The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is a Federally Chartered fraternal organization dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of those who fought to save the Union during the American Civil War. We are a band of kindred spirits: patriots, historians and genealogists, whose ancestors fought and died during that War. A brotherhood dedicated to perpetuate and honor the memory and deeds of all who have worn the uniform of these United States, from the Revolutionary War to those who wear the uniform today. To see that all veteran’s graves are in a proper and respectful condition, and to see that their memorials and legacies are preserved and passed on to the next generation.
When the southern states rebelled, there were 33 stars on the Flag, President Lincoln refused to have those “southern” stars removed from the flag; and through the Constitutional process, it grew to 34 stars and 35 stars during the war. Those who enlisted and served in the Union Armies did so to defend that Flag and the Constitution. These men formed strong, lifelong bonds, bonds that would endure beyond the grave. Most were boys when they enlisted: faces of youth, keen eyes, quickness of step, sharpness of hearing. Across those fives Aprils from 1861 to 1865, the Iowa boys would march on average 5,000 miles, through six inches of dust in 90o to 100o temperatures, in pouring rains, some would cut a hole in their shoes or boots so the water could run out while marching. Early on they marched in wind driven freezing rain which clung to their beards, their hair, their eyelashes and nostrils; and they marched in snow. They preferred the snow to rain, with the snow they could at least lie down in dry clothing and a dry blanket.
These boys drank from the same canteen, shared a shelter half or blanket, enjoyed each other’s letters from home, ate together, fought together, cared for the wounded and the sick together and together they buried the dead. During the course of the war these men witnessed the deaths of 700,000 Americans on both sides, witnessed amputations, crippling wounds and chronic maladies that would eventually take the lives of men long before their time. Through all of this they made promises, promises to the dying, the crippled and the infirmed. Promised that those men would not be forgotten, promised their widows and orphans would be cared for, promised the sick and wounded would be assisted. These bonds would not be broken.
After the war ended, those promises made on the battlefield were kept, the Grand Army of the Republic, our Country’s first Veterans Organization was founded. The GAR became the strongest political force in this nation for the next 40 years. Out of their workings came pensions for the invalid, the widows and the children. Homes for the orphans and homes for the indigent soldier, they worked to turn our cemeteries into a park-like setting to invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners, they established Memorial Day to remember our dead, erected monuments in their honor, and they held gatherings and reunions for those friendships to long continue.
In 1881, the GAR established the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War to carry on these principals long after the Old Veterans were gone and, just as they had done, to Swear before God to Preserve, Protect and Defend the Union and the Constitution of the United States of America. That is who we are and why we are here today.
Let us then entwine each thread of our glorious Flag around our hearts, and catching the spirit that breathes upon us from the battles and the victories of America’s sons, let us resolve that now and forever, will we stand for that Flag and the principles and institutions it symbolizes.
It was waved over our cradles. Let us resolve that, unchanged and unstained, as it came from the hands of our fathers, it shall wave over our graves.