The citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America. The preservation of liberty and freedom were the motivating factor in the South's decision to fight what we call the Second American Revolution, otherwise known as the War Between the States and more commonly known as The Civil War. The tenacity with which Confederate soldiers fought underscored their belief in the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. These attributes are the underpinning of our democratic society and represent the foundation on which this nation was built.
Today, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is preserving the history and legacy of these heroes so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause.
SCV Camp #863
Major-General Joseph Wheeler
SCV Camp #863 was formed in the summer of 1987. Based in the Olde Towne section of the City of Conyers, the founding SCV members chose to honor Major-General Joesph Wheeler by naming the encampment in his name. During the Battle of Atlanta and the subsequent "March to the Sea" Union General T. Sherman's troops followed the railroad lines into and beyond Conyers in an attempt to disrupt Confederate rail service. General Wheeler lead many raids against the Union Troops in and around what was then "Conyers Station".
Now entering it's 28th year of service, SCV Camp #863, Major-General Joseph Wheeler is a very active SCV chapter. It holds a regular monthly membership meeting at the Philogia Masonic Lodge at 1005 Milstead Avenue every second Tuesday at 7:30pm. It's meetings are open to the pubic and all are welcome to come visit us.
In addition to our membership meetings, we hold various events on an ad hoc basis. Most are to continue our work on restoring and maintaining cemeteries where Confederate Veterans are in their eternal repose. Others are to visit sites of Confederate interest, such as the Nash Farms Historic Battlefield site. We also participate in the annual Conyers Olde Towne Festival each October to bring awareness of our group and our Cause.
UCV & SCV History
The United Confederate Veterans (UCV) was a veteran's organization for former Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War, It was the Confederate equivalent to the Grand Army of the Republic that was the organization for Union Veterans.
Prior to 1889, Confederate Veterans had no national organization similar to the Grand Army of the Republic. There were several separate local and regional fraternal and memorial groups that existed, but they did not have the size, power, or scope to effectively serve the needs of Confederate Veterans. Meeting in New Orleans in 1889, several of these groups united and formed United Confederate Veterans. The charge of the new organization was to serve as a benevolent, historical, social, and literary association.
At that time, the primary functions of the organization were to provide for widows and orphans of former Confederate soldiers, as well as to the surviving Confederate Veterans themselves (many of whom were disabled and all were now elderly). They were also charged to preserve relics and mementos, preserve a record of the service of its members, and organize reunion gatherings. At its height, membership in the organization was approximately 160,000, composed entirely of Confederate Veterans. They were organized into 1,885 local encampments (commonly called camps).
A privately produced magazine called the Confederate Veteran was popular with UCV members, with articles about events during the war and providing a forum for lost comrades to locate one another. It quickly became the official communications organ for the UCV.
The organizational structure of the UCV was based on a military-style hierarchy with a national headquarters, three departments, divisions within those departments, battallions, and finally local encampments. The UCV organized many local and national reunions of Confederate veterans. These events consistantly attracted thousands of former veterans and even more people that were sympathetic to the Confederate Cause that simply wanted to be a spectator to the events.
The UCV was quite active well into the 1940s, but as the number of living Confederate Veterans declined, its activity level decreased as well. Its final official reunion was held in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1951.
There is great debate over who was the last known documented Conferate Veteran. It was said that this veteran died around 1954, however there are a number of men that claimed to be Confederate Veterans lived into the early 1960s, but there was no offical documentation to prove thier claims.
As the number of living Confederate Veterans first began to decline towards the end of the Nineteenth Century, a successor organization, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) was organized in Richmond, Virginia in June 1896. The SCV was formed by the sons of UCV members with the aid of other descendents of Confederate Veterans. From the start, the SCV was charged with continuing the work that was begun by the UCV.
At first, SCV members literally took care of their fathers and grandfathers, but as their ancestors left for their eternal rest, the SCV assumed the task of maintaining their ancestor's graves and monuments as well as keeping the public aware of the principles for which their ancestors had fought. Over the course of the early 20th Century, the SCV took charge of the other tasks the SCV had done in the past. After the 1951 UCV Reunion when there were only a handful of men claiming to be Confederate Veterans suriving, the UCV effectively ceased to exist as an operating organization. By that time the Sons of Confederate Veterans became the direct heir of the UCV and ever since has carried on its mission.
United Daughters of the Confederacy
In 1894, two years prior to the formation of the SCV, another organization was created for the female descendants of Confederate Veterans. Named the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), it carries on some of the work started by the UCV. Therefore, men of Confederate ancestry are invited to join in and participate with the SCV while women of Confederate ancestry are invited to join and participate in the UDC. It is not uncommon for SCV encampments to join with UDC groups for joint events and commemorations. It should be said that both groups invite their member's spouses to participate in thier respective groups.
One of the largest undertakings of the UDC was the Carving on the face of Stone Mountain in Georgia. The Venable family owned the property where Stone Mountain is located in Georgia. The family operated a mining operation around the mountain in modern times. The Venables deeded the north face of the mountain to the UDC in 1916 in order for the UDC to erect what was to become the greatest Confederate Memorial ever made.
What was proposed would be (and remains today) the largest bas relief sculpture in the world. The carving depicts the three greatest Confederate leaders of the War; Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. they are riding their favorite horses; Blackjack, Traveller, and "Little Sorrel", respectively. The entire carved surface measures 3 acres, about the size of two and a quarter football fields and measures 90 by 190 feet. The carving is 400 feet (120 m) above the ground. It is recessed as deep as 42 feet (13 m) into the mountain's surface. The carving as working on over the following decades and would stop for years at some points in time. The carving was considered completed on March 3, 1972.
How the SCV Operates
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a large body that has members not only in the United States, but around the world. The majority of its membership remains in the States that seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. The group functions as an international organization composed of a central "national" headerquarters, Regional Divisions that are divided into Battalions, that are composed of local encampments.
As the names imply, the SCV has assumed an organizational structure that echoes the structures used originally by the military forces of the Confederate States of America since the organization's main purpose is to venerate our Confederate Ancestors that comprised that military force.
Nationally, the SCV is governed by its members acting through delegates that gather at its annual convention. The General Executive Council, composed of elected and appointed officers, conducts the organization's business between conventions. The administrative work of the SCV is conducted at the national headquarters, 'Elm Springs,' a restored antebellum home located at Columbia, Tennessee.
From the National Headquarters, each state has an organizational body, known as a Division. Each Division has officers elected by the membership who coordinate the work of camps and the national organization.
in Georgia, our Georgia Division lays claim to being the largest and
most acive Division of the SCV. The Division, due to it's size, is
sub-divided into Northern and Southern regions. More than local
encampments compose 13 brigades to help disseminae information and
organize efforts for various activities.
Camp Wheeler belongs within the 13th Brigade in the Northern Region of the Division.
This is the core of our the SCV operates. Several SCV members band together to form a local group, or encampment. In the military tradition, it is led by a command staff of elected officers, starting with a Camp Commander that is followed by the number of officers needed to operate the organization. In Camp Wheeler, our Command staff is comprised of an elected Commander, 1st. Lieutenant Commander, 2nd Lieutenant Commander, Camp Adjutand, Camp Chaplain, and Quartermaster. In addition to those officers, Camp Wheeler also has a Newsletter Editor/Publisher, Web Master, Geneologist, and Camp Archivist that are appointed on an ad hoc basis by the Camp's Commander.
The encampments have membership meetings held upon their own the encampment's needs and abilities. Camp Wheeler is a very active encampment and holds membership meetings on a monthly basis. The meetings are conducted by the Camp Commander or one of the Lieutenant Commanders. Activities usually include a time to conduct camp business, a period for socializing and refreshments, and usually some form of presentation regarding topics of interest for the membership. The average meetings lasts for about two hours.
Camp Wheeler's Membership Meetings are held every second Tuesday evening at 7:30pm at the Philologia Masonic Lodge in Old Towne Conyers. In addition to the membership meeting, Camp Wheeler members gather as the need arises to attend historical events and commemorations around its local area. We gather to perform cemetary maintenance at several local small cemetries where our Confederate Ancestors lay in eternal repose. Camp Wheeler also hosts an annual dinner in January to commemorate the birthdays of General Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson.
Back in the 1800s, it was a time where most people never ventured further than about 30 miles from the place they were born during their lifetime. Needless to say, going off to defend your State and Nation was the greatest adventure most Confederate Veterans did in their lives. This held a power hold for them over the course of their lives after the war.
Before the United Confederate Veterans was formed, veterans from both sides of the war would hold reunions so they could join with their fellow veterans. These were done on local, regional, and national levels. Thousands of veterans would be in attendance.
To honor that tradition, the SCV holds regular gatherings we call Reunions. Divisons hold an annual reunion, traditionally hosted by one or more of its encampments. The SCV holds an annual National Reunion, held somewhere within the former Confederate States of America. It too is hosted by one or more encampments.
The Reunions are held not only for commraderie, but to serve as a business meeting. Every two years, the Reunions serve as the venue for elections to the various SCV local, regional, and national offices.
Our Georgia Division publishes a bi-monthly newspaper for the membership dealing with statewide issues. The National Headquarters publishes a bi-monthly glossy magazine. On the local level, most encampments publish a local newsletter that is either mailed or transmitted electronically via email or downloaded from the Internet. A number of encampments host their own websites, such as this for Camp Wheeler. There are also websites for the SCV Divisions and the National Headquarters.
Since the Internet has become such a mainstay, Camp Wheeler also notifies it's membership of upcoming events and other important notices that cannot wait for the next newsletter or rely on the membership to check the web site by email blast notices.
What We Do
The Initial mission of Sons of Confederate Veterans was to see over the well being of their Confederate Veteran ancestors, thus the name. The secondary mission was to bring awareness and education of the facts behind the Confederate Secession and the ensuing Battle Between the States. In time, by the 1950s arrived the last surviving Confederate and Union Veterans had passed to become part of the Ages. The SCV's primary mission shifted from looking after the living to caring for the resting places of our past Confederate ancestors and their brethren.
Camp Wheeler officially looks after several cemetaries, particularly those that no longer have people to tend to them and are in peril of becoming obscured by nature. We do this with our own manpower, funds the camp raises, and donations given specifically for this purpose. Not only does this include groundskeeping work, but the cleaning, restoration, and even replacing grave markers.
The SCV works hard to preserve Confederate History. The SCV has on-going programs at the local, state, and national levels which offer members a wide range of activities. Preservation, ancesty research, reclaiming, restoring, and marking Confederate soldier's graves, historical re-enactments, scholarly publications, lectures, and regular meetings to discuss the military and political history of the War Between the States are only a few of the activities sponsored by local units, called encampments or simply camps. Some of this work is done in conjunction with other historical groups.
We are most definitely a Historical Honor Society. In addition to our work in preserving our ancestor's resting places, we also have meetings to discuss and learn about the period surround the War Between The States. Campo Wheeler has had various guest speakers who are experts in various fields of expertise come to our month meetings to discuss historical figures, battles, and other period issues.
One misconception is that we do battle
re-enactments in period dress. While we have many members that do
indeed do re-enactment activities, the SCV and its encampments are not
re-enactment groups. However, we do have members that own collection of
period military gear and it is not uncommon for encampments to have
displays and demonstrations for that gear.
What We Are Not
As the years have passed, Our country has gone through what can best be termed as revisionist history about the War Between the States. Today, most students are taught that the War was all about the issue of Slavery and little else. This is a huge disservice to all of the men that fought in the War either for the Union or the Confederacy. This particular page is not the appropriate forum for a conversation about the causes of the War, therefore, let us say the true reasons for the Southern States to secede and form a new sovereign nation were many. Yes, Slavery was one of those issues, but it was one of many.
Our Confederate Ancestors were proud of their individual States and their new sovereign country. When those were placed in peril by an aggressive Federal force that invaded what they felt was their new sovereign nation, our ancestors took up arms in the best American traditions to defend their States and Nation. Our ancestors of that time often referred to the conflict as "The Seond American Revolution".
The vast majority of those that defended the Confederacy did not own Slaves, nor did they did not go to war in order to keep the Slaves in servitude. They went to war to protect and defend their States and Country from an invading force just as their forefathers took up arms to defend the colonies against the English, French, Mexicans, and the Spanish. It is that bravery and courage we celebrate and honor.
Over the past 150 years since the War Between the States, people have dumbed-down history to a point where people are taught that Slavery was the only reason for the War. This is simply not true.
Today, there are many people who either from ignorance or attempt to "Race Bait" those who venerate the Confederacy as racist. This is in due partly to the use of the Confederate Battle Flag by White Supremacy Groups, particularly in the 20th Century.
The SCV and its membership absolutely and without hesitation condemn those who practice racism in any form. The SCV has a zero-tolerance for racism in any fashion, shape, or form and those who actively practice racism are simply not welcome in our organization.The SCV rejects any person or group whose actions tarnish or distort the image of the Confederate soldier or his reasons for defending the Confederate Cause.
We welcome any person of
any ancestral origin into our fold. Yes, we proudly have men of
different ethnicities as members
in the SCV we call our brothers. While full membership is limited to
male ancestors of Confederate Veterans, we do welcome non-descendants
into our group as "Friends" or "Associates" and anyone, male or female,
is certainly welcome to come to our meetings and events.
In addition to the privilege of belonging to an organization devoted exclusively to commemorating and honoring Confederate soldiers, members recieve three periodicals. In the latter half of the 20th Century, the SCV assumed publication of "The Confederate Veteran". It is a professionally produced magazine that is distributed to all SCV members on a bi-monthly basis. The Georgia Division of the SCV produces a bi-monthly newpaper, the "The Georgia Confederate" which contains news and information relevant to SCV members in Georgia. Our encampment, Camp Wheeler, produces a monthly newsletter, "General Joe's Dispatch", that is either emailed sent postally to our local membership. Copies of our newsletter are also available for download and viewing on this web site. This service is free for all to use.
The SCV has programs for its members and thier families that range from assistance to undergraduate students through the General Stand Watie Scholarship to medical research grants given through the Brooks Fund. The SCV also sponsors national historical symposiums, the reprinting of rare books, and the erection of monuments. These are just a few of the on-going projects undertaken directly or sponsored or endorsed by the SCV.
On the local level, the SCV is actively involved in preserving the memory of our ancestors by doing ancestrial research, work on long-forgotten gravesites and memorial markers, as well as being Confederate Ambassadors to the general public in order to bring awarenes to the real reasons behind the Confederate Cause. Our encampment allows us to fraternize with like-minded individuals and we engage in topical and educational discussions.
Famous SCV Members and Accolades
Reflecting the social and charitable nature of the SCV, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush tendered letters of commendation to the SCV and affiliates, as have several members of the United States Congress and Senate.
Some notable members of the SCV are or have been President Harry S. Truman, Actor Clint Eastwood, Film Director R. Michael Givens, Political Commentator Patrick J. Buchanan, Trace Adkins, Former Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Former South Carolina Governor Robert Gregg Cherry, Charlie Daniels, James Edwards, Senator Jesse Helms, Senator Trent Lott, Former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, Senator Richard Russell, and Hank Williams Jr., just to name a few.
How To Join
The SCV needs you! We are always looking for good men to join our ranks. We invite anyone to come meet us at one of our meetings to see what we are about and how we conduct our business. If you wish to join our ranks, we'll be more than happy to help you with the processes to become a member.
If you are not in our area or cannot attend a local SCV meeting in your area and are interested in perpetuating the ideals that motivated your Confederate ancestor, please visit our "Join Us" page for more information.
Should you wish to send Camp Wheeler written correspondence, paperwork, or even donations, our mailing address is:
General Joseph Wheeler Camp 863
Sons of Confederate Veterans
Post Office Box 82718
Conyers, Georgia 30013