Sons of Confederate Veterans contend they’re preserving history, not racism

October 11, 2015 - Picnic Time

On a comfortable day in August, a integrate dozen people collected for an afternoon cruise during Shawnee Mission Park.

Under a shade of a preserve surrounded by fluffy immature trees, dual organisation baked burgers and brats on a colourless griddle subsequent to a quarrel of tables surfaced with red cosmetic tablecloths and a summery widespread of sliced watermelon, barbecue-flavored potato chips and sopapilla cheesecake. The continue would have been ideal if not for occasional gusts of breeze that churned by a timber and threatened to disintegrate a 3 flags bound to unstable poles subsequent to a dessert table: an American flag, a Kansas dwindle and a Confederate dispute flag.

The cruise is an annual eventuality for a Major Thomas J. Key Camp No. 1920, a internal bend of a Sons of Confederate Veterans. The nonprofit classification for masculine descendants of soldiers who fought for a South in a Civil War has 98,000 members worldwide, including 1,445 in Missouri and 480 in Kansas. And a ranks are growing.

Over a prior 3 months, a inhabitant organisation has gained a aloft form and 5,000 members. Executive executive Mike Landree attributes a 5 percent boost to a new debate over a Confederate flag.

In June, after 9 people were killed during a ancestral black church in Charleston, S.C., photos emerged of a indicted gunman flash a Confederate dispute flag, for many a pitch of labour and racism. South Carolina private a red and blue ensign from a Capitol drift on Jul 10, a preference President Barack Obama called “a vigilance of goodwill and healing, and a suggestive step toward a improved future.”

Two weeks later, a Confederate dwindle that had flashy a tavern theatre during a Platte County Fair for some-more than 50 years was taken down.

Last month, officials in Missouri’s Boone County altered a Confederate commemorative from a building grass in Columbia. The 11,000-pound slab stone famous as Confederate Rock is now displayed during a ancestral dispute site in Centralia.

This is partial of a history. You can't discharge history.

Mike Landree, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Pro-South monuments have also been plucked from open spaces in Texas, Florida and North Carolina, and a mayors of Baltimore and St. Louis are deliberation what to do with identical statues in their possess cities. So far, no one has called for a dismissal of a Confederate relic in Kansas City’s Forest Hill Calvary Cemetery.

Many Americans see such removals as progress. The Sons of Confederate Veterans see them as attacks on their heritage.

“This is partial of a history,” says Landree, a late Marine major colonel formed in Columbia, Tenn. “You can't discharge history.”

The Key Camp

The Sons of Confederate Veterans was founded in Richmond, Va., in 1896 with a goal to strengthen a bequest of those who fought for a Confederacy. Landree says a organisation was not combined out of hatred and is nonpolitical, so it does not validate politicians or domestic parties.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is divided into armies, groups and camps. Missouri has 14 camps, including ones in Independence and Warrensburg. Kansas has seven, including one in Leavenworth.

The Major Thomas J. Key Camp, founded in Shawnee and covering Johnson County, is one of a largest and many active in a state. Its members impetus in parades, assistance contend internal chronological sites and make headstones for depressed Confederate soldiers.

The Key Camp, as members call it, was named after a publisher of a pro-South journal in Kansas City, Kan. It was founded in 2000 by James “Spike” Speicher, a late Army colonel who lives in Shawnee.

Speicher’s mindfulness with a Civil War started during age 10, when he review his initial book about Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Speicher considers Lee a favourite and calls a Southern army “the biggest fighting force ever to impetus on a face of a Earth.”

In his 69 years, a story clean has amassed a collection of Civil War-related objects that includes some-more than 300 books and a closet able of outfitting 4 organisation with period-appropriate jackets, pants, hats, hosiery and boots. Speicher also owns an considerable collection of terrain corpse — saddles, muskets, Bibles and bullets — that he displays during events such as Missouri History Days during a Lone Jack Battlefield ancestral site.

At Missouri History Days, eighth-graders revisit a terrain to learn about daily life in a 1800s and a Civil War.

“We tell both sides of a story,” says eventuality organizer and terrain executive Alinda Miller. “The good, bad and ugly.”

Speicher says his organisation attends to learn a students about history. “We don’t try to change a kids one approach or another.”

Adds Miller: “The kids can see these people do not foster hate. They are particularly about history.”

The Key Camp started with 10 members and now has 71. Many are middle-aged, and about a third have troops backgrounds. All are white. Landree says a inhabitant organisation does have black members, though he can’t contend how many given a classification does not ask a members to divulge their competition on applications.

Members of a public, including women, are invited to attend a Key Camp’s meetings, that typically underline an consultant guest orator on topics such as a Border War or Harry S. Truman. Women can't turn central members, though Speicher says they can join the United Daughters of a Confederacy, that shares a identical goal — though apparently not a identical wish for a aloft profile. Repeated phone calls and emails to a group’s domicile in Richmond, Va., were not returned.

Over a summer, 5 organisation assimilated a Key Camp, a 7 percent upswing in membership. But not all internal camps have remarkable growth: Jason Coffman, commander of Independence-based Brigadier General John T. Hughes Camp 614, says membership in his stay hovers during around 75.


Members of Sons of Confederate Veterans


New members in past 3 months


Members in Missouri and Kansas

Matt Sewell of Bucyrus, Kan., is a Key Camp’s newest member. The unapproachable Alabama local found out about a organisation after saying it mentioned in a news story about a Confederate flag. When he saw that a family cruise was entrance up, he motionless to move his 21-month-old daughter Elsa, who spent many of a afternoon scaling stadium apparatus in splendid orange Auburn University flip-flops.

“I had no thought there would be something like this adult here,” he says.

Sewell says that a Confederate dispute dwindle is a sincerely common steer in Alabama, though not in Kansas and Missouri.

The dwindle hangs on a wall during a Key Camp’s monthly meetings, that start with request and pledges of devotion to both a United States and a Confederacy. Members mostly wear relating gray polo shirts with Confederate emblems over their hearts.

They contend that to them, a dwindle symbolizes honour in their Southern heritage, not slavery. But not everybody shares their view.

Right or wrong?

Anita L. Russell, boss of a NAACP’s Kansas City branch, says members of a Sons of Confederate Veterans have a right to arrangement a dwindle during private meetings.

“But when we see it on arrangement out in a public, it is offensive,” Russell says.

Leonard Zeskind, boss of a Kansas City-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, says a dwindle “belongs in a museum.”

“Celebrating a Nazi dwindle in Germany is wrong,” says Zeskind, who monitors nonconformist groups, “and celebrating a dwindle that flew over a army that was fortifying labour is wrong. Period.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans distances itself from extremist groups, such as a Ku Klux Klan, that call a Confederate dispute flag.

“Other organizations haven’t used it, they’ve dissipated it,” Landree says, adding that his organisation has expelled several resolutions job for a KKK and other hatred groups to stop carrying a flag.

Jacob Mirocke’s feelings about a Confederate dispute dwindle can be summed adult in dual words: It’s complicated.

Mirocke, 26, lives in Shawnee and is a youngest member of a Key Camp. The self-described “military historian nerd” collects World War I-era aircraft radios and participates in Civil War dispute re-enactments. He says he tries to be “respectful” with his use of a flag.

“It can be misconstrued,” Mirocke says, adding, “there are copiousness of T-shirts out there that even we don’t consider are appropriate.”

In July, when fights over a dwindle flared adult on amicable media, Mirocke was tempted to post his opinion to Facebook. He motionless opposite it.

“I only didn’t wish to put myself in a position of confrontation,” Mirocke says.

Donna Brooks, who attends each Key Camp assembly with her husband, Larry, mostly wears a necklace strung with a bottle top emblazoned with a stimulating Confederate emblem. The necklace glinted in a object during a Key Camp’s picnic. But Donna tucks a match into her shirt when she goes to a grocery store nearby her home in Kansas City, Kan.

“I don’t wish anyone to collect a quarrel with me,” she says.

Jim Thornton, a Key Camp’s stream commander, says that in 6 years with a Sons of Confederate Veterans, he has never encountered a singular chairman indignant about a group. Thornton, a pharmacist who lives in Shawnee, says he believes that’s given Kansas City is on a limit between North and South.

“We’re wakeful of both sides of a conflict, and we’re peaceful to listen to both sides,” Thornton says. “Plus, a people here are so damn nice.”

Still, some assume that any organisation with “Confederate” in a name contingency be racist.

“So many people say, ‘Well what kind of a extremist or a bulb are you, to be with a Sons of Confederate Veterans?’ ” says Walt McKenzie of Lenexa. The 73-year-old, who loves slow-pitch softball and his 16-year-old Maltese as most as he loves history, says that he tells those people that he’s not a extremist and that he hasn’t encountered one given he assimilated a Key Camp 4 years ago.

“If we had found they were a extremist organization, we wouldn’t have enlisted,” McKenzie says.

North and South

Some members of a Key Camp also count Union soldiers as ancestors.

Speicher, who grew adult in Michigan, says his investigate has incited adult dual ancestors who fought for a Confederacy and 17 who fought for a Union.

“I only don’t speak about a Union ones,” he says.

The group’s Union counterpart, a Sons of Union Veterans of a Civil War, has distant fewer members: roughly 6,380 members worldwide, including 150 in Kansas and 230 in Missouri.

Lane Smith of Overland Park is a member of both groups. His friends in a Key Camp like to call him an “SOB,” that they contend stands for “son of both.”

Smith is a Border War personified: The self-described “novice historian” is operative on a book about Ulysses S. Grant, who led a Union army to feat before he was inaugurated boss of a United States. But Smith is also a convincing imitator of Robert E. Lee. To ready for appearances as a Confederate general, Smith allows his neat white brave to grow shaggy.

Smith thinks a Confederate organisation draws some-more members given a South has “the intrigue of a defeat” on a side.

Members of a dual groups have incompatible perspectives on chronological events, though they still support one another. In June, a pro-North organisation steady a 15-year-old fortitude ancillary a pro-South group’s arrangement of Confederate dispute flags.

“It angers us when people wish to order us,” Smith says.

There’s no indicate in arguing over something so distant in a past, adds Key Camp member John Poynter of Raymore.

“It’s 150 years — get a grip,” Poynter says.

But a dispute over a Confederate dwindle isn’t over. Several distinguished open figures, including Southern-born John Grisham, Morgan Freeman and Jimmy Buffett, have urged Mississippi to change a state flag, that facilities a Confederate button in a top left corner. Last month, nation rockers Steve Earle a Dukes expelled a criticism aria called “Mississippi, It’s Time.”

Earle sings that he comes from a “long, prolonged line / of a Rebel aria / though a breeze has changed.”

As some-more Americans join a pull to clean a nation of Confederate symbols, it’s expected that some-more will pointer adult to urge them. Landree says his organisation has no skeleton to desert a mission.

“We’re not going to mount for people aggressive a ancestors,” he says.

Thornton hopes a divisive emanate will enthuse some-more people to excavate into a story of a Civil War, that stays a bloodiest dispute in American history, and simulate on a sacrifices of both sides.

“This nation fought a bloody and pale war,” Thornton says, adding that “atrocities and horrors were committed on both sides.”

More than 620,000 soldiers died from combat, accidents, starvation and illness during a four-year conflict. The bloodiest one-day dispute occurred in Sep 1862. The North calls a Maryland dispute Antietam; a South calls it Sharpsburg. No one disputes a fact that some-more than 22,000 organisation were killed or bleeding or went missing.

“And,” Thornton says, “they were all American.”

Sons of Civil War veterans

Sons of Confederate Veterans

The organisation has “camps” in Johnson County, Leavenworth, Independence and Warrensburg, Mo.

▪ The Johnson County-based Major Thomas J. Key Camp meets during 7 p.m. on a initial Thursday of each month during Zarda, 11931 W. 87th St. in Lenexa. The organisation will also be recruiting new members Sunday during a Shawnee Indian Mission Fall Festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during a Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site, 3403 W. 53rd St. in Fairway. For some-more info, go to or

▪ The Independence-based Brigadier General John T. Hughes Camp 614 meets during 7 p.m. on a second Thursday of each month during Kross Lounge Ernie’s Restaurant, 605 N. Sterling Ave. in Sugar Creek. For some-more info, go to

Sons of Union Veterans

The organisation has camps in Kansas City, Olathe and Lawrence.

▪ The Kansas City-based Westport Camp No. 64 meets a initial Wednesday of each month; for assembly locations and additional info, go to

▪ The Olathe-based Franklin Camp No. 5 meets a fourth Thursday of each month (except for July, Aug and December) during Bass Pro Shop, 12051 Bass Pro Drive in Olathe. For some-more info, go to

▪ The Lawrence-based Sergeant Samuel J. Churchill Camp No. 4 meets during 6:30 p.m. on a third Thursday of each month during a Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St. in Lawrence. For some-more info, go to

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