Grand Army of the Republic


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Grand Army of the Republic

(GAR), organization established by Civil War veterans of the Union army and navy. Principal figures in the founding of the GAR were John A. LoganLogan, John Alexander,
1826–86, American politician, Union general in the Civil War, b. Murphysboro, Ill. He fought in the Mexican War and practiced law in Illinois. A Democrat who supported Stephen A.
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 and Richard J. Oglesby. The first post was formed (Apr. 6, 1866) at Decatur, Ill., and at the first national encampment, held at Indianapolis, Ind., on Nov. 20, 1866, 10 states and the District of Columbia were represented. Gen. Stephen A. Hurlbut, the first commander in chief, was succeeded by Logan, who was followed in office by Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside. They were the most prominent military men to head the GAR. By 1890, when the GAR reached its peak, more than 400,000 members were reported. The members sought to strengthen the bonds of comradeship, to preserve the memory of their fallen comrades (they secured the general adoption of Memorial DayMemorial Day,
holiday in the United States observed in late May. Previously designated Decoration Day, it was inaugurated in 1868 by Gen. John A. Logan for the purpose of decorating the graves of Civil War veterans and has since become a day on which all war dead are commemorated.
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 to achieve this purpose), to give aid to soldiers' widows and orphans and to handicapped veterans, and, most of all, to fight for pension increases and other benefits. Although the organization was nonpolitical, GAR members were overwhelmingly Republican and formed a reliable bloc of that party's strength in the years up to 1900. Soldier preference in federal appointments became the rule, and pension legislation was usually enacted by the Republicans with their support in mind. The National Tribune, founded (1877) by George E. Lemon, a powerful pensions attorney of Washington, D.C., kept GAR members posted on pension matters. The organization scored a great victory in 1879 with the passage of the Arrears of Pension Act, which led many more veterans to apply for pensions. Theoretically, only those who suffered disabilities in service were entitled to pensions, but it became the practice for lenient Congressmen to introduce private pension bills. These were almost always granted until Grover Cleveland, the first President to examine the bills critically, found many of them to be fraudulent. The fact that Cleveland was a Democrat further confirmed GAR members in their staunch Republicanism. Auxiliary societies associated with the GAR were the Sons of Veterans (1881), the Women's Relief Corps (1883), and the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic (1886). A separate veterans organization, the United Confederate Veterans, was organized in 1889, but its membership (less than 50,000 at its peak) never approached that of the GAR. With the coming of the 20th cent. the GAR declined rapidly in numbers and influence. The 83d and last encampment was also held at Indianapolis, on Aug. 28–31, 1949, with 6 of the 16 surviving members in attendance. The last member of the GAR died in 1956.

Bibliography

See M. R. Dearing, Veterans in Politics: The Story of the G.A.R. (1952).

References in periodicals archive ?
In Glorious Contentment: The Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1900, Stuart McConnell has written the first social history of the Civil War era to explore the war's effects on its participant's later lives.
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War were formed in 1881 to carry on the traditions and memory of the Grand Army of the Republic, formed as a fraternal organization in 1866, a year after the war ended.
John Logan, commanding officer of the Grand Army of the Republic, a national organization of Union veterans.
Logan, leader of the Grand Army of the Republic, had a similar idea, and by 1868 they joined Welles' group in choosing May 30 as Decoration Day.
The Worcester Grand Army of the Republic Post is named after Col.
Twining of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War National Graves Registration Committee, said besides the cannons, the Evergreen Cemetery site, called the Grand Army of the Republic plot, is the burial site of at least 374 Civil War soldiers, including a few dozen from Leominster.
The Grand Army of the Republic was known for being in parades and out in public and had their own special uniforms they wore," he said.
Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, gave his order in 1868, every Worcester County community had sent men to war and, on average, a third of the soldiers were killed or disabled.
Roe documented the enormous effort by communities in Massachusetts after the Civil War to honor veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Ward Corps #11, Grand Army of the Republic, Worcester, and a Past President of the Department of Massachusetts of the Relief Corps.
A rededication of the Grand Army of the Republic Soldier's Monument will simulate the original ceremony in 1890.