The Sons often get asked “who we are” and “what we do?” Are we Civil War reenactors, also called “living historians” or “historic interpreters?” Historians? Politicians? While many of our members have varied interests, the SUVCW itself is none of those things. The core of “who we are” is “what we do.”
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of the heroes who fought and worked to save the Union in the American Civil War. In many instances, we carry on the work that the men of the Grand Army of the Republic began. Below are some key, perpetual projects in which the RISUVCW regularly takes an active role here in Rhode Island and beyond.
Monuments and Memorials Documentation
Rhode Island has a plethora of impressive monuments dedicated by and for the Boys in Blue. See detailed information about many of them on our Monuments and Memorials page, and check back often as both more discoveries are made and more monuments, memorials and markers are erected.
The goal of the SUVCW National Grave Registration Project is to locate the final resting places of all Union Civil War Veterans, and enter that information into the National Graves Registration Database. This undertaking is rather large and needs as many interested people to assist as possible. In Rhode Island, the RISUVCW has located and registered thousands of graves of Union soldiers from each state of the Union. The work has just begun, as there are estimated to be tens of thousands of Union soldiers buried in RI. If you are interested in helping with graves registration, please reach out to the Department Graves Registration Officer.
Each spring in the weeks leading up to Memorial Day, the RISUVCW places thousands of flags on the graves of Union Veterans. This charge, given to the SUVCW by the Grand Army of the Republic, is one of the Order’s most solemn and important duties.
Each Camp in Rhode Island partakes in Memorial Day ceremonies all over the state. The old Boys in Blue instilled a great reverence for Memorial Day into the Sons, and it is the cornerstone of our order that we hold fast to the time-honored tradition of laying flowers and reciting verses over the graves of our Honored Dead.
Time marches on, and many of Rhode Island’s historic cemeteries have suffered from years of neglect and have been nearly lost to time. Others have simply fallen in disrepair after only a few years. The RISUVCW regularly canvasses cemeteries while doing graves registration work and oftentimes comes across a cemetery that is in need of a helping hand. Many hands often make quick work, and many of these historic cemteries have been reclaimed. Cemeteries exist because every life is worth remembering.
Occasionally, research or family members reveal that a Civil War soldier is buried in an unmarked grave her in Rhode Island. Perhaps there was once a stone there, but it had been previously destroyed, perhaps there was never a stone, perhaps the stone is so worn down to the point of illegibility. In certain cases, the SUVCW can work with the Veterans Administration to have a new, government-provided, federal headstone ordered for the veteran. We take great care to vet each situation so that there is not any abuse of the headstone program.
Civil War Soldier and General Research
Many members of the RISUVCW are adept at geneological research and can help you learn about your Civil War ancestor or person of interest with a variety of tools and techniques. The Sons also regularly partner with geneologists and specialized Civil War ancestry researchers to help build a complete picture of the men who took up arms to preserve the Union and the regiments that they fought for.
By honoring deserving cadets, we help promote the maintenance of unqualified American citizenship because it will be these young people who will eventually serve in our Nation’s military, under the flag our forefathers fought to preserve. Learn about the ROTC/JROTC Program.
The Rhode Island Department is in the process of generating a new newsletter for its membership that is called “The Rhode Island Civil War Times.”
The Rhode Island Department has many items that illustrate the history of the SUVCW in Rhode Island, as well as many items from the Grand Army of the Republic Posts that established our Order in the Ocean State. Additionally, a large portion of our Archives are currently on loan to the Rhode Island Historical Society where they are made available to be viewed.