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Strong, a Mussul Unsquit village

A Legacy of Woods and Waters

Groups, Clubs & Organizations

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The Grand Army of the Republic

G.A.R. picnic, Strong, ca. 1895
G.A.R. picnic, Strong, ca. 1895
Members of Post 134 of the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Maine, held annual field days and occasional picnics for members' families. Here, at the home of Civil War veteran Isaiah Welch, the group attending poses for a photograph. Strong Historical Society

After the Civil War, Union veterans organized and chartered the first Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in Decatur, Illinois, in 1866. Within a year, 39 posts had been chartered, and interest spread rapidly to adjoining states. Ten states and the District of Columbia were represented at the first national encampment held at Indianapolis on November 20, 1866.

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) quickly became the best-known veterans' organization, and by 1890, over 400,000 members were registered. Almost every prominent veteran was enrolled, including Presidents Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison, and McKinley.

Veterans provided a local relief fund for needy veterans, widows, and orphans. Money could be used for medical, burial and housing expenses, and for food and household necessities. Members might help another veteran get a job or secure a loan. The GAR helped establish soldiers' homes in sixteen states and orphanages in seven states by 1890. The soldiers' homes were later transferred to the federal government.

Veterans Memorial, Strong, ca. 1932
Veterans Memorial, Strong, ca. 1932
Strong Historical Society

The GAR also had a number of auxiliaries: the Woman's Relief Corps (organized on a national basis in 1883); the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic (1896); and the Sons Of Union Veterans of the Civil War (1881). These three organizations along with the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, and the Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War still carry on the work begun by the GAR in establishing and improving veterans facilities.

The organization spent much of its time soliciting funds for monuments and memorials, busts and equestrian statues of Union soldiers and heroes, granite shafts, tablets, urns, and mounted cannon. The GAR also encouraged the preservation of Civil War sites, relics, and historic documents.

Cannons and field-pieces were placed in many towns or courthouse squares and parks. The members also gave battle-stained flags, mementos, and documents to local museums.
Members of all GAR posts first decorated veterans' graves with flowers on May 30, 1868. This Decoration Day continues as a national tradition but became renamed Memorial Day.

In its early days, the GAR limited its activities merely to fraternal activities. Members soon began discussing politics, and their growing interest in pensions signaled the beginning of open GAR participation in national politics.