I was elected Commander of the Department of Missouri, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, for the 2016-2017 administrative year and re-elected for the 2017-2018 administrative year. As part of my responsibilities, I wrote a letter to the Department every quarter which was published in the Department’s newsletter, The Missouri Unionist. Below is the seventh such letter.
19 Dec 2017
Brothers of the Department of Missouri,
It is nearing time to close out another calendar year, and as we reflect on the activities of this department since our June encampment in Branson, I hope each camp finds itself proud of its accomplishments and determined to continue the mission of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War into the New Year. It is the time of year for officer installations among other things, and I have kept myself busy installing the officers of Fletcher, St. James, Tiger, and Wilhemi camps, along with the ladies of the Volker auxiliary. As before, I appreciate the invitations and have enjoyed the opportunity to visit with brothers across the Department of Missouri in their home camps. I trust the other camps will have officer installations completed in January as required by the C&R.
In addition to the routine of annual officer installations, we are experiencing transformational changes as well. Our own William Tecumseh Sherman / Billy Yank Camp #65 is folding after an impressive tenure of service in the Order. I should remind you that its longest serving member, Col. Jack Grothe, was presented with his 50-year membership insignia at our most recent encampment. I would hope that while this camp as a whole has decided to end its existence, the individual members of Sherman Camp #65 will find new home camps in the Order to continue sharing in the Fraternity of our organization. Along with this ending comes a new beginning. I installed the new members of Lillie Camp #6 in Jefferson City, Missouri, in November. At my last count, there were over 15 new members to be welcomed into our department with this new camp. And thus, as time marches on, our commitment to our purposes is renewed.
Finally, this is the season to remember the importance with which Charity is regarded in our Order. I speak of the Charity which has manifested from those Spring days in 1865 when General Grant offered Robert E. Lee genuine respect along with his generous terms of surrender. There are many examples of individuals of a victorious Union Army exhibiting charity and respect towards its vanquished foe (Chamberlain among others), but Grant’s leadership in regards to his portrayal of his enemies offers an example sorely needed in these revisionist times. Those with certain agendas have often attributed recognition of the bravery and personal valor of Confederate soldiers as mechanisms of Lost Cause ideology, but these recognitions have been compatible from the beginning with abhorrence for the Southern cause. Grant in his memoirs offers a perfect example of such contemporary thought:
“I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”
It is in the adoption of comprehensive understandings over politically expedient ones, and in an honest embrace of the unique complexity of individual human character where we can serve our lately embattled Confederate cousins and our devotion to unfettered truth the best. May this letter find you safe and warm and having shared a joyous holiday season in the presence of those you love.
God bless this Union, our ancestors who fought for it, and those with whom reconciliation made it whole again.
In Fraternity, Charity, & Loyalty,
Randal A. Burd, Jr., PDC
Commander, Department of Missouri
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War