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Sons of Confederate Veterans

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The Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., is an association of male descendants of Confederate veterans established on July 1, 1896, at Richmond, Virginia.


The objects and purpose of the organization are "to encourage the preservation of history, perpetuate the hallowed memories of brave men, to assist in the observance of Confederate Memorial Day, to aid and support all members, widows and orphans, and to perpetuate the record of the services of every Southern soldier."


All male descendants of those who served in the Confederate States Army, Navy, Marines, and militia to the end of the war, died in prison or while in actual service, were killed in battle, or were honorably retired or discharged shall be eligible for membership. Membership can be obtained through either lineal or collateral family lines and kinship to a veteran must be documented genealogically. The minimum age for full membership is 12, but there is no minimum for Cadet membership.


See also: List of Past Commanders-in-Chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans

On July 1, 1896, twenty-four delegates assembled in Richmond, Virginia for the purpose of forming a ″national organization, adopting a constitution similar in every respect to that governing the United Confederate Veterans, and permanently organized under the name United Sons of Confederate Veterans″ (USCV). The preamble to the U.S.C.V. Constitution read in part: ″To encourage the preservation of history, perpetuate the hallowed memories of brave men, to assist in the observance of Memorial Day, and to perpetuate the record of the services of every Southern Soldier″. Its aims, objects, and purposes were ″not to create or foster, in any manner, any feeling against the North, but to hand down to posterity the story of the glory of the men who wore the gray″.

In the 1990s, disagreements over the purpose of the organization emerged within the SCV. At issue was an alleged shift in the SCV's mission from "maintaining gravestones, erecting monuments and studying Civil War history" to more issue-centric concerns. The SCV's new concerns included "fight[ing] for the right to display Confederate symbols everywhere from schools to statehouses". The more "activist" members of the SCV gained electoral support and were increasingly elected to its leadership positions. Members of the more traditionalist camp alleged that the League of the South had influenced their organization's new direction. One ally of the activist wing claimed that thousands of SCV members are also League of the South members. News reports state that the activists advocate "picketing, aggressive lobbying, issue campaigning and lawsuits" in favor of what they term "heritage defense" to prevent "heritage violations". The SCV defines those as "any attack upon our Confederate Heritage, or the flags, monuments, and symbols which represent it".

In 2002, SCV dissidents formed a new organization, Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SSCV), composed of members and former members of SCV. According to SSCV co-founder Walter Charles Hilderman, "about a hundred or so individuals and groups identified themselves on the SSCV Web site as supporting Save the SCV" not long after the group was founded, though the current membership numbers for the SSCV are not available. Boyd Cathey reported in the Southern Mercury that most of the dissension had ended by 2003, and the majority of the members of the SCV agreed with the heritage preservation activities espoused by the new SCV leadership. One of the main figures in that new SCV leadership, South Carolina politician and investment advisor Ron Wilson, served as Commander-in-Chief from 2002 to 2004. In 2012, he was sentenced to prison for running a Ponzi scheme as part of his investment business; ironically, among those he defrauded were members of the SCV.

In early 2005, the SCV council sued to expel SCV Commander-in-Chief Dennis Sweeney from office. The court initially granted the council temporary control of the organization, but its final decision returned power to Sweeney. Thirteen of the 25 council members were expelled from the council shortly after Sweeney regained control. Nine of the council members expelled were former Commanders-in-Chief of the SCV, a status that heretofore had come with a life membership on the council. In February, Cathey wrote in the Southern Mercury that most of the SCV's members had united against the War on Southern Culture. By the SCV's summer 2005 convention, activists firmly controlled the council. They severed much of the SCV's long-standing relationship with the more traditionalist Military Order of the Stars and Bars (MOSB). MOSB, founded in 1938, had been closely involved with the SCV, sharing its headquarters since 1992 and co-publishing Southern Mercury. The MOSB's Commander General, Daniel Jones, citing "the continuing political turmoil within the SCV", moved the MOSB out of the shared quarters, ended the joint magazine publishing enterprise, and separated the two organizations' finances. In 2006, for the first time, the two organizations held separate conventions. In 1997, the SCV Mechanized Cavalry was formed by Maryland attorney Reuben Hamby. According to the History of the Mechanized Cavalry,the group is a subset of the SCV who ride motorcycles and wear a back patch. Like the parent group, their by-laws forbid racism and their purpose is the preservation of the history of the War Between the States, honoring their ancestors who took part.


In 2011, the Mississippi Division, SCV, launched a campaign to honor Confederate Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest with a specialty license plate. The same year, the organization awarded Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio its "Law and Order" award. In 2013, Texas denied a request for a Confederate Battle Flag specialty license plate, a decision later upheld in State court. That state court decision was later overturned in Federal court, and the matter was ultimately heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, which held that Texas was allowed to deny the request for a specialty license plate featuring the group's logo. In 2014, the State of Georgia approved a battle flag specialty license plate.

The Virginia General Assembly had approved a specialty license plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1999, but lawmakers forbade the group from displaying the Confederate insignia. The organization sued for the right to display the Confederate Battle Flag on the licence plate, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals eventually upheld the organization’s First Amendment rights. Specialty plates containing a small Confederate Battle Flag had been offered in Virginia ever since a Federal judge issued a 2001 injunction ruling that banning them would be discriminating against the Sons of Confederate Veterans and limiting their First Amendment right to free speech. In a highly controversial move, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, announced that the Commonwealth intended to phase out the state-sponsored specialty license plate six days after a racially charged shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina ignited protests against the display of the Confederate Battle Flag and other Confederate symbols. More than 1,600 Virginians had the license plates displaying the confederate flag on their vehicles, and the Sons of Confederate veterans challenged the Governor's authority to recall the licence plates, citing the 2001 injunction, and in a letter addressed to Virginia DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb and forwarded to the governor, Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander Tracy Clary wrote “I am aware of no order from the 4th Circuit vacating our right to receive our plates from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and on behalf of ALL the citizens of the Commonwealth I insist that you follow the rule of Law.” But in August 2015 the Federal judge dissolved the 2001 injunction, referencing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Texas case. Despite the ruling, hundreds of members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who had the specialty plates refused to remove them from their vehicles and exchange them for new plates despite the fact that the specialty plates displaying the Confederate insignia were no longer valid after October 4, 2015 and it is a class 2 misdemeanor to drive with a cancelled licence plate in Virginia.

Relationship with the Sons of Union Veterans

The Sons of Confederate Veterans has a longstanding friendly relationship with the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. The Sons of Union Veterans has referred to the SCV as "our Confederate cousins," and has conducted a number of joint meetings and joint resolutions with the SCV. The Commander-in-Chief of the Sons of Union Veterans has also attended the SCV annual reunion on a number of occasions, including in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2005. The Sons of Union Veterans cooperates with the SCV in preserving Civil War graves, monuments, and markers.

Bonnie Blue Society

The Sons of Confederate Veterans also sponsors the Bonnie Blue Society for authors of southern literature dealing with the veterans of the Confederate States of America. Thus, the Bonnie Blue Society is a recognition and award for persons who have perpetuated the memory of the Confederate soldier or sailor in literary form. Accepted members of the Literary society have researched, written and published a book or article on the Confederacy for the general public. A copy of the book or article will be sent to the permanent collection of the Major General William David McCain Library at the general headquarters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The subject matter of the written items presented to the Bonnie Blue Society should be written according to the heritage goals of the Sons of Confederate Veterans by being neither anti-Confederate nor racist. The society uses a version of the Confederacy's Bonnie Blue Flag as their official membership insignia. This banner was an early, although unofficial, flag of the Confederate States, consisting of a single white star on a dark blue field.

Notable members