Phelps Camp #66
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

Springfield, Missouri


This is a special edition of the newsletter of Phelps Camp, Sons of Union Veterans. If you have an interest in the Civil War, and especially if you have an ancestor who served honorably in the Union Army, Navy, or Marine Corps, you may wish to join the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. This brief introduction to the SUVCW will answer some questions about the organization and how you may join us in honoring your Union ancestor.

What is the SUVCW?

The SUVCW is a group directly linked to Civil War Union veterans. It is the only male organization recognized by and representing the Grand Army of the Republic, a powerful veterans group made up of Union Army, Navy, and Marine Corps enlisted men and officers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Formed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1881, the SUVCW was formed to perpetuate the memory of the Grand Army of the Republic and the men who fought to preserve the unity and indivisibility of our nation. We also honor the memory of the wartime president, Abraham Lincoln. The SUVCW was officially incorporated by an Act of Congress in 1954.

How is the SUVCW organized?

The SUVCW has a national organization known as the Commandery-in-Chief and several national officers. Departments exist in many states, with several individual "camps" in most departments. Phelps Camp was recently added to the newly formed Department of Missouri. Other camps exist in Cape Girardeau and St. Louis. Although most potential members join a camp near their home, there is a "Member-at-Large" category for men who reside in states where no camps exist. An annual "National Encampment" is held in various cities around the nation.

What does the SUVCW do?

To honor the men who preserved the Union during the Civil War, the SUVCW sponsors or participates in a number of activities including:

Who can join the SUVCW?

Membership in the organization is open to all male descendants, whether through a lineal or collateral line, not less than fourteen years of age, who are blood relatives of Union soldiers, sailors, marines, or members of the Revenue Cutter Service, who were regularly mustered and served honorably in the Civil War from 1861-1865. Those who do not have ancestors who served in the Union forces are welcome to join as associate members.

How do I join?

Although your application will be sent to the National Headquarters of the SUVCW, your best local contacts to begin the application process will be the members of Phelps Camp. They will help you identify your ancestor, and determine his unit and service history. All of this information is critical in order to process your membership in the SUVCW. The search may not be too difficult, as the records of many Union soldiers are surprisingly complete and detailed. If you live in Missouri, you can start by contacting the camp commander, Michael Price. He can answer any other questions you may have and provide more details about the SUVCW. If you live outside the state of Missouri, he can provide information on camps near your home or the Members-at-Large program.

Who was Phelps?

The Phelps Camp was formed in 1994, and is actually named for three members of a prominent local family who each made important contributions to the preservation of the Union during the Civil War.

John Smith Phelps was a prominent U.S. congressman before and during the war, who also served as colonel of the "Phelps Regiment, Missouri Infantry," and led that regiment into action at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, March 7-8, 1862. He later served as military governor of Arkansas, and after the war was elected governor of Missouri.

Mary Whitney Phelps, his wife, safeguarded the body of Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon after his death at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, August 10, 1861, and helped care for the wounded of her husband's regiment after the Battle of Pea Ridge. Following the war, she established an orphanage in Springfield for the children of Union soldiers.

John Elisha Phelps, their son, fought in the Battles of Wilson's Creek and Pea Ridge, and was appointed colonel of the 2nd Arkansas Cavalry (US). He led that unit into action on several battlefields, including Westport and Mine Creek. He was made a brevet brigadier general at the end of the war for his services.

Was Missouri really a Union state?

The state of Missouri made a significant contribution to the Union war effort. Officially, Missouri furnished over 109,000 men to the Union Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, or nearly half the male population of military age. Nearly 14,000 men died of disease, battle wounds, confinement in prison camps, and other causes. Several Missouri regiments are listed in the roll of the "300 Fighting Regiments," those with the highest battle losses, including the 11th and the 12th Missouri Infantry Regiments.

"My ancestor was in something called the E.M.M.--did he fight for the Union?"

Missouri raised a number of different types of units for the Union Army during 1861-1865. Among them are:

Enrolled Missouri Militia (E.M.M.)--Formed in 1862 to deal with Confederate guerrilla bands, the E.M.M. served for short periods inside the borders of Missouri. Some units saw fighting, such as the 72nd and 74th E.M.M. at the Battle of Springfield in January, 1863.

Missouri State Militia (M.S.M.)--Primarily a cavalry force, regiments of State Militia were organized beginning in 1861 to aid U.S. forces inside Missouri during the war. Many units saw considerable action against guerrillas and other Confederate forces.

Provisional Enrolled Missouri Militia (P.E.M.M.)--Organized out of the E.M.M. in 1863 as a "picked force of men" who could be spared from their jobs for longer service than the men in the E.M.M.

What does Phelps Camp do? For more information about the SUVCW or Phelps Camp, please email the Camp Commander Michael Price at .

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