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Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

Past National Encampment Report of
Commander-in-Chief Andrew M. Johnson


1999 - 118th National Encampment
Indianapolis, Indiana
August 20, 1999

STATE OF THE ORDER

A year ago in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the National Encampment elected me to be the 112th man to hold the office of Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of this great Order. I have followed in the footsteps of Grant III, Charles Sherman, and other more recent great C-in-Cs always trying to do my duty and to advance the objects of this great Order. You and others to follow will be the judge of how well I may have accomplished the work you entrusted to me. I have been greatly honored to serve the Order and I thank the brothers for entrusting the office to me. For a descendant of private soldiers of the War, there can be no greater honor than to speak at the tomb of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, followed by participation in the ceremonies at General Grant's Tomb in New York City. I confidently expect that old soldiers in "the bivouac of the dead" still marvel at the continued opportunity and greatness of the democracy which they saved from destruction.

My saddest duty of the year was to represent the Order at the funerals of two Past Commanders-in-Chief (PC-in-C); Brothers Gene Russell (C-in-C 1984) and Clark Mellor (C-in-C 1988). In each case, the Massachusetts Department was strongly represented in the mourning and at the graveside. May God bless our Brothers in the Kingdom of Light. I also note with sorrow the death of Ms. Daisy Anderson, the next to last known widow of a US Civil War veteran. Our thanks to the Centennial Camp 100 for its participation in her last rites.

Acknowledgments

I express my appreciation to the elected and appointed national officers who have served the Order this year under my direction. Cooperation in brotherhood has been remarkable. I particularly thank the officers who, with me, comprise your Council of Administration (CoA). All have devoted time, expenses and dedicated service to make the national policy decisions necessary between meetings of the national encampment.

My thanks to the national committee chairmen and committee members who do the bulk of the work of the Order at the national level. Because of their efforts, I believe that we have made significant steps forward this year and I will briefly note these under Initiatives. A complete rewrite of the Discipline Article will be recommended and I commend it to you.

The real day-to-day work of the Order is done at the camp and department levels. I have been privileged to participate in the department encampments of California and Pacific, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, Iowa, New York, and New Jersey. The Senior and the Junior Vice Commanders-in-Chiefs (SVC-in-C and JVC-in-C, respectively) represented me at many others. Everywhere, we were treated with courtesy and fraternity. I thank all Department Commanders for receiving their national officers in Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty, and making us feel truly welcome participants. Meeting camp and department Brothers is the best stimulant for any national officer. I have been repeatedly impressed at the outstanding work being done across the nation in our camps and departments. Supporting their efforts is the true task of the C-in-C and I hope that I have in some small way done that.

Ten new camps have chartered this year. Our national membership now exceeds 6,400 dues paying brothers. We are growing in numbers and in camps although not as rapidly as we might wish. Initiatives to make joining the Order easier will come before this body and I hope that you will look favorably on them. I have appointed 20 Brothers as National Aides for Recruiting recognizing that they have recruited three or more new members since the Harrisburg Encampment. I am certain that there are many more who deserve the honor but have not come to my attention.

Initiatives

THE BANNER - It seems that no other issue occupies as great a prominence as getting the BANNER out. I confidently say that today we have the best BANNER in recent memory. We adopted the magazine format to return our publication to one which members and libraries will want to read and keep on the shelf. All of this is within budget and reasonably close to schedule. The success of the Order in this matter is because of the hard work and experience of SVC-in-C Danny Wheeler who lead the revampment process and to Editor Ken Richmond who unselfishly took on the task of editing, printing and mailing. What remains is to meet the publishing schedule and we all must help the Editor by furnishing him the copy he needs to do the job.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - The Harrisburg Encampment authorized the CoA to proceed to define the duties of an "executive director or secretary" and to fill that position. We have defined the duties of the position and are completing a contract document that will engage a contractor to perform those duties. The position will be part-time performing some of the present duties of the National Secretary and of the Chief of Staff. I firmly believe that this action is the most important and far-reaching event of this administration. I propose that the position will be advertised in the BANNER so all brothers with interest and specific qualifications may seek the contract.

GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC (GAR) FOUNDATION - The CoA has approved our participation in a not for profit corporation formed around officers of the SUVCW and allied orders the purpose of which is to solicit donations to support our major programs. This corporation will actively seek corporate donations hoping to solicit enough money to be a significant resource in monument protection and restoration. Departments that need a 501 (C)(3) tax-deductible status when soliciting funds will be able to use the GAR corporation. We have long talked about finding the mechanism to raise significant donations for our programs. I believe that this is it.

PROCEEDINGS OF NATIONAL ENCAMPMENTS - One of my chief goals for the year was to reduce or eliminate the accumulated backlog of National Encampment Proceedings. It has been an effort requiring professional help and a massive volunteer effort. Under the direction of Proceedings Editor Keith Harrison and Proceedings Transcription Officer Glenn Knight, I am delighted to report that proceedings for 1984, 1985 and 1989 are available at this Encampment for those who were delegates to those Encampments. Proceedings for 1987 is at the printers. Brother Harrison has agreed to continue his efforts in the following order: 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1993, 1992, 1991, and 1990. I have prepared certificates of appreciation for more than 29 volunteers who continue to give electronic life to the backlog of reports. The backlog grew innocently enough out of the volunteer nature of our organization. Many tasks related to the proceedings were parceled to volunteers who, for many reasons, could not complete part or all of their assigned tasks. We have collected the component parts under one head and are proceeding to completion. We must not let a backlog occur again.

ELECTRONIC COMMERCE - It has been an active year for policing the sale of veterans grave markers on electronic auctions. I have appointed George Powell as National Aide for Electronic Commerce Surveillance. George has performed in an outstanding manner and has secured the promise of eBay Auctions no longer to carry in their auction items removed from veterans graves. We have asked the cooperation of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in this matter. The VFW to date acknowledges the problem and has it under further investigation. While much remains to be done, many Brothers have assisted during the year raising the cry when a GAR marker was offered on the web. Many items have been removed from the electronic auctions and several have even been sent to me for my disposition.

NATIONAL AIDE FOR GENEALOGY - I have appointed Stephen B Bauer as my National Aide for Genealogy. I receive a host of communications requesting information about genealogy matters and GAR records and members. Brother Bauer has cheerfully answered all the inquiries that I forward directly for his response. He has a list of resources who can advise him on GAR and other arcane archival matters. The position is essential to a growing Order.

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS COMMEMORATION - I have asked the National Military Affairs Committee to explore the feasibility of the Sons of Veterans Reserve (SVR) sponsoring a parade event to complement the very successful program now conducted on the anniversary of Lincoln's death. Realizing that many reenactors and SUVCW Brothers live too far west to participate with us at Gettysburg, it may be possible to show our colors in April of each year in or near Springfield, Illinois.

KUDOS PROGRAM - The "Kudos" or Congratulations Program was started to recognize individual, boards, communities, etc. who know their duty toward Civil War monuments and cemeteries and provide the care that is needed. I have issued dozens of special certificates this year to those who "have done the right thing" and hope that this recognition program will continue to provide recognition for others.

Major Issues

GETTYSBURG GAR HALL - The Harrisburg Encampment directed that I take steps to solve the long-standing dispute between out camp at Gettysburg and the present owners of the GAR hall there. With the consent and cooperation of the CoA and the Gettysburg camp, I have engaged an attorney who, after much study, is now authorized to file our case in court. Litigation is expensive and the results uncertain. Where it is necessary, we must be ready to go to court to enforce important principles. We must also always be clear that the financial resources required will be large.

CIVIL WAR MEMORIALS PROGRAM - No program ever undertaken by the SUVCW is more in keeping with the charge the Boys in Blue gave to us to protect the memory of the men who saved the nation in 1861 - 1865. This program is at the very core of our reason for being and it is vital that each department and each camp within the departments act now to identify, evaluate and plan the protection of Civil War monuments in their state. This task is never finished. The effects of time, neglect and raids on our heritage need to be noted and counteracted everyday. Kent Armstrong, our Civil War Memorials Officer, has lead the way in systematizing the registration and protection of Civil War memorials. Many departments have entered fully into this effort. I make special mention of the excellent efforts of the departments of California and Pacific, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. This Encampment will consider and I hope adopt the National policy statement on Civil War Memorials.

There is another side to the preservation effort that needs to be highlighted. Brothers in Iowa, California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois have challenged those unworthy men who seek to buy Civil War memorials for resale. I am delighted to note that the suit brought by our Scranton, Pennsylvania Camp No. 8 has been resolved in the camp's favor and a sizable judgment awarded to the camp for the loss of a cannon from the Forest Hill Cemetery. A judge in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania has recently found in our favor in another cemetery cannon case. The Iowa case involving, sad to say, an American Legion post, is awaiting court date and our Illinois Department continues to seek the return of missing cannon in that state. I commend the vigilance and self-sacrifice of our brothers who have found it necessary to go to the law to get people to do the right thing.

NATIONAL GRAVES REGISTRATION PROGRAM - This is the other most significant of our several great programs. Brother Leo Kennedy has done an outstanding job in motivating departments to search available records and walk the cemeteries for Civil War veteran graves. It is a massive archive, field study and electronic entry undertaking. Ultimately, we wish to be able to provide anyone who wants to know with the location of the graves of the Boys in Blue. I urge every department to make this one of your two top priorities.

NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS - We continue to pursue the possibility of locating a national headquarters at the soon to be constructed Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Civil War Museum. I have asked the Mayor of Harrisburg to clarify lease provisions regarding insurance requirements and to give us assurances that the cannons to be displayed in the future museum have not come from Civil War monuments. I am hopeful that these matters will be clarified and that the museum will be completed by summer of 2000.

MEMBER-AT-LARGE (MAL) DEPARTMENT - Under our Constitution and Regulations (C & R) and acting on the order of my predecessor to purge the MAL department of persons who live in states where we have an active department, National MAL Coordinator Dean Speaks has successfully concluded the transfer of 271 members from the MAL to the appropriate department for camp assignment. I have urged each department to assure that those transferred brothers are assigned to a camp and welcomed appropriately.

Significant Events

LEGISLATIVE MATTERS- I have represented the Order to the Congress and to state and local decision-making bodies on a number of issues. Among those are:

PATRIOTIC OBSERVANCES- No report of the C-in-C could be complete without noting the role played by the SVR in honoring the Boys in Blue and attracting new members to our Order. Particularly noteworthy is our Remembrance Day event at Gettysburg arranged by our National Military Affairs Committee and run by the SVR. It was my great honor to march in the front rank of our troops and to review the passing parade. I urge everyone who has a uniform to get active in this national event.

I represented the Order at the annual Lincoln Birthday Commemoration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC placing a wreath in your name to honor our wartime leader.

Memorial Day on 30 May of each year is of special significance to our Order. I was privileged to participate in the Cavalcade sponsored by the Lincoln-Cushing Camp of the Maryland Department in which the police escorted our bus to several of the most noted Civil War memorials in the District of Columbia and Arlington National Cemetery. The event was topped off at the Civil War Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers where wreaths were placed escorted by the Gettysburg Blues. That hard-marching unit sent guardsmen back the next day to march the US and C-in-C flags into the Arlington Amphitheater National Memorial Day program. With all due respect to the other veteran organizations that participated, our Blues were the best of show. Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief Wheeler represented me and the Order at the annual Gettysburg Memorial Day event. My thanks to all the Brothers who participate in that commemoration.

Our Order was prominently represented at ceremonies welcoming the restored USS Constellation back to her berth in Baltimore harbor. Earlier in the year, I had the honor to present our donation of $1,000 for the restoration of that great Civil War vessel. Our James A Garfield Camp No. 1 in Baltimore, Maryland supervised the Memorial Service conducted on 4 July 99 aboard ship. SUVCW Brother Fr Robert E Albright conducted the worship service. The redoubtable Gettysburg Blues posted and retired the colors including that of your C-in-C. Special thanks to my National Aide for USS Constellation, Peter L. Johnston of the Garfield Camp.

Actions were taken to restore the presence of the SUVCW membership badge at the Museum of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery and an identifying plaque was provided. Thanks to Jerry Orton for keeping his eye on this site for many years and to PC-in-C Richard Schlenker for his donation of his grandfather's badge for the purpose.

MERITORIOUS SERVICE HONORS - Two outstanding performers have been awarded the Meritorious Service Gold Star on my recommendation and with the approval of the CoA. They are PC-in-C Keith Harrison for outstanding service to the Order especially as Proceedings Editor and as National Webmaster; and Richard A Williams for long and outstanding service to the Order as National Membership List Coordinator. All Brothers would do well to model their service on the record of selfless performance of these two brothers.

SCHOLARSHIPS - It is an honor to receive and read the scholarship applications submitted by American youth. On the advice of my Scholarship Committee chaired by Brother Robert Grim, I have awarded the 1999 CINC Scholarships to:

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF'S DECISIONS - I have had the occasion to review and approve the findings of two Trial Commissioners during the year. Both cases involve the Missouri Department and one of its camps. While my decision cannot be received with joy by all parties to a dispute, I urge all to consider them in the spirit of fraternity, charity and loyalty putting aside personal disagreements to advance harmony in the Order.

On advice of our legal staff, I have signed a quitclaim to the former Ohio Veterans Children's Home at Xenia, Ohio. The property has been purchased from the state for use as a Christian school. I am satisfied that historical properties at the site are properly protected by an Ohio Governor's Deed. Special thanks to Brother Judge Henry Shaw who donated his time and services to the Order to resolve this matter.

In closing this report of the events of the year, I wish to acknowledge the role of wives in the transaction of our business. I commend and thank all the wives of Brothers who willingly participate with us in the programs of the Order. I also thank those wives who, acting in the true spirit of charity, allow their men to spend endless hours on Order business when family activities could be in the forefront.

Recommendations

Andrew M. Johnson
Commander-in-Chief
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Indianapolis, Indiana


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