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Camp leader says his group passes on heritage, not hate

May 15, 2001

Camp leader says his group passes on heritage, not hate



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY

andreabh@herald-mail.com

Joseph Bach

Photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT

Staff Photographer

Joseph Bach is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Back has served as commander of the groups local Col. William Norris Camp 1398 since about 1997.

FUNKSTOWN - A Confederate flag flies outside Joseph Bach's house near Funkstown as a symbol of his Southern heritage.

Bach takes pride in his family's past.

That's why he joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans seven years ago, he said. Bach has served as commander of the SCV's local Col. William Norris Camp 1398 since about 1997.

The SCV preserves the history and legacy of Confederate soldiers so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause, according to the organization's Web site.

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"We're not a hate organization. We're a heritage organization," said Bach, 58. "We don't want to be politically correct. We just want to be correct."

Confederate veterans founded the SCV in 1896, passing to their sons and other male heirs the responsibility of ensuring that a true history of the 1861-1865 period is preserved, the Web site states.

The SCV is the oldest hereditary organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers.

Membership is open to all male descendants of any veteran who served honorably in the Confederate armed forces. Membership can be obtained through either direct or collateral family lines and kinship to a veteran must be documented genealogically.

The Tennessee-based organization has a genealogy department to help men who want to join trace their roots, Bach said.

He said he grew up hearing about his great-great uncle's involvement in the Civil War.

James Johnston Pettigrew, who still holds an academic record at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was an attorney in South Carolina when the war erupted. He received his brigadier general's commission from Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1862.

Pettigrew was assigned to Gen. Robert E. Lee's army in Northern Virginia. He took command of Gen. Heath's division during the famous Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., Bach said.

Pettigrew was wounded in the battle but was able to lead his troops back to Virginia from Gettysburg.

He was watching the last Confederate soldiers cross the Potomac River at Falling Waters, W.Va., when he spied a cavalry unit carrying a U.S flag emerging from nearby woods. The Union soldiers attacked, mortally wounding Pettigrew.

The 35-year-old soldier, who had been voted one of the most promising young men in North Carolina, died several days later in Martinsburg, W.Va., Bach said.

As a member of the 30,000-strong SCV, Bach said, he has a duty to pass such stories along to help preserve his Southern heritage.

The 200 members of the William Norris Camp host events to promote Confederate history. An Eagle Scout, Bach recently invited some area Boy Scouts to a lecture in Funkstown by SCV member J.E.B. Stuart IV, great-grandson of the Confederate general. The event helped the scouts earn their heritage badge, Bach said.

SCV members continue the tradition of maintaining Confederate graves. The Norris Camp has been trying without success to install a second flagpole for a Rebel battle flag in the Confederate graveyard at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown, Bach said.

The organization has become embroiled in the controversy surrounding a flag that was passed on to Confederate heirs as an emblem of their heritage but that has been adopted by some groups as a symbol of hate and racism, he said.

"I can truly say that I've never met a racist in our organization," Bach said. "These are people who are interested in their genealogy and heritage."

Bach and other SCV members of all races and ethnic origins have joined national protests against banning the Confederate battle flag, he said.

Groups who want to ban the flag "can have their heritage but we're not going to give up ours," Bach said. "This flag belongs to us. It was passed on as an emblem of honorable American soldiers who fought for what they believed in. It was not passed on to the Ku Klux Klan or any other hate group."

Bach, who retired from the federal government and now works as a part-time security guard at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., plans to further support the SCV's mission by running for division commander after he completes his term as camp commander, he said.

In this position, he would oversee the activities of the state's 630 members in 10 camps.

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