Following the American Civil War (1861 – 1865), Union Veterans of the Civil War organized into the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Founded 06 April 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson, M.D. this fraternal organization was among the earliest organized interest groups in America. The GAR existed as an organization until 1956 due to it’s limitation on membership (i.e. members had to have served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Revenue Cutter Service for the Union during the Civil War).
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) is the legal successor to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). It is a Congressionally Chartered Corporation with headquarters in the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Beginning in 1877, A.P. Davis began working to organize the sons of GAR members, and articles of incorporation were filed and approved on 28 December 28 1881 for the SUVCW. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania approved the charter on January 12, 1882. On August 20, 1954, the SUVCW was officially incorporated by an Act of Congress by the passing of Public Law 605 of the second session of the 83rd Congress.
The SUVCW is one of five Allied Orders of the GAR. The other four Orders are: Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, Woman’s Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
Membership was (and is) open to men who can prove ancestry from a member of the GAR (or to a veteran who would have been eligible). Associate membership was established in later years for men who cannot show descendency, yet have a genuine interest in the SUVCW.
The SUVCW is organized under a national leadership. Geographically, one or more states form a Department. With in a Department are several Camps. The organization works to serve during patriotic events, and to support and maintain Civil War era sites and graves.