Who are we?
Facts and Questions
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) is a fraternal organization dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of veteran heroes who fought and worked to save the Union in the American Civil War. Organized in 1881 and chartered by Congress in 1954, SUVCW is the legal heir and successor to the Grand Army of the Republic.
In 1866, Union Veterans of the Civil War organized into the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and became a social and political force that would control the destiny of the nation for more than six decades. Membership in the veterans’ organization was restricted to individuals who had served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Revenue Cutter Service during the Civil War, thereby limiting the life span of the GAR. The GAR existed until 1956.
In 1881 the GAR formed the Sons of Veterans of the United States of America (SV) to carry on its traditions and memory long after the GAR had ceased to exist. Membership was open to any man who could prove ancestry to a member of the GAR or to a veteran eligible for membership in the GAR. In later years, men who did not have the ancestry to qualify for hereditary membership, but who demonstrated a genuine interest in the Civil War and could subscribe to the purpose and objectives of the SUVCW, were admitted as Associates. This practice continues today.
Many GAR Posts sponsored Camps of the SV. In 1925 the SV name was changed to Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), under which its federal charter was issued in 1954. The SUVCW is legally recognized as the heir to, and representative of, the GAR.
Today, the National Organization of the SUVCW, headed by an annually elected Commander-in-Chief, oversees the operation of 26 Departments, each consisting of one or more states, a Department-at-Large, a National Membership-at-Large, and over 200 community based camps. More than 6,360 men enjoy the benefits of membership in the only male organization dedicated to the principles of the GAR — Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty. It publishes “The BANNER” quarterly for its members. The SUVCW National Headquarters is located in the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The SUVCW is one of five Allied Orders of the GAR. The other four Orders are: Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, Woman’s Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
Who are we?
The SONS OF UNION VETERANS OF THE CIVIL WAR (SUVCW) is a patriotic and educational organization, similar to the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.). It was founded on November 12, 1881 and incorporated by Act of Congress on August 20, 1954. The SONS OF UNION VETERANS OF THE CIVIL WAR is the legal heir to and representative of the Grand Army of the Republic.
How can I become a member?
Member (and Junior with lineage): A male descendant, 14 years of age (6 to 14 for Juniors), who: 1.) is directly descended from a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or member of the Revenue Cutter Service (or directly descended from a brother, sister, half-brother, or half-sister of such Soldier, etc.) who was regularly mustered and served honorably in, was honorably discharged from or died in the service of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Revenue Cutter Service of the United States of America or in such state regiments called to active service and was subject to the orders of United States general officers, between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865; 2.) has never been convicted of any infamous or heinous crime and 3.) has, or whose ancestor through whom membership is claimed, has never voluntarily borne arms against the government of the United States. An Associate (and Junior without lineage) is not required to have the above lineage but is subject to the second and third provisions of eligibility.
What do I need to do?
All you need to do is fill out a SUVCW Form 3 and mail or scan to the closest camp in your state. You will need your ancestors service records; which may be obtained through the National Archives or FOLD3. ( there is a membership fee) You may get the membership form at:
When can I join?
Membership is open anytime during the year.
Want to be a member but don't know who to contact or where I can find a camp? Go to SUVCW.org
Click on your state and find the nearest camp to you in that state.
Join us to honor our Civil War ancestors and all men and women who fought to protect our freedom. We honor all Soldiers who fought in all wars by decorating Civil War graves, hold ceremonies to honor them, dedicate historical markers, acquire grave stones or markers for our Civil War Soldiers who do not have one, preserve and maintain head stones. You will see our SUVCW/SVR brothers marching in local parades in honor of our veterans. Yow will see us on the local news dedicating someone's ancestor stone marker.
Explanation of Forms:
Form 3 -Membership- This form is required for membership. You must include your ancestors service documentation along with the form. You may go to the National Archives, or Fold3 to acquire these documents. Contact the camp, they may be able to help. Each Department/ Camp require annual dues. Contact the camp your interested in for more information.
Form 9- Life Membership- First you must fill out Form 3 membership application. You may fill out Form 9 to become a Life Member. You will receive a Life member card, and certificate. You will not pay annual Camp Dues but minimal Department per-capita are still required. Send Camp dues, application fee and Life Member fee.
Form 7- ROTC Award- Do you know a High School, or College that has an ROTC program? Let them know we offer ROTC badge and certificate to the most deserving Cadet. Limit of one per School or Branch.
Grand Army of the Republic
In early 1866 the United States of America — now securely one nation again — was waking to the reality of recovery from war, and this had been a much different war. In previous conflicts the care of the veteran warrior was the province of the family or the community. Soldiers then were friends, relatives and neighbors who went off to fight–until the next planting or harvest. It was a community adventure and their fighting unit had a community flavor.
By the end of the Civil War, units had become less homogeneous, men from different communities and even different states were forced together by the exigencies of battle where new friendships and lasting trust was forged. With the advances in the care and movement of the wounded, many who would have surely died in earlier wars returned home to be cared for by a community structure weary from a protracted war and now also faced with the needs of widows and orphans. Veterans needed jobs, including a whole new group of veterans–the colored soldier and his entire, newly freed, family. It was often more than the fragile fabric of communities could bear.
State and federal leaders from President Lincoln down had promised to care for “those who have borne the burden, his widows and orphans,” but they had little knowledge of how to accomplish the task. There was also little political pressure to see that the promises were kept.
But probably the most profound emotion was emptiness. Men who had lived together, fought together, foraged together and survived, had developed an unique bond that could not be broken. As time went by the memories of the filthy and vile environment of camp life began to be remembered less harshly and eventually fondly. The horror and gore of battle lifted with the smoke and smell of burnt black powder and was replaced with the personal rain of tears for the departed comrades. Friendships forged in battle survived the separation and the warriors missed the warmth of trusting companionship that had asked only total and absolute commitment.
With that as background, groups of men began joining together — first for camaraderie and then for political power. Emerging most powerful among the various organizations would be the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which by 1890 would number 409,489 veterans of the “War of the Rebellion.”
Founded in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson, membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865. The community level organization was called a “Post” and each was numbered consecutivelly within each department. Most Posts also had a name and the rules for naming Posts included the requirement that the honored person be deceased and that no two Posts within the same Department could have the same name. The Departments generally consisted of the Posts within a state and, at the national level, the organization was operated by the elected “Commandery-in-Chief.”
Post Commanders were elected as were the Junior and Senior Vice Commanders and the members of Council. Each member was voted into membership using the Masonic system of casting black or white balls (except that more than one black ball was required to reject a candidate for membership). When a candidate was rejected, that rejection was reported to the Department which listed the rejection in general orders and those rejections were maintained in a “Black Book” at each Post meeting place. The meeting rituals and induction of members were similar to the Masonic rituals and have been handed down to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
The official body of the Department was the annual Encampment, which was presided over by the elected Department Commander, Senior and Junior Vice Commanders and the Council. Encampments were elaborate multi-day events which often included camping out, formal dinners and memorial events. In later years the Department Encampments were often held in conjunction with the Encampments of the Allied Orders, including Camps of the Sons of Veterans Reserve, which at the time were quasi-military in nature, often listed as a unit of the state militia or national guard.
National Encampments of the Grand Army of the Republic were presided over by a Commander-in-Chief who was elected in political events which rivaled national political party conventions. The Senior and Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief as well as the National Council of Administration were also elected.
The GAR founded soldiers’ homes, was active in relief work and in pension legislation. Five members were elected President of the United States and, for a time, it was impossible to be nominated on the Republican ticket without the endorsement of the GAR voting block.
In 1868, Commander-in-Chief John A. Logan issued General Order No. 11 calling for all Departments and Posts to set aside the 30th of May as a day for remembering the sacrifices of fallen comrades, thereby beginning the celebration of Memorial Day.
With membership limited strictly to “veterans of the late unpleasantness,” the GAR encouraged the formation of Allied Orders to aid them in its various works. Numerous male organizations jousted for the backing of the GAR and the political battles became quite severe until the GAR finally endorsed the Sons of Veterans of the United States of America (later to become the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War) as its heir. A similar, but less protracted, battle took place between the Women's’ Relief Corps (WRC) and the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic (LGAR) for the title “official auxiliary to the GAR.” That battle was won by the WRC, which is the only Allied Order open to women who do not have an hereditary ancestor who would have been eligible for the GAR. But in this case the LGAR retained its strength and was made one of the Allied Orders.
Coming along a bit later, the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, similar to the SUVCW but for women, also earned the designation as an Allied Order of the GAR. Rounding out the list of Allied Orders is the Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, which is open to women with hereditary ties to a veteran or who is the spouse, sister or daughter of a member of the SUVCW.
The final Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic was held in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1949 and the last member, Albert Woolson, died in 1956 at the age of 109 years.
Grand Army of the Republic Department of Kentucky Commanders
Provisional Department of KY Jan 1867
1867- Thomas B Fairleigh
1868- W E Riley
1869- H K Milward
1871- William M Collins