Grand Army of the Republic

Grand Army of the Republic
The members of Charles W. Carroll Post 144 pose on the steps of the Norfolk County Courthouse in Dedham, Massachusetts on Dedham's 250th anniversary in 1885.

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army, US Navy, US Marines and US Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War. Founded in 1866 in Decatur, Illinois, it was dissolved in 1956 when its last member died. Linking men through their experience of the war, the GAR became among the first organized advocacy groups in American politics, supporting voting rights for black veterans, lobbying the US Congress to establish veterans' pensions, and supporting Republican political candidates. Its peak of membership at more than 400,000 was in 1890, a high point of Civil War commemorative ceremonies. It was succeeded by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), composed of male descendants of Union veterans.



The Grand Army of the Republic Badge. Authorized by Congress to be worn on the uniform by Union veterans.[1]

After the end of American Civil War, organizations were formed for veterans to network and maintain connections with each other. Many of the veterans used their shared experiences as a basis for fellowship. Groups of men began joining together, first for camaraderie and later for political power. Emerging as most influential among the various organizations was the Grand Army of the Republic, founded on April 6, 1866, on the principles of "Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty," in Decatur, Illinois, by Benjamin F. Stephenson.

The GAR initially grew and prospered as a de facto political arm of the Republican Party during the heated political contests of the Reconstruction era. The commemoration of Union veterans, black and white, immediately became entwined with partisan politics. The GAR promoted voting rights for black veterans, as many veterans recognized their demonstrated patriotism. Black veterans, who enthusiastically embraced the message of equality, shunned black veterans' organizations in preference for racially inclusive groups. But when the Republican Party's commitment to reform in the South gradually decreased, the GAR's mission became ill-defined and the organization floundered. The GAR almost disappeared in the early 1870s, and many divisions ceased to exist.[2]

In the 1880s, the organization revived under new leadership that provided a platform for renewed growth, by advocating federal pensions for veterans. As the organization revived, black veterans joined in significant numbers and organized local posts. The national organization, however, failed to press the case for pensions for black soldiers. Most black troops never received any pension or remuneration for wounds incurred during their service.[3]

The GAR was organized into "Departments" at the state level and "Posts" at the community level, and military-style uniforms were worn by its members. There were posts in every state in the U.S., and several posts overseas.[3]

The pattern of establishing departments and local posts was later used by other veterans' organizations, such as the American Legion (WWI) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (WWII).

In 1868, Commander-in-Chief General John A. Logan established May 30 as Decoration Day, later known as Memorial Day. (Numerous people and places claim this credit.) In its first celebrations, people used this day to commemorate the dead of the Civil War by decorating their graves with flowers and flags.[4]

The GAR's political power grew during the latter part of the 19th century, and it helped elect several Republican United States presidents, beginning with Ulysses S. Grant and ending with William McKinley. Five members were elected president of the United States. For a time, candidates could not get nominated to the Republican ticket without the endorsement of the GAR voting bloc.

Reverse of the Grand Army of the Republic Badge.

With membership strictly limited to "veterans of the late unpleasantness," the GAR encouraged the formation of Allied Orders to aid them in various works. Numerous male organizations jousted for the backing of the GAR, and the political battles became quite severe until the GAR finally endorsed the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War as its heir. Although a male organization, the GAR admitted its sole woman member in 1897. Sarah Emma Edmonds served in the 2nd Michigan Infantry as a disguised man named Franklin Thompson from May 1861 until April 1863. In 1882, she collected affidavits from former comrades in an effort to petition for a veteran's pension which she received in July 1884. Edmonds was only a member for a brief period as she died September 5, 1898, however she was given a funeral with military honors when she was reburied in Houston in 1901.[5]

The GAR reached its largest enrollment in 1890, with 490,000 members. It held an annual "National Encampment" every year from 1866 to 1949. At that final encampment in Indianapolis, Indiana, the few surviving members voted to retain the existing officers in place until the organization's dissolution; Theodore Penland of Oregon, the GAR's Commander at the time, was therefore its last. In 1956, after the death of the last member, Albert Woolson, the GAR was formally dissolved.[2]

GAR Parade during the 1914 Encampment in Detroit, Michigan


The Stephenson GAR Memorial, located on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Memorials to the Grand Army of the Republic include a commemorative postage stamp, a U.S. highway, and physical memorials in numerous communities throughout the United States:

The Chicago Cultural Center (1893), built on land donated by the GAR, maintains a memorial hall to the Grand Army
  • Decatur, Illinois: GAR section with approximately 570 graves and monument in Greenwood Cemetery[17]
  • Hoopeston, Illinois: GAR memorial and many gravesites Floral Hill Cemetery.
  • Minier, Illinois: GAR monument erected in 1888 by the John Hunter GAR Post 168[18]
  • Murphysboro, Illinois: A cemetery with the graves of several GAR members who were former slaves originally from Tennessee is southwest of the town.
  • Springfield, Illinois
    • Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum, located downtown at 629 South 7th Street. It is owned and maintained by the Woman's Relief Corps Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic.[19]
    • The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War donated a sundial that was dedicated on the grounds of the Illinois State Capitol September 8, 1940 during the 74th Encampment of the GAR.[20]
  • Watseka, Illinois: GAR Cemetery, established for the Williams Post 25, has a memorial and statue as prominent features at the entrance.[21]
  • Valparaiso, Indiana: The Memorial Opera House was constructed by the local GAR chapter in 1893.[22]
  • Des Moines, Iowa: In 1922, a banner created for the GAR encampment was declared a permanent memorial and suspended in the rotunda of the Iowa State Capitol.[23] A sundial was dedicated to the GAR on grounds of the Iowa State Capitol during the 1938 encampment.[24]
  • Red Oak, Iowa: GAR memorial of a bronze soldier atop a granite base was dedicated in 1907 near grave sites in Evergreen Cemetery.[25]
  • Mt. Pleasant, Iowa: GAR monument and grave sites in the pioneer Hickory Grove Cemetery, junction of Hwy 218 & 185th St.[26]
  • Redfield, Iowa: The Marshall GAR Hall was restored in 2008 and houses a small museum.[27]
  • Waterloo, Iowa: The Grand Army of the Republic meeting hall has been restored and is operated as a meeting hall and museum by the City of Waterloo. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.[28][29]
  • Baxter Springs, Kansas: GAR monemuent and 163 gravesites in the Baxter Springs City Cemetery[30]
  • Chalmette, Louisiana: Chalmette National Cemetery in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve contains a monument and the graves of approximately 12,000 Union Soldiers from the Civil War[31]
  • Baltimore, Maryland: A sundial at Warren Avenue and Henry Street in the Federal Hill neighborhood was dedicated in 1933.[32]
  • Detroit, Michigan: Grand Army of the Republic Building was completed in 1890 as a meeting place for the local chapter of the GAR. When membership dwindled in the 1930s, the group deeded the property to the City of Detroit who paid a portion of the construction costs. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and has been vacant for many years.[33]
  • Bemidji, Minnesota: GAR memorial in Greenwood Cemetery.[34]
Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Opera House, Valparaiso, Indiana. c. 1898
  • Grand Meadow, Minnesota: GAR Hall/Museum. Booth Post No. 130 was once a meeting hall for members of the Grand Army of the Republic. The hall is believed to be one of only two remaining in Minnesota and is located on South Main Street between First Avenue SW and Second Avenue SW. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its architectural and social significance.[35]
  • Omaha, Nebraska: Forest Lawn Memorial Park holds a GAR memorial and many grave sites.[36]
  • Asbury Park, New Jersey: Monument at Grand and Cookman Avenues erected by C.K. Hall Post 41.[37]
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey: Monument at Providence and Capt. O'Donnell Parkway erected by the Joe Hooker Post 32.[37]
  • Camden, New Jersey: Plot of the William B. Hatch Post 37 with monument in Evergreen Cemetery.[37]
  • Egg Harbor, New Jersey: General Stahel Post 62 plot in the Egg Harbor City Cemetery.[37]
  • Manchester Township, New Jersey: GAR memorial at Oakdale Street and Wellington Avenue.[37]
  • Port Norris, New Jersey: GAR Cemetery of the John Shinn Post 6.[37]
  • South Lyndeborough, New Hampshire: The Hartshorn Memorial Cannon was named and dedicated by the Harvey Holt Post, Grand Army of the Republic, in 1902. The cannon was previously located outside the GAR's headquarters, Citizens' Hall, before being moved to the village common in 1934.[38]
  • New York, New York
    • Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn was dedicated in 1926 and forms the entrance to Prospect Park. It contains a triumphal arch and other monuments.[39]
    • In Manhattan, the west flagpole on Low Plaza at the entrance of Low Memorial Library on Columbia University's Morningside Heights campus was donated by the Lafayette Post of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1898 and bears the inscription "Love, Cherish, Defend it."[40] (The east pole was donated by the class of 1881 on its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1906.[41])
    • Mount Olivet Cemetery in Queens contains the burial lot of the Robert J. Marks Post # 560 of the GAR. In the lot are the graves of 25 veterans, 17 wives and a monument.[42]
  • Columbus, Ohio: The Daughters of the Union dedicated a sundial on the grounds of the Ohio State House in 1941, the 75th anniversary of the GAR.[43]
  • Portland, Oregon: Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery. Salmon Brown, son of the famous abolitionist John Brown (of the song "John Brown's Body") is buried there.[44]
A G.A.R. marker at Brush Creek Cemetery, near Irwin, Pennsylvania

In popular culture

John Steinbeck's East of Eden features several references to the Grand Army of the Republic. Despite having very little actual battle experience during his brief military career, cut short by the loss of his leg, Adam Trask's father Cyrus joins the GAR and assumes the stature of "a great man" through his involvement with the organization. At the height of the GAR's influence in Washington, he brags to his son:

I wonder if you know how much influence I really have. I can throw the Grand Army at any candidate like a sock. Even the President likes to know what I think about public matters. I can get senators defeated and I can pick appointments like apples. I can make men and I can destroy men. Do you know that?

Later in the book, references are made to the graves of GAR members in California in order to emphasize the passage of time.[52]

Another Nobel Prize winning author, Sinclair Lewis, refers to the GAR in his acclaimed novel Main Street.

Charles Portis's classic novel, True Grit, makes reference to the GAR.

The GAR is briefly mentioned in William Faulkner's novel, The Sound and the Fury.[53]

The GAR is also mentioned in the seldom sung second verse of the patriotic song You're a Grand Old Flag.[54]

The GAR is referenced in John McCrae's poem He Is There! which was set to music in 1917 by Charles Ives as part of his cycle Three Songs of the War.[55]

In Star Wars, the Clone Wars are fought between the Grand Army of the Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems, an apparent reference to the Civil War.

See also

A replica of the USS Kearsarge displayed at the 1893 GAR National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana

External links


  1. ^ 10 U.S.C. § 1123
  2. ^ a b Glenn B. Knight. "Brief History of the Grand Army of the Republic". Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  3. ^ a b c "A Brief History of the Grand Army of the Republic". Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library. Retrieved 2011-03-05. 
  4. ^ John E. Gilman (1910). "The Grand Army of the Republic". Retrieved 2011-03-05. 
  5. ^ "Sarah Emma Edmonds, Private, December 1841–September 5, 1898". Civil War Trust. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  6. ^ Gary Gibson (1999). "Remembering the Grand Army of the Republic Fifty Years Later". Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  7. ^ "U.S. Stamps 1951". Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  8. ^ Richard F. Weingroff (July 27, 2009). "U.S. 6-The Grand Army of the Republic Highway". US Department of Transportation-Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  9. ^ "Sacramento Historic City Cemetery Self-Guided Tour". 2005. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  10. ^ "Events". United Veterans Council of Santa Clara County. Retrieved 2011-06-01. 
  11. ^ "New England Civil War Museum". 4 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  12. ^ Hybrid satellite image/street map of Stephenson GAR Memorial in Washington, D.C., from WikiMapia
  13. ^ "Stephenson Grand Army of the Republic Memorial". 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  14. ^ "Stephenson Grand Army of the Republic Memorial". Smithsonian American Art Museum, Art Inventories Catalog. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  15. ^ "Union Ridge Cemetery". Find A Grave. 5 July 2010. Retrieved 2011-06-01. 
  16. ^ "The People’s Palace: The Story of the Chicago Cultural Center". 1999. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  17. ^ Kenneth Lowe (27 May 2011). "Wet conditions fail to stop Greenwood Cemetery ceremony". Herald & Review ( Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  18. ^ "Civil War Monument, Minier, IL". 28 July 2008. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  19. ^ "National Headquarters GAR Museum". Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  20. ^ "Illinois State Capitol-A Walking Tour". Illinois Secretary of State. Mary 2001. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  21. ^ "GAR Cemetery". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  22. ^ "A Brief History of the Memorial Opera House". Valparaiso Memorial Opera House. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  23. ^ "The Capitol Today-Third Floor". Iowa Legislature. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  24. ^ "Iowa Profile". State of Iowa. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  25. ^ "Montgomery County: Red Oak". 30 November 2007. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  26. ^ "Henry County-Mt. Pleasant". 30 May 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  27. ^ "Dallas County-Redfield". 25 May 2008. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  28. ^ "Black Hawk County Memorial Hall". June 23, 2004. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  29. ^ "Black Hawk County Soldiers Memorial Hall". National Park Service. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  30. ^ "Baxter Springs City Cemetery Soldiers' Lot". 6 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  31. ^ "Chalmette National Cemetery". Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  32. ^ "Our Fathers Saved Sundial". Monument City Blog. June 16, 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  33. ^ Jenny Nolan (January 28, 1997). "The Grand Army of the Republic". Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  34. ^ Molly Miron (31 May 2011). "Service of remembrance held at Greenwood Cemetery". Bemidji Pioneer ( Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  35. ^ "The Grand Meadow GAR Hall". Mower County Historical Society. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  36. ^ "Forest Lawn Walking Tour". Forest Lawn Cemetery Association. March 1999. Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  37. ^ a b c d e f "New Jersey Civil War Monuments". Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War-New Jersey. 23 June 2010. Retrieved 2011-06-01. 
  38. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form-Citizens Hall". National Park Service. 9 December 1999. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  39. ^ "Grand Army Plaza". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  40. ^ "War Memorial Tour of Columbia". Columbia University. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  41. ^ "'81 Endows University Flagstaff, to Mark Fortieth Anniversary". Columbia Alumni News, Vol. XII, No. 33, p.538. June–July 1921. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  42. ^ "History of Mount Olivet Cemetery". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  43. ^ "Grand Army of the Republic Sundial Lest We Forget". State of Ohio. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  44. ^ "Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery". January 1, 2005. Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  45. ^ "Espy Post Collection". Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall. 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  46. ^ Jan Ackerman (13 August 2001). "Soldiers & Sailors hall winning war on neglect". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ( Retrieved 2011-06-01. 
  47. ^ "GAR Memorial Junior Senior High School". Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  48. ^ "Vermont Named State Highways and Bridges". Vermont Board of Libraries. April 28, 2008. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  49. ^ "History". Rutland Free Library. 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  50. ^ "GAR Cemetery Park, Seattle, Washington". The Friends of the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery Park. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  51. ^ "Capitol Exterior". Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  52. ^ "Steinbeck-East of Eden". Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  53. ^ The Sound snd the Fury-Glossary. University of Mississippi Press. 1996. p. 54. ISBN 0-87805-936-9. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  54. ^ George M. Cohan (1906). "You're a Grand Old Flag (Annotated Music)". New York, NY: F. A. Mills. Archived from the original on 31 May 2005. Retrieved 2011-03-17. 
  55. ^ "He Is There!". Song of America. Retrieved 2011-03-17. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Grand Army of the Republic — Grand Grand (gr[a^]nd), a. [Compar. {Grander} (gr[a^]nd [ e]r); superl. {Grandest}.] [OE. grant, grount, OF. grant, F. grand, fr. L. grandis; perh. akin to gravis heavy, E. grave, a. Cf. {Grandee}.] 1. Of large size or extent; great; extensive;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Grand Army of the Republic — ☆ Grand Army of the Republic n. an association of Union veterans of the Civil War, formed in 1866: the last member died in 1956 …   English World dictionary

  • Grand Army of the Republic — an organization, founded in 1866, composed of men who served in the U.S. Army and Navy during the Civil War: its last member died in 1956. Abbr.: G.A.R. * * * Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of men who served in the Union Army or Navy …   Useful english dictionary

  • Grand Army of the Republic — Grand′ Ar′my of the Repub′lic n. amh. an organization, founded in 1866, composed of men who served in the Union forces during the Civil War Abbr. : GAR, G.A.R …   From formal English to slang

  • Grand Army of the Republic — an organization, founded in 1866, composed of men who served in the U.S. Army and Navy during the Civil War: its last member died in 1956. Abbr.: G.A.R. * * * ▪ American veteran organization       patriotic organization of American Civil War… …   Universalium

  • Grand Army of the Republic Hall — Grand Army of the Republic Hall, or variants thereof, may refer to:Florida*Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall (St. Cloud, Florida)Idaho* Grand Army of the Republic Hall (Boise, Idaho)Illinois*Grand Army of the Republic Hall (Aurora,… …   Wikipedia

  • Grand Army of the Republic Hall — bezeichnet mehrere gleichnamige, im NRHP gelistete, Objekte: Grand Army of the Republic Hall (Massachusetts), ID Nr. 97000438 Grand Army of the Republic Hall (Minnesota), ID Nr. 75000995 Grand Army of the Republic Hall (Pennsylvania), ID Nr.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Grand Army of the Republic Memorial — bezeichnet mehrere gleichnamige, im NRHP gelistete, Objekte: Grand Army of the Republic Memorial (Benton County, Arkansas), ID Nr. 96000506 Grand Army of the Republic Memorial (White County, Arkansas), ID Nr. 96000502 Diese Seite ist eine …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall — bezeichnet mehrere gleichnamige, im NRHP gelistete, Objekte: Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall (Florida), ID Nr. 97000097 Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall (Illinois), ID Nr. 76000723 Diese Seite ist eine …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Grand Army of the Republic Hall (Lynn, Massachusetts) — Infobox nrhp name =Grand Army of the Republic Hall ( Grand Army of the Republic Museum ) Lynn, Massachusetts nrhp type = |thumb caption = location= 58 Andrew Street Lynn, Massachusetts area = built =1885 added =May 7, 1979 governing body = Local… …   Wikipedia