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The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a large multi-faceted organization (fraternal lodge, charitable society, special interest lobby, patriotic group, and political club) founded in 1866 by Union Army Surgeon Benjamin Franklin Stephenson. The organization was originally envisioned as a brotherhood of veterans who were dedicated to helping other veterans.

The first GAR post was established at Decatur, Illinois in April 1866. Soon after a second post was organized in Springfield, Illinois, and others began to emerge throughout the northeastern states. By September 1866, following a mass meeting of Civil War veterans in Pittsburgh, the movement began to spread east with the establishment of GAR posts by ex-union soldiers.

Each post, which presided over the area of one city, town, county, etc., was set up similarly to a Union Army encampment. For example, every post had "sentries" at the door, to go to another post a "transfer" was needed, and members could be "court-martialed" as well as "dishonorably discharged." The post-commander would act as general officer, and report to the departmental commander (assistant-Adjutant General), who was in charge of all the posts in one state; he, in turn, would report to the national-commander (Adjutant General). Every post in America was to adopt the same rituals and constitution.

This military system lasted until 1869, when it was replaced by a fraternal order fashioned after the Masonic lodges. This form of organization, with its grading system and strict rules, did not appeal to the vast majority of veterans, and membership plummeted. This changed during the late 1870s, because of changes in the organizational structure and the demise of the grading system. As a result of these changes, the GAR's membership rose sharply in the 1880s.

The GAR was a powerful political organization. It was through the GAR, and the pension lobby, that many soldiers and their families received pensions. The Grand Army of the Republic also promoted patriotism through parades, national encampments, placement of war memorials, and the establishment of Memorial Day as a national holiday.

From the description of Grand Army of the Republic records, 1865-1949. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 80731030

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a large multi-faceted organization (fraternal lodge, charitable society, special interest lobby, patriotic group, and political club) founded in 1866 by Union Army Surgeon Benjamin Franklin Stephenson. The organization was originally envisioned as a brotherhood of veterans who were dedicated to helping other veterans.

The first post was established at Decatur, Illinois in April 1866. Soon after a second post was organized in Springfield, Illinois, and others began to emerge throughout the northeastern states. By September of 1866, following a mass meeting of Civil War veterans in Pittsburgh, the movement began to spread east with the establishment of GAR posts by ex-union soldiers.

Each post, which presided over the area of one city, town, county, etc. was set up similar to a Union Army encampment. Every post had "sentries" at the door, in order to go to another post you needed a "transfer;" members could be "court-martialed" as well as "dishonorably discharged." The post-commander would act as general officer, and would report to the departmental commander (assistant-adjutant general), who was in charge of all the posts in one state. He in turn would report to the national-commander (adjutant general). Every post in America was to adopt the same rituals and constitution.

This military system only lasted until 1869, at which time it was replaced by a fraternal order fashioned after the Masonic lodges. This form of organization, with its grading system and strict rules, did not appeal to the vast majority of veterans, and therefore, membership plummeted. This was to change during the late 1870's because of changes in the organizational structure and the demise of the grading system. As a result of these changes, the GAR's membership rose sharply in the 1880's.

The GAR was a powerful political organization with ties to the Republican Party. It was through the GAR, and the pension lobby, that many soldiers and their families received pensions. The Grand Army of the Republic also promoted patriotism through parades, national encampments, placement of war memorials, and the establishment of Memorial Day as a national holiday.

From the guide to the Grand Army of the Republic records, 1865-1949, (New York State Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Grand Army of the Republic records, 1865-1949 New York State Archives
referencedIn New York (State) Division of Archives and History. Report on New York State's archival problem, January 1963. American Periodical Series I
creatorOf New York (State). State Historian. Grand Army of the Republic records, 1865-1949. New York State Archives
referencedIn New York (State). Education Dept. Division of Archives and History. State Historian's teaching and research notes, 1890-1916, bulk 1890-1901, 1916. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Office of State History. Correspondence and subject files, 1895-1976. New York State Archives
referencedIn Spencer, Charles Worthen. Papers, ca.1916-1940. American Periodical Series I
creatorOf New York (State). State Historian. Unpublished annual report and typescripts of "Mexican War Papers" and State Historian's correspondence, 1846-1904 (bulk 1846-1850, 1897-1904). New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). State Historian. Appointment books, 1897-1907 (with gaps). New York State Archives
referencedIn Holden, James Austen. Papers, 1762-1913. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf New York (State). State Historian. Transcriptions of Civil War records, 1861-1897, bulk 1861-1865. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). State Historian. Memorial album of the second New York Veteran Cavalry, 1863-1909, bulk 1863-1865. New York State Archives
referencedIn Flick, Hugh M. Elkanah Watson research collection, [ca.1947]. American Periodical Series I
creatorOf New York (State). State Historian. Manuscript copy of Volume 25 of the New York Colonial Council Papers, 1675-1676. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). State Historian. Pamphlets and articles related to local history and historic sites, [ca. 1899-1976] New York State Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Flick, Hugh M. person
associatedWith Grand Army of the Republic. Dept. of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith Hastings, Hugh, 1856-1916. person
associatedWith Holden, James Austen. person
associatedWith New York (State) Division of Archives and History. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State) Division of Archives and History. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State). Education Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State). Education Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State). Education Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State). Education Dept. Division of Archives and History. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State) Office of State History. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State). Office of State History. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State). Office of State History. corporateBody
associatedWith Spencer, Charles Worthen. person
associatedWith University of the State of New York. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
New York (State)
United States
New York (State)
New York (State)
New York (State)
New York (State)
New York (State)
New York (State)
United States
New York (State)
United States
Subject
Public history
Military engineers
Archaeology
Military history
Veterans--New York (State)--Societies, etc
Historiography
History--Societies, etc
Historic preservation
Historic sites
Soldiers
Genealogy
Public historians
Historic buildings
Military history, Modern--19th century
Armed Forces
Artillery
Veterans--Societies, etc
Education
Cavalry
Occupation
Activity
researching
Collecting veterans' memoirs
Managing
Collecting military records
reporting
Researching history
Documenting war
Publicizing
Collecting
Documenting
Administering veterans' societies
Administering armed forces

Corporate Body

Active 1846

Active 1904

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