When Your “Friends” Include Sons of Confederate Veterans

Earlier today a lawsuit was filed in Virginia challenging the recent vote of the Charlottesville City Council to relocate the Robert E. Lee monument. I don’t necessarily have a problem with a lawsuit to try and prevent the monument from being moved. The plaintiffs are residents of the community and they have every right to voice their concerns in this way.

I especially don’t have a problem given that the Friends of C’Ville Monuments is involved. They are not just interested in preservation, but in broadening the city’s commemorative landscape to include potentially new monuments. One of the trustees is a former student of mine, who has been involved in this public discussion from the beginning. It seems to me that his heart is in the right place.

I am, however, concerned that this lawsuit places the Friends in a somewhat compromising position given the presence of the Virginia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The lawsuit refers to the war as the War Between the States, which implies any number of things about the nature of the war. Interestingly, the Friends refer to the war as the Civil War. Referring to the war in the former manner implies any number of claims about the cause of the war, its legacy and the importance of slavery.

But that is just the beginning. Anyone who has followed the SCV over the years knows that they have done more than any other organization to distort the history of the war and spread any number of myths, including that of black Confederates. Members of the Virginia Division are also involved with the Virginia Flaggers and other more questionable organizations.

I do hope that as this case moves forward the Friends of C’Ville Monuments will be careful about how they associate with the SCV.

Not all heritage organizations are equal.

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22 comments… add one
  • A guy involved Mar 29, 2017 @ 5:27

    Thanks for speaking of Friends of C’ville Monuments (which supports The Monument Fund, Inc. a 501(c)(3) nonprofit fundraising for the Charlotesville lawsuit).

    Just as clarification, the lawsuit calls it the War Between the States because legal pleadings have to track the language of the law. cf Va Code § 15.2-1812 (listing war monuments eligible for protection including those of the “War Between the States.”) At least the legislature didn’t call it the War of Northern Aggression.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 29, 2017 @ 7:31

      I did not know that. Thanks for the clarification.

    • Rio Mar 31, 2017 @ 6:43

      The pleadings aren’t actually required to call the Civil War what the law calls it; it’s a strategic decision by the plaintiffs. Normally one would want to track the text of the law, but this case seems different.

      At any rate, the law at issue, which is the 1919 version (not mentioned in the complaint for obvious reasons), doesn’t refer to the war at all. It only protects “a Confederate monument” erected by the county in front of the county courthouse. The two equestrian statues don’t meet any of those criteria as far as I can tell.

  • Josh Liller Mar 22, 2017 @ 9:35

    If the statue of Lee is relocated out of Lee Park will the park be renamed too?

  • Rio Mar 22, 2017 @ 5:13

    It was a mistake for the Friends to support the lawsuit without apparently having much control over the complaint. It goes beyond “the War Between the States.” The complaint seeks punitive damages from individual city council members based on the votes they cast in contentious public matters. It’s disgusting. It’s much worse than the fabled “thought police” that anti-PC folks are always talking about.

    The rest of the complaint is amateurish and sometimes nonsensical, but it’s not offensive.

  • LC Mar 21, 2017 @ 17:34

    I am in the UDC and know many SCV members and they are very nice gentlemen who honor their brave ancestors and clean up grave sites and do charity work. We both weed out bad apples and we hate the freaks in sheets who, by the way, are required to have the stars and stripes at their meetings, NOT the Southern Cross battle flag. We do not do events with the League of the South and it was not a civil war because the Confederate States of America was a seperate country. This author is very ignorant or pushing an agenda.

  • Forester Mar 21, 2017 @ 11:20

    The League of the South scares the hell out of me, which is part of why I’m not in the SCV. I like the idea of taking care of graves and monuments, but I’m not supportive of Neo-Confederates or any of that nonsense. Also, I’m not pleased with my local chapter making that inaccurate marker for William Mack Lee.

    I would rather join the UDC, but a few extra body parts make me ineligible. 😉

  • Ted McKnight Mar 20, 2017 @ 16:23

    Do you know any SCV members personally? How many SCV meetings have you attended?

    • Kevin Levin Mar 20, 2017 @ 16:26

      Why would I need to have attended any meetings for information about SCV members? I don’t follow. Having lived in Virginia for ten years and followed their activities closely I feel pretty confident in my assessment. By the way, I have given talks to SCV chapters in Virginia, including one in Petersburg and another near Williamsburg.

      • Ted McKnight Mar 28, 2017 @ 11:20

        Thanks, just curious. Each SCV Camp seems to have a unique flavor and the individual members are certainly varied. Perusing your blogs gives me the impression that you have a passion for all things SCV. IMO, painting with a broad brush decreases the value of a person’s writings about observations. There are a couple of things of which I am certain; we occasionally have black guests at our meeting and we always welcome their interest. Also, in all my meetings and other associations with SCV members, I have never heard a racist comment. Zero. I am certainly no historian, only a student but I have not learned anything that dishonors the ‘lost cause’. Serving my country in the Vietnam era had a great deal to do with my antiwar compulsion. That has influenced my strong belief that WBTS should never have happened. I witness the residual effects daily and that is sad.

        • Kevin Levin Mar 28, 2017 @ 11:43

          Thanks for the comment. I am going to let my previous posts on the SCV speak for itself.

    • M.D. Blough Mar 20, 2017 @ 17:02

      Ted- I was heavily involved in the project that erected a statue of CSA Lt. Gen. James Longstreet so I got to know quite a few men who were, at that time, SCV members and had been very active for many years in the organization. The SCV supported the project. You may have noticed the past tense. That’s because, some years back, the SCV leadership got taken over by members who were hardcore members of the League of the South, a very hardcore neo-Confederate pro-Lost Cause organization. One of its leaders, Kirk Lyons, an attorney, was married at the headquarters of the Aryan Nation organization. The North Carolina SCV helped lead the ultimately unsuccessful fight against the League of the South takeover. Everyone I knew was either purged by the new leadership or left because the SCV has become so extreme. I didn’t agree with the organization on more than a few things at the beginning but it was nothing at all like it is now.

      • Andy Hall Mar 20, 2017 @ 21:13

        One of Lyons’ colleagues in the takeover of the SCV, who later served two years as commander-in-chief of the organization, was Ron Wilson. He’s currently serving a long sentence in the federal penitentiary for orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in the history of South Carolina.

      • Ted McKnight Mar 28, 2017 @ 11:23

        Mr. Lyons father was a member of my SCV Camp and a wonderful gentleman.

    • bob ruth Mar 21, 2017 @ 11:19


      One doesn’t need to attend a SCV meeting or personally know a SCV member to have a negative view of this controversial organization. Just read the group’s official web site, which includes the following sentence about the major cause of the Civil War (or War Between the States, according to the SCV).

      “The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the second American Revolution.”

      I’ve always been curious about whose “liberty and freedom” the SCV is talking about. Surely not the “liberty and freedom” of 4 million fellow Americans who for generations were raped, tortured and otherwise dehumanized by their cruel slave-masters.

      • Ted McKnight Mar 28, 2017 @ 11:24

        Thank you for the reply. I assume that you are not a libertarian.

    • Andy Hall Mar 27, 2017 @ 7:36

      I know several SCV members, consider them friends, and have not only attended SCV meetings, but presented research at them. Presented at UDC, too.

      Individuals vary a lot, and the culture of individual camps does, as well. Some are much more (shall we say) militant than others. But the larger historical narrative presented by the SCV as a whole is only made possible by being deliberately blind to the historical record. So long as the group takes S. D. Lee’s charge to “vindicate” (his word) the Confederacy as their holy writ, they’re not going to be (and should not be) taken seriously as an historical organization.

  • Annette Jackson Mar 20, 2017 @ 15:07

    Until I moved to the Richmond VA area a few years I had no idea that there was an organization called the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I became acquainted with a man whose wife belonged to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and a man who belongs to the SCV. It definitely changed my views on them and I eventually curtailed my association with both of them over a period of years. I think it is very difficult to maintain a friendship when ones core views are not reflected in the views of the other person or persons.

    • johnsurratt59 Mar 24, 2017 @ 1:00

      Personally, I disagree with your assessment of the SCV. History is written by the ‘winners’, and as such, the story or the telling, of the War Between the States is a slanted one. Just as the old saying goes, there are always TWO sides to every story. Now it appears, that you are one of those who, under the guise of ‘finding it difficult to maintain a ‘friendship’ when ones core views are not reflected in the view of the other person, is basically what one calls ‘Politically Correct’, which in some circles are called ‘cowards’, in that they follow ‘popular’ opinions. This sounds to me, like one of those items. Just because they don’t believe they way you do, you seem only too fond of ‘getting rid of them’. Well, as far as I am concerned, there was really no ‘friendship’ involved in the first place. The SCV tells the story from the Confederate side of history, and just because you don’t subscribe to it, does not mean that there is a ring of truth to it. The political arena today seems to follow a lot along this line of reasoning. IF, it doesn’t follow their idea of the events during that horrendous conflict, then it must not be true, therefore if you disagree with those who believe differently than they, then you are ostracized, ridiculed and made to feel a little inferior. I had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy and I am not the least bit ashamed of that fact, and in fact, I am honored that they fought for something that they believed in, it may have been wrong in the eyes of today, but then, it was much different. In the old diaries that I have, although they considered the blacks inferior individuals, they did not fight to free or keep, ‘negroes’, in fact, they actually could have cared less what happened to the blacks, one way or another. When the North invaded the Southern States, THAT is what upset them. They thought more of their homes, their families and their State, than any idea of keeping or not keeping, slaves, or an all powerful Federal Government. You have different views of that then I do, I suspect, and you have that right, and if you do, you do, I cannot change that, but I certainly don’t hold a grudge against you because of that, otherwise you may be a good person, and that is a good thing. Also, core views? Meaning what? That evidently it appears that it must mean…….’Supporting slavery’! Well, real the statement I just made again. You must remember, the times were different and their thought processes were much different than those of today, and we cannot put OUR spin on what WE didn’t live through. There is far too much of the ‘South…Bad…..North…Good, thing.

      • Jeff Richards Mar 27, 2017 @ 16:38

        I am a Yankee through and through and I happen to agree with you These days especially we must learn how to get along with each other From my view that is the reason the Civil War was fought and to do less than get along is to dishonor our ancestors both North and South.

      • Kristoffer Mar 28, 2017 @ 7:35

        “History is written by the ‘winners’,”
        Wrong, wrong, wrong. In the words of Walter Kaschner from Axis History Forums:
        “But in another sense, the notion that “the victors write the history books” is obviously errant nonsense. It was not the case with Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, probably the greatest history ever written, nor is it the case with WWI or WWII. Certainly the bulk of history written by members of the victorious nations reflect the victors point of view. But there have been scores, if not hundreds, of history books covering each of those later wars written by Germans, of all manner of political persuasion across the entire spectrum. And there have been dozens – if not scores – written by US, British and French authors which are sympathetic to the German point of view. Recourse to sweeping and unfounded shibboleths such as this reflect such an obviously impoverished, thoughtless and indeed utterly sterile cast of mind as to be scarcely worth the effort to attempt a rebuttal.”

      • Annette Jackson Mar 28, 2017 @ 12:22

        Even though I was born in California I actually qualify to be a member of First Families of Virginia, as my ancestors settled in the Prince George and Chesterfield County area in the 1600’s. I have slave holders in my ancestors, and I am related to many people here, including bi-racial descendants of my white ancestors. But the difference is that i am a direct descendant of those who left the south and slavery for the mid-west decades before the outbreak of the war, and so far I have documented 36 men from those families who fought for the preservation of the Union. On my father’s side, there were out and out abolitionists among those in Illinois, including two great grand uncles, one of whom was with Sherman. I have very different views from yours about the so-called “invasion” of the south by the lawful government of the United States.

        With one of the men in question we drifted apart over many things, mostly of a political nature. It happens. In the other case, well, again political. Some relative of his kept getting on my case that former President Obama was born in Kenya, something he believes now, in 2017. It got to be too much. But of all the people I know I have only curtailed my association due to SCV issues to those two. I have family members who voted for Trump. We keep the peace because we have agreed not to discuss politics. I believe that outside of family, people do tend to associate with those who agree with them on important issues.

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