Using Grand Army of the Republic Records for Civil War Research

Numerous Individuals have an ancestor who fought for the Union in the course of the Civil Battle. Analysis on these males usually focuses on official data, such has pensions and compiled navy service data. However the analysis shouldn’t cease there. The data of the Grand Military of the Republic ought to be a part of your Civil Battle analysis.

What Was the Grand Military of the Republic?

Grand Army of the Republic insignia, ribbon with medalThe Grand Military of the Republic (GAR) was a company for honorably discharged Union veterans based in 1866 by B.F. Stephenson and William J. Rutledge, each veterans of the 14th Illinois Infantry. It will definitely grew to become the most important group for Union veterans and was chargeable for liberalizing navy pension legal guidelines and popularization of Memorial Day (then referred to as Ornament Day). At its peak in 1890, the GAR had greater than 400,000 members throughout the US.

The GAR was distinctive in two methods. First, the GAR was open to all honorably discharged Union veterans, no matter their rank or size of service. Second, the GAR was open to Black veterans. This was in a time interval when most organizations both denied membership to Blacks outright or had, at greatest, a “parallel” affiliated group.

As a nationwide group, the GAR targeted on lobbying for making pension necessities much less restrictive. It additionally targeted on the “correct burial” of all veterans. It isn’t unusual to discover a GAR part in bigger cemeteries. Whereas these sections had been open to all veterans, the native GAR posts would additionally enable indigent veterans to be buried in these sections.

How the GAR Was Organized

To know the data that the GAR created, you first want to grasp how the GAR was organized.

The highest degree was the Division. A division was roughly equal to a state, though a few of the southern and western states mixed to make a division. (For instance, Colorado and Wyoming mixed into one Division.) Departments often had an annual encampment—a gathering of the posts in that division. These had been multi-day occasions, full of applications, speeches, and pageantry.

Posts had been the native models. This was the extent that the majority members participated in. Posts had common conferences (often month-to-month or bi-weekly) and supplied assist to their members. Belonging to the GAR gave a veteran entry to networking, camaraderie, and assist. This assist took the type of being with others who had been by means of the identical experiences within the warfare, in addition to sensible issues of corresponding to navigating the pension course of and procure companies.

Native posts had each a reputation and a quantity, corresponding to Ben Butterfield Put up 77, Lancaster, Ohio. The quantity was sequential in that division (although you do typically discover a quantity used twice). The publish can be named both for a neighborhood soldier (usually one who died within the warfare) or for an admired chief. (For instance, many GAR posts that had completely Black members carried the identify of Col. Robert Gould Shaw of the 54th Massachusetts.) The Library of Congress has a list of the posts in every division.

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Grand Military of the Republic Information

Okay, let’s speak in regards to the data.

Division data are usually extra administrative, with fewer particulars of particular person GAR members. There’s one notable exception: the annual encampment proceedings. These booklets give issues like a synopsis of the earlier 12 months (actions, donations to veterans houses, posts created and disbanded) and who the delegates to the encampment had been. However for genealogists, the most effective half is the “Honor Roll.” It lists the entire deaths that the people posts reported within the earlier 12 months. They nearly all the time embrace the veteran’s identify, date of loss of life, and regiment.

Department of Minnesota, Grand Army of the Republic, Honor Roll 1895
“Roll of the Lifeless, 1894,” Dept. of Minnesota Grand Military of the Republic, fifteenth Annual Encampment, 1895. Picture courtesy Web Archive.

It’s in the publish data the place household historians will discover probably the most particulars about their GAR ancestor. Posts maintained rosters and had assembly minutes. The rosters particulars when the person joined, posts he transferred from or to, his navy service, and so forth.

Muster Roll, Admiral Foot Post 17, Grand Army of the Republic, Dept. of Connecticut.
Admiral Foote Put up, No. 17, Division of Connecticut, Grand Military of the Republic, New Haven, 1900. Picture courtesy The Family tree Heart.

The assembly minutes reveal not solely the enterprise dealings of the publish (like paying hire for the assembly room or making a donation to a charity), but in addition a few of the assist to particular person members. You’ll find point out of members who’ve taken ailing, moved to a veterans house, or who want some monetary support.

Some posts additionally maintained “private sketch books.” These books include biographical info and particulars in regards to the man’s service.

Tips on how to Discover the Information of the Grand Military of the Republic

Discovering GAR data might be tough, however it’s well worth the effort. As a result of this was a non-public group, there was no requirement that the data be transferred to any archive or library when the group disbanded. When a publish disbanded, the final remaining publish commander might need despatched the data to a library or archive, forwarded to the Division, or piled them on the trash heap. Division data had been typically despatched to an archive or historic society (both state or within the county the place the Division’s final headquarters had been.)

Whereas it’s tougher to seek out the unique data, corresponding to publish assembly minutes and private sketch books, one thing that’s simpler to seek out are the printed supplies. These can be issues just like the proceedings of the annual encampments and printed publish rosters. Many state historic societies and state libraries have copies of those, particularly the annual encampment proceedings.

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil Battle (the successor group to the GAR) runs the GAR Information Undertaking, the place they doc the place completely different GAR data are situated. It’s an excellent place to start out your search.

Different locations to look embrace the catalogs of state libraries, archives, and historic societies. Additionally verify with libraries and historic and genealogical societies within the county the place the publish was situated.

You may also discover some GAR supplies digitized and on-line. FamilySearch has a number of GAR collections of their Historic Information Assortment. Additionally they have quite a few GAR titles of their catalog. (Word: the gadgets within the catalog might or might not be digitized.) Ancestry additionally has a handful of GAR collections. Additionally verify on Google Books, Web Archive, and DPLA (the Digital Public Library of America).

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