Friday, November 27, 2009

Grand Army of the Republic

The Grand Army of The Republic was the largest organization of Union Veterans in America. It was founded by Benjamin F. Stephenson in Decatur, Illinois, on April 6, 1866. The GAR was a fraternal group for men who were honorably discharged from the Union Army and Navy. Local Posts were established throughout the country and named in honor of a deceased Union hero. Membership grew through the years and the GAR became an increasingly powerful political lobby that worked tirelessly for pensions and other veterans’ issues. The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is the official successor to the GAR.

Memorial Day is the most visible reminder of the GAR today. Originally known as Decoration Day, it began in 1868 when GAR Commander-In-Chief John A. Logan issued General Orders No. 11, urging all posts to spend May 30 honoring their fallen comrades.

The official GAR newspaper was the National Tribune. Published weekly, each issue featured reminiscences from veterans. These articles are an invaluable source for historians about many important battles and campaigns. The recollections also illustrate the routine, and even humorous episodes associated with army life. Articles from the National Tribune, along with articles about the GAR from local newspapers, will be reprinted on this blog in memory of the brave men who preserved the Union from 1861-1865.

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