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Strong, a Mussul Unsquit village

A Legacy of Woods and Waters

Grand Army of the Republic

Text By: Strong School 7th and 8th Graders, 2011-2012

G.A.R. Post 134
G.A.R. Post 134

Item Contributed by
Strong Historical Society

Did you ever wonder what G.A.R. stands for? First of all, it stands for the Grand Army of the Republic. The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization made up of Civil War veterans from the Union Army. This group had meetings for the members and picnics that included their families. The meetings were sometimes about voting rights for black veterans. During the picnics they also talked about life and the war.

The Grand Army of the Republic quickly became the preeminent veteran's organization formed at the close of the Civil War. Membership reached its peak in 1890, when over 400,000 members were reported. By then the G.A.R. had well over seven thousand posts, ranging in size from fewer than two dozen members in small towns, to more than one thousand in some cities. Almost every veteran was enrolled, including five American presidents: McKinley, Harrison, Grant, Hayes, and Garfield.

To be in the G.A.R. you had to wear a uniform. The uniforms were double-breasted dark blue coats. The coats had bronze buttons and a bronze star badge hung from a small chiffon flag. The star means a soldier and a sailor clasping hands in front of a figure of Liberty. Members of the G.A.R. wore these uniforms so they could easily be recognized. This led to members being sarcastically termed “bronze buttons heroes.” Although inside the Grand Army of the Republic they referred to each other as “Comrade.”

The G.A.R. consisted of three things: fraternity, charity, and loyalty. Fraternity was based on regular scheduled local meetings. The most popular event in the G.A.R. was the “Campfire.” This was when a group of veterans sat around a table or out in the hall and sang old war songs, talked about war experiences, and swapped accounts of their deeds. This attracted thousands of veterans to join the group. Cities in 22 states from Maine to Oregon hosted the veterans. Many members who wished to relive their war years found quarters in their tents. Also the railroads offered scheduled special trains along with rare discounted rates.

G.A.R. Picnic
G.A.R. Picnic

Item Contributed by
Strong Historical Society

The second objective was charity. The veterans in the G.A.R. set up fundraisers for needy veterans, orphans, and widows. The money and funds were used for medical, burial, and housing expenses. Along with purchases for food and household goods, loans were given to help out the needy; sometimes they even found work for the needy veterans. Because of what the G.A.R. helped do with charity, by 1890 soldiers’ homes were established in 16 states, and orphanages in 17 states.

The third and final ideal is loyalty. The organization spent a lot of time setting up funds for monuments, memorials, busts and equestrian statues of Union soldier heroes, granite shafts, urns, tablets, and mounted cannon. Field pieces and cannons were placed among towns, courthouses, and parks. The members of the G.A.R. also gave battle flags, documents, and mementos to the local museums.

Edmund B. Clayton was from the town of Farmington. He enlisted in the United States Army at the age of 28. He served in Company L of the First Cavalry. Edmund was wounded on August 20, 1862. He was then captured on June 24,1864, at St. Mary’s Church in Virginia. He died on October 6, 1864, in Andersonville Prison of scorbutus. He is buried at the Andersonville National Cemetery. The Strong Grand Army of the Republic Post was named after him.