New Jersey Department History

 

In the year 1881 the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) authorized an organization to consist the sons and direct male heirs of its members and to be known as the Sons of Veterans. The purpose of this group was to perpetuate the memory, sacrifices and services of the veterans of 1861 to 1865. It was this organization that was destined to eventually carry on the work of the GAR after that noble group passed out of existence. The following year, in 1882, there came into existence in the State of New Jersey a provisional Division of the organization. Its Colonel was General W.E.W. Ross of Maryland.

During the following months sufficient Camps grew up in various New Jersey cities and towns to warrant a permanent State Division. On June 14, 1883 General Ross called together a meeting for the purpose of forming a permanent Division organization in New Jersey. This historic meeting took place in the rooms of the Aaron Wilkes Post No. 23, GAR, in Trenton, New Jersey. The meeting open with Robert Crawford of Camp #1, Camden, in the chair, and the various other stations fill by appointment until elections could be held. The report of the adjutant, J.D. Faussett of Camp #5, Trenton, indicated the following Camps represented with the total membership of each indicated:

Camp Number Camp Name Location Members
1 Colonel William B. Hatch Camden 40
2 A.W. Muldant Elizabeth 27
3 Major General Joseph Hooker Newark 29
4 Robert Leslie Newark 12
5 Fred V. Dayton Trenton 21

 

Officers of the New Jersey Division on June 14, 1883 include the following;

Officer Camp Number
Colonel Robert E. Crawford 1
Lt. Colonel Thomas Tillon, Jr. 2
Major E. E. Jeffries 5
Chaplain Henry E. Hatfield 3
Surgeon C. B. Leavitt, M.D. 5
Adjutant J. D. Faussett 5
Delegate to 2nd Grand Division, E. E. Jeffries  
Delegate to Commander-in-Chief, H. F. Baker  

 

General Ross, representing the 2nd Grand Division, installed the newly elected officers. He then delivered an address of congratulations to the newly formed division, after which Colonel Crawford also delivered an address. Various functional committees were charged with the tasks of the new organization, and the meeting was adjourned to meet again at the call of Colonel Crawford.

Two years later the organization was again meeting in Trenton after having held one meeting in Newark. Colonel Henry E. Hatfield of Camp No. 3, Newark, was in the chair. It was May 11, 1885, and at this meeting the Division ordered the procurement of an official Charter from the Commander-in-Chief. A second committee was appointed to the work of writing the By-Laws after the first was successful. At the next encampment, in Camden on may 15, 1886, a third By-law committee was ordered to assist in forming a draft that would be acceptable to the Commander-in-Chief and to the division. It was not until May 21, 1890, at Vineland, New Jersey, that a set of By-Laws for the New Jersey Division was finally adopted.

In 1889 the New Jersey Division was host to the National Encampment of the Sons of Veterans. This Encampment was held in Paterson, New Jersey. Since that time the National Body has meet in New Jersey three more times - in 1903, 1910 and 1952. The last three encampments were held in Atlantic City. In addition, New Jersey has hosted encampments of the National Organization which were held in Miami Beach, Florida, in 1963 and again in 1970. During the early years of its existence, the spirit in the New Jersey Division ran very high, the officers worked hard and the membership grew steadily. At the Division Encampment held in Trenton on February 18, 1892, the rolls had grown to 15 Camps and 698 members. Colonel Thomas E. Edmond was in the chair when the encampment opened and it was at this encampment that the top three officers were first referred to as Commander, Senior Vice Commander and Junior Vice Commander. The remainder of the Division officers were to retain military titles for several more years, but the titles of Colonel, Lt. Colonel and major were never to be used again.

Of the growth in membership, Camp No. 8 of Paterson was far in the lead with 240 members in February of 1892. During the first decade the initial fight for existence was won. But it was during this decade, also, that another more bitter fight was first waged. Co-existing with the Camps of the Sons of Veterans were Posts of the Sons of Veterans. This separate organization restricted itself to actual sons only and they waged a long and bitter battle with the camp system in control of the entire membership of the Sons of Veterans. On February 15, 1894, Division Commander A. L. Sparks, Camp No. 38, Camden, attacked the post system as lacking the support of the Grand Army of the Republic. Indeed, the Post system did not receive support from the National Organization, GAR, which had earlier given its full endorsement to the Camp system. Commander Sparks served on a committee of three from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York in an effort to bring the two systems together. After receiving only hostile responses, he appointed a committee of five from the New Jersey Division to, if possible, either bring the Post system into the Camp system or force it out of existence.

The second decade drew to a close in 1903. By this time the organization of the Sons of Veterans was firmly established and for many years it was not to materially change. The era being entered into was one of growth. On June 30, 1902, the division had 18 Camps and 749 members. The mood of the time favored fraternal and patriotic organizations and the time had come for the organization to grow in size and influence. Commander Frank M. Cunningham, of Camp No. 11, Atlantic City, in his order No. 7, 1902 Series voiced the first appeal for "ONE THOUSAND MEMBERS IN NEW JERSEY". Commander Cunningham appealed: "As our fathers grow weak, let the Sons grow stronger". On September 30, 1904, the report of the adjutant showed 23 Camps and exactly 1,000 members. Division order No. 8, 1904 series, offered various cash and trophy prizes for greatest membership gains and the publications of the time cried for 1,500 members within one year. But the growth was not to be so rapid.

1909 saw two accomplishments in the New Jersey Division. In August of 1909, at the national Encampment of the Sons of Veterans, Past Division Commander George W. Pollitt of Camp No. 8, Paterson, became the first New Jersey member to be elected Commander-in-Chief of the Sons of Veterans. In September, one month later, the membership went over the 1,500 mark. By June 1910, membership was 1,707 men and by March 31, 1911, it had risen to exactly 1,800 men. It remained at this level for two or three years before starting a slow rise.

The years of 1917 and 1918 were years of war and suffering. In terms of growth, the Division had reached its peak and the task ahead was one of work. Efforts continued, numerous drives and contest were held, and as late as 1935 the Department, under Commander Harry Meisel, entered into contest with Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland to gain the highest percentage of new members. But the time for outstanding growth had passed and the time had arrived to buckle down to the task at hand and the work for which the Sons of Veterans had been organized. The time had come to worry about carrying on the more strenuous tasks no longer done by the aging veterans of the Civil War. During the first World War the New Jersey Division did its part in the National Sons of Veterans Ambulance Fund Drive and it also formed a Division War Fund. After the war it helped with the Hoover Food Message, and Division Commander Ernest W. McCann included a copy of this message with the order No. 7, 1918 series. At the annual encampment in Asbury Park on June 28 - 29, 1922 the Sons of Veterans Reserve was officially acknowledged. It had been in existence prior to this time on a local basis. This encampment also officially protested the action of the Annual Convention of the Confederate Veterans, held on June 21, 1922, in the public slurring of the name of Abraham Lincoln. The official protest went to the national Encampment in the form of a resolution from New Jersey.

A change in the National By-Laws was announced in Division order No. 5, 1924 Series, by Commander John L. Reeger of Camp No. 4, Trenton, to the effect that the age for membership in the Order had been lowered from 18 years to 16 years. The next year the National Encampment officially changed the name of Sons of Veterans to our present name, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). This occurred at the 44th Annual National Encampment on August 30, 1925. Official announcement of this change came in Division Order No. 5, 1925 Series, by Commander M. Wyckoff Ayers of Camp No. 12, Bloomfield. Commander Ayers died in office on November 18, 1925 and Senior Vice Commander Luther L. Jones of Camp No. 11, Atlantic City, filled the unexpired term. Two years later the 46th Annual national Encampment officially changed the names of state organizations from Divisions to Departments and this change was announced in Department Order No. 4, 1927 Series, by Commander Samuel Sutton of Camp No. 8, Paterson. Since 1927, our name has remained as it is today, New Jersey Department, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

The 50th Anniversary was celebrated at the Department Encampment held June 29-30, 1932, at Wildwood, with Commander Frederick C. Caster of Camp No. 12, Bloomfield, presiding. The anniversary banquet was held on June 30, at the Hotel Sheldon. Present were 173 person and the guest of honor was Commander-in-Chief of the GAR Samuel P. Town of Philadelphia.

In 1933 the New Jersey Department sponsored the following legislation, which was to become the law of the State of New Jersey and which was formally announced as such in Department Order No. 3, 1933 Services, by Department Commander Albert C. Lambert of Dayton Camp No. 5, Trenton:

 

"ASSEMBLY BILL No. 366 - A supplement to an Act entitled 'An Act Concerning Municipalities'.

Approved March 27, 1933.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey that:

1. It shall be lawful for any municipality to make appropriations to posts of the Grand Army of the Republic, and if there be no Post in such municipalities, then it shall be lawful to make appropriations to any Camp of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, for the proper carrying out of memorial and other patriotic Holidays; and

2. This Act shall take effect immediately."

With the passing of this law, the New Jersey Department, SUVCW, became legally recognized as the heirs to the work and duties of the Grand Army of the Republic. The years of growth and preparation were past and the time was at hand for the Sons to fulfill their mission.

The years 1961 through 1965 brought the 100th Anniversary of the American Civil War. Throughout the Department of New Jersey various members of the order participated at the local, State and Federal levels in assuring a proper and fitting recognition of the Civil War Centennial. Brother William W. Vanderhoof, Jr., a past Department Commander from Plainfield, New Jersey, served as the National Graves Registration Officer for many years and was personally responsible for locating and properly marking many Civil War and other Veteran's graves. In every city and town, the history and the meaning of the American Civil War was relived and remembered and the specific 100th anniversaries of various major battles or events were celebrated, largely through the leadership of our organization. Similarly, 1968 brought fitting observances of the 100th anniversary of General John A. Logan's now famous General Order No. 11, Series of 1868, in which the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic proclaimed the first Memorial Day. That National holiday, which has grown to include remembrance of America's veterans of all wars, was to continue until today as one of America's great patriotic observances.

Among the major accomplishments brought about by the New Jersey Civil War Centennial Committee was the removal of the Swamp Angel from the intersection of North Clinton Avenue, Lincoln Avenue and Perry Street in Trenton to very suitable and appropriate location adjacent to the Civil War Monument in Cadwalader Park in Trenton. The Swamp Angel was a 200 pound, 8-inch parrot rifle gun and was placed in the marshes of Morris Island to fire on the City of Charleston, South Carolina. it burst on the second night while firing the 36th round.

At the mid-winter meeting on January 20, 1962 there was established a Good Citizenship Award to be given to an outstanding citizen of New Jersey, either male or female. The first Good Citizenship Award was given to Rev. Elmer Finger at the Department Encampment in 1962. In 1964 the unsuccessful fight to keep prayers in the public schools of our country was supported by the New Jersey Department in the form of Prayer petitions which were compiled by the Department Secretary and presented to Governor Richard J. Hughes, who was then the Governor of New Jersey. No other Department in the National Organization during this period of time has provided two members, Brothers Albert C. Lambert and Fred H, Combs, Jr., who contributed so significantly to the growth, success and preservation of the order over so many years.

And, so, a century has passed.

This organization was born under the guidance of the Grand Army of the Republic, whose membership was restricted to actual Civil War Veterans only, in order to assure that work of that noble organization would go on after its last member had passed away. We struggled for organization and identity, we grew and became strong in numbers and, finally, we assumed the role for which we had been organized. Our early years were spent during a time when Civil War history occupied place in the hearts of our citizens. We matured and eventually assumed the role of leadership from the GAR as its legal heirs and successors. When Albert Woolson, the last survivor of the Civil War, died on August 1, 1956, we inherited a rich tradition of patriotism which we have preserved and will continue to preserve. We enter our second century no longer young and strong in numbers, but mature and doubly strong in dedication and determination.

 

 

Copyright 2013-2017 by New Jersey Department SUVCW.  Updated July 8, 2017