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August 28, 2007

Leave Confederate Reenacting to Historians

Why Reenactors Should Repudiate the Sons of Confederate Veterans

by Walter C. Hilderman, III

The 49th North Carolina Troops, a Civil War reenactment group based in Gastonia, North Carolina, and dating back to the 1970s, had a decision to make. It is the same decision that sooner or later most Confederate reenactors will have to face whether they are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans or not: Will reenactors teach Confederate history or will they allow Confederate history to support the SCVís new agenda?

The SCV made its choice in March, 2005 when, after three years of turmoil, membership suspensions, expulsions and lawsuits, its last few moderate leaders were ousted. Since then, the SCV has accelerated its process of turning away from Confederate history defense and, instead, participating in Americaís political and culture wars.

Confederate reenactors within the SCV and on the outside have watched for years as the SCV, through overlapping memberships, has cemented its relationship with contemporary political activist groups like the neo-secessionist League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens. Under the growing influence of these two groups, United States flags and the Pledge of Allegiance, once common fixtures at SCV gatherings, have disappeared from many of their meetings. Statements like, "If secession was good enough for my Confederate ancestors, itís good enough for me.", are now commonplace among SCVers whether or not they reenact. As the SCV, League of the South and Council of Conservative Citizens seek additional members, Confederate reenactors, by virtue of their generally conservative political views and Confederate heritage ties, have become the next logical target for the further expansion of these groupsí political goals. SCV participation in Confederate reenacting, as a contemporary political statement, is surging.

One of the most startling expressions of this attitude among SCV reenactors came from Robert "Rock" Edmiston, the 1st Sergeant of the SCV dominated 63rd North Carolina Troops reenactment group. He is a longtime leader in the Rowan Rifles SCV Camp in Salisbury, North Carolina. In May, 2004, Edmiston stated that, "If need be, the 63rd will be that unreconstructed thin grey line against a tyrannical federal government and the yankeeazation of our Southland." There is no statement that is more dangerous to the hobby of Civil War reenacting. In making this statement, Edmiston, now the 63rdís commander, made it clear that his Confederate reenacting group is willing to fight the United States government.

Edmiston, in effect, told the government, the NAACP, the media and anybody else who might have noticed, that Confederate reenactors arenít just teaching history; some of them are up to much more. While the SCV is not strong in North Carolina reenacting, in South Carolina and further on into the Deep South, their members are more firmly entrenched in the hobby. In its overall "Southern heritage defense" strategy, the SCV has decided to make the display of Confederate heritage at reenactments the next battleground. In order to accomplish this goal, the SCV needs to polarize the reenactment community and to become the dominant voice among Confederate reenactors.

So, what does the SCVís new agenda have to do with reenactment groups like the 49th North Carolina Troops? Why should they, or the rest of us, be worried about SCV attitudes taking hold in Confederate reenacting? This is why: In making his comment, Edmiston may as well have put targets on the backs of all Confederate reenactors, even the 49th N.C. Troops.

Like most reenactors, the 49th is a non political, middle-of-the-road group. They spend as much time in "galvanizing" as a Union regiment as they do in wearing gray uniforms. However, in trying to protect their SCV partnership and co-host status at a North Carolina reenactment, the 49th has apparently chosen to make that event particularly SCV friendly. In so doing, the 49th has failed to protect other reenactors from expressions of SCV hatred and has failed to defend the interests of the larger, non-SCV reenactment community of which the 49th N.C. Troops is a part.

At the 2006 Allisonís Woods event near Statesville, North Carolina, an altercation occurred between two reenactors; SCV member Mike "Possum" Long of South Carolinaís Hamptonís Legion (and the 63rd North Carolina Troops) and myself (Walter Hilderman, 30th North Carolina Troops/38th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. My longstanding and very public objections to the SCVís new direction is well known in Confederate history and heritage circles. I was expelled from the SCV in 2004 for being a leader in the Save the SCV effort. Since then, I have promised to oppose any plans to bring the larger SCV agenda into reenacting.)

Long and Hilderman have been on opposing sides of the SCVís direction since 2002. Until the 2006 Allisonís Woods event, they had generally worked together without a serious incident. But at that particular reenactment, Mike Long repeatedly violated published rules for the event that forbade "abusive language or behavior." He insulted Hilderman, in public and in private, over non-reenactment and SCV issues. The two men came to blows shortly before the battle reenactment on Saturday, September 16. The fight was quickly stopped by other reenactors. Long again insulted Hilderman late that same afternoon. No one called the police during the weekend.

Four days later, Long and several other SCV/63rd N.C. Troops members returned to Statesville and signed a warrant for Simple Assault against Hilderman. In order to assist Mr. Long, the North Carolina SCV Division provided its Judge Advocate, attorney Jim Hickmon. Hickmon is a member of the Charlotte, North Carolina SCV camp. According to his own words, Hickmon is "the next commander" of the Charlotte SCV camp. During routine pre-trial negotiations, Long stated that he would help make the charge against Hilderman "go away, if Hilderman quits reenacting, living history, everything." Mr. Hickmon told Hildermanís attorney that, "what the SCV wants is for Hilderman to leave the SCV alone."

In addition to the 49th N.C. Troops, the other host unit for the annual Allisonís Woods event is the Iredell Blues. The Iredell Blues is made up almost entirely of SCV members from Statesville. The owner of Allisonís Woods is SCV and Iredell Blues member, Tom Allison. The event co-coordinator is Selina Goodin, wife of local SCV and Iredell Blues leader, Dennis Goodin. Upon hearing of the pending Simple Assault charge, the Iredell Blues barred Hilderman from ever again participating in the Allisonís Woods event. Not surprisingly, Mr. Allison supported that decision. The 49th N.C. Troops remained silent.

Hilderman filed a complaint about Longís abusive language with all of the event hosts. He pointed-out that both men could have been barred, and suggested that at least a verdict should be rendered in the court case before any permanent action was taken. Neither the 49th N.C. Troops nor the eventís SCV co-hosts responded. Apparently, the 49th had made its choice and is not willing to cross swords with the SCV over the matter. Non-SCV reenacting units are currently reconsidering their participation at the 2007 Allisonís Woods event.

As SCV reenactors bring their in-your-face attitudes and new found political activism into the hobby, Confederate reenacting will come to be viewed by the public, liberal activists and the authorities with the same suspicion that the entire SCV has generated in recent years. Rather than defending Confederate heritage with historical facts and meaningful outreach programs, the SCV has intensified the ongoing Confederate heritage controversy with their tactics and political connections. They apparently feel that Confederate heritage and Confederate flags can not be defended without the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens.

N.A.A.C.P. inspired protests over the display of Confederate flags have already occurred at Civil War reenactments in several states. As they have with the flag issue, the SCV will surely respond to reenactment protestors with heightened belligerence and with the support of their new political friends. If the liberal segment of the American public comes to believe that Confederate reenactors are more interested in current politics than in history, our events will become their target on a nationwide scale. The predominantly liberal media will not hesitate to take sides.

Civil War reenacting has become a popular American teaching and learning experience, complete with big budgets, vendors, permits, first responders, and inevitably, insurance policies. Reenactments, large and small, require public acceptance and support. Without the publicís trust in our reasons for being Confederate reenactors, our hobby and our mission of teaching American history through reenacting will end.

We Confederate reenactors must realize that only through teaching history and not preaching politics at our events, can we maintain the public trust. If demonstrators protesting our flags, our gray uniforms or our perceived political agenda begin to routinely appear at reenactments, sooner or later another confrontation will occur. The Allisonís Woods fist-fight between two Confederate reenactors wasnít particularly newsworthy, but a brawl between NAACP protestors and SCVers wearing Confederate uniforms will be a different matter.

[Edited August 28, 2007]

Click on the links below for recent related items.

Confederate Cemetery Flag Effort

Please visit the below listed online petition site. The completed petition will likely be presented to the City Council of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Please support this effort with your signature and forward it to any responsible, non-political group that might be receptive to this effort whether or not they are part of the Confederate heritage community. Ask them to pass it along as well.

While this particular petition deals with a local situation, this is a region-wide, even a nation-wide issue that should be of interest to veteransí groups, local historical societies and other community-based organizations.

If you or anyone else needs additional information, do not hesitate to contact me directly at: numertia@bigfoot.com or 803-492-4029

Many Thanks,

Walter C. Hilderman III

Web address: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/ElmConFl/petition.html

Welcome to

Those of us who tried to save the Sons of Confederate Veterans from extremism regard the search for factual truth in history to be a noble purpose. We condemn historical revisionists at both ends of the political spectrum. We see that they would rather twist history to fit their own current political agenda rather than to secure the destiny of the American people through the study and teaching of history.

Why the SCV needed saving

In recent years, the SCV has been drawn into modern American politics. Extremists on both ends of the political spectrum have intentionally merged the concepts of "Confederate" heritage and "Southern" heritage in order to galvanize support for their respective agendas. Left-wing extremists condemn conservative attitudes and progressively link those attitudes with Confederate heritage, Southern heritage, the "vast right-wing conspiracy," and racism in an effort to demonize conservatives. Right- wing extremists use "Southern heritage" to connect legitimate Confederate heritage defense (and the SCV) to their fringe-group views on race, immigration, religion, neo-secessionism, etc. The SCVís mission of Confederate heritage guardianship is being transformed into modern political extremism that often has little to do with defending the proud record of the Confederate soldier. Many SCV leaders are participants in this transformation.


For 106 years, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) has been a defender of Confederate heritage and an archive of American history for the period of 1861 to 1865. Now an effort is underway to change the direction and philosophy of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Several national and local SCV leaders, under the influence of individuals such as Kirk Lyons, former Commander-in-Chief Ron Wilson, and organizations like the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens are leading the Sons of Confederate Veterans into modern-day political extremism: extremism that has no legitimate connection to the defense of Confederate heritage.

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