independent

          • bill Feb 24, 2011 @ 14:58

            Very good Robert.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 21, 2011 @ 11:28

      That’s what I don’t understand. Yesterday’s event was widely publicized and it barely made a splash. Their numbers are clearly shrinking. It just seems to me that the SCV should want to embrace folks like Andy and Robert given their interest and knowledge in history. The SCV has clearly gambled on being able to repackage their message, but that clearly is not working. They can whine all they want about why that is, but it doesn’t change the fact that they have marginalized themselves.

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