What is the GAR?

By: Sandi Gorin

A couple of weeks ago, I made a post about a big parade in Glasgow
involving the GAR and it's possible that some of you don't know what this
organization was: Here is a blurb from wikipedia:

"The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization composed
of veterans of the Union
Army who had served in the American Civil War. The successor organization
is the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). Founded by Benjamin
F. Stephenson on April 6, 1866 in Decatur, Illinois, the organization was
based partly on the traditions of Freemasonry, and partly on military
tradition, being divided into "Departments" at the state level and "Posts"
at the community level; military-style uniforms were worn by its members.
It reached its largest size in 1890, with 490,000 members. There were posts
in every state in the U.S., and several posts overseas.
The organization wielded considerable political clout nationwide; between
1868 and 1908, no Republican was nominated to the presidency without a GAR
endorsement. The GAR is among the first organized interest groups in
American politics.

The GAR was active in pension legislation, establishing retirement homes
for soldiers, and many other areas which concerned Union veterans. Their
influence led to the creation of the Old Soldiers' Homes of the late 19th
century which evolved into the current United States Department of Veterans

In 1868, General Order #11 of the GAR called for May 30 to be designated as
a day of memorial for Union veterans; originally called "Decoration Day,"
this later evolved into the U.S. national Memorial Day holiday.

In the 19th century, there was some controversy over the fact that the
membership badge of the GAR closely resembled the Army's version of the
Medal of Honor, causing confusion and animosity among veterans. The issue
was resolved with a re-design of the latter in 1896.

The organization held an annual "National Encampment" every year from 1866
to 1949; the last member, Albert Woolson, died at the age of 109 in 1956.

The GAR also generated several auxiliary organizations (National Woman's
Relief Corps[1], Ladies of the GAR[2]) some of which are still extant. A
comparable organization for Confederate veterans was the United Confederate
Veterans (q.v.).

There is a GAR cemetery on Seattle, Washington's Capitol Hill, just north
of Lake View Cemetery. Established in 1895, it was turned over to the Parks
Department in 1922. [3]

U.S. Highway 6 is known as the Grand Army of the Republic highway its
entire length.[4]

... its records went to the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., and its
badges, flags, and official seal to the Smithsonian Institution.

There were/are many other organizations which hopefully I will cover in one
of my KYRESEARCH tips in the near future.


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