David Espy, a member of the Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans, said his wife thinks he is crazy.
“Our main thing is to try to get headstones for people that did fight (for the Confederacy),” Mr. Espy said. “My wife says I must be a nut because I don’t know these people.”
April is Confederate Heritage Month. Mr. Espy said area camps of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have been hosting small events around the state all month to honor their history.
Today at 2 p.m. at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park’s Georgia Monument, sons members will gather for the observance of Confederate Memorial Day, which is always marked on the last Sunday in April, Mr. Espy said.
But descendants of the Confederate soldiers are not the only ones who work to preserve their past.
The Sons of the Union Veterans soldiers also work around the state to remember their heritage.
Eric Peterson, camp commander for Georgia’s Sons of Union Veterans said Federal Memorial Day was created to honor Union Soldiers.
SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS
According to the Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans Web site, the sons group was established in Richmond, Va., in 1896.
Mr. Espy said members of the organization want to continue preserving their history and heritage.
“We call it our charge,” he said. “At our yearly reunion we challenge the sons to carry on heritage, to protect the reputation and good name and preserve their history.”
The Georgia camps work on various community service projects, such as keeping up headstones for Confederate soldiers.
In LaFayette’s cemetery, sons decorated graves of soldiers with Confederate flags, Mr. Espy said.
The Civil War was fought from April 1861 to April 1865. Many important battles took place in Northwest Georgia.
Civil War veterans helped establish the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in 1890 to preserve and commemorate the area’s land where battles took place, such as Lookout Mountain.
SONS OF UNION VETERANS
Mr. Peterson said the Union group also does preservation work and education projects.
From talking to schoolchildren to tombstone upkeep, Mr. Peterson said the group is active and growing.
He said he enjoys learning about the real people who made it through one of the nation’s most tumultuous times.
“It is easy to generalize about this war,” he said. “When I first started looking into the history of the Civil War, first it was on a large strategic level, then the smaller battles and individual soldiers.”
He said it is interesting to study the different reasons soldiers had for joining the fight.
From Irish immigrants who wanted a shortcut to citizenship, to families in need of money, Mr. Peterson said, like today, soldiers in Civil War time had many different reasons for joining the army.
Members of sons groups on both sides said they do some work with their counterpart organization, although even today, there is still a divide between the Confederate and Union memberships.
Mr. Espy said his group focuses mostly on Confederate history, and Mr. Peterson said his organization takes the same approach with a Union focus.
“But the Sons of Confederate Veterans put a headstone up for a Yankee one time,” Mr. Espy said. “We are not above doing that.”
Mr. Peterson said there is still a distance between some of the Union and Confederate organizations, although he said his group has a good working relationship with some camps of Confederate sons.
He also said it is important to remember that the war wasn’t divided into Northerners and Southerners.
“This was not North versus South,” he said. “It was really a Civil War. A lot of our members are generational Southerners. They fought in the Union.”
IF YOU GO
Today at 2 p.m. at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park’s Georgia Monument, Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans members will gather for the observance of Confederate Memorial Day.
DID YOU KNOW?
Camp: A camp is like a chapter. It is the most basic level of membership for the sons organizations.
Georgia state offices will be closed Monday in honor of Confederate Memorial Day.
ON THE WEB
For more information about the Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans, visit www.georgiascv.com.
For more information about the Sons of Union Veterans, visit www.mcphersoncamp1.org.