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Keeping heritage alive

Group honors sacrifice of Civil War soldiers

Rifle salute near the Alabama State Capitol on Confederate Memorial Day 2019.

“To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish.”

Stephen Dill Lee spoke those words during an address in 1906 while serving as the commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Organized in 1896, the SCV exists to honor and remember the bravery of Confederate veterans. In 1864, 30-year-old Lee became the young- est lieutenant general in the Confederate Army.

More than 258,000 Americans died fighting for the Confederacy during those bitter years of 1861-65. Many more soldiers and civilians died from disease, starvation and other causes.

“The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a historical heritage organization,” says Oren Fannin, a former commander of the SCV Private Augustus Braddy Camp 385 in Pike County. “The group exists to defend the heritage and good name of the Confederate soldier.”

Descendants of Confederate veterans form “camps” to honor the valor and sacrifice of their ancestors. Camps form “brigades.” Brigades comprise a division, such as the Alabama Division.

Fannin’s camp holds a dinner with a guest speaker each month. They also hold various other functions throughout the year including caring for cemeteries.

“We put flags on Confederate graves and clean up cemeteries, even some ceme- teries that don’t have Confederate veterans buried there,” Fannin says. “We usually have an event at the state capitol where we have people in period dress, a cannon salute and a speaker. During April, we honor and celebrate the courage and character of the Confederate soldiers.”

After the Civil War, many Southern states set aside days to memorialize their soldiers who fought so hard, for so long with so little. Alabama declared April as Confederate History and Heritage Month. In 1901, the state Legislature set aside the fourth Monday in April as Confederate Memorial Day. It occurs on April 27 this year.

Some SCV members also participate in Civil War re-enactments. Movie companies frequently use re-enactors as extras while making historical films because re-enactors bring their own period-correct uniforms, weapons and gear.

Any male descendant of a veteran who served honorably in the Confederate armed forces can join the SCV. For more information, visit scv.org or call 800-380- 1896.