Following America’s War of the Rebellion (1861-1865), now known as The Civil War, victorious Union veterans from all arms of the service joined together to form the Grand Army of The Republic. In today’s terms it could be considered to be similar to the American Legion.
From 1866 until WW1, the G.A.R. was a major social, economic and political force in this country. At its peak in 1890, the organization claimed over 409,000 members. Local enclaves were termed “posts” and members were known as “Comrades.”
Even before the groups’ peak period of membership, however, time had begun to take its’ toll on the Grand Army’s temporal ranks. In an effort to carry on that group’s memory and works, some of their male offspring (sons) formed an organization known as the Sons of Veterans. Many of the G.A.R.’s “Comrades” did not appreciate this movement. As early as 1882, the G.A.R.’s commander-in-chief noted, “I am opposed to opening the doors of the Grand Army of The Republic to any person whatever, who was not himself among the defenders of the Union against the rebellion. No one, not even our sons, can appreciate the memories of camp and march, of bivouac and battle, as those who were participants therein; the scenes of the great struggle can never be to them what they are to us; and while purposes are akin to ours, let our own recruiting ranks be only those closed forever with the end of the war, and when the last veteran shall receive his final discharge from life’s army, let there close with him, except in its glorious record and bright memory, the last scene in the life of the Grand Army of the Republic.”1 In 1887 the group noted; “That we regret the action of the Sons of Veterans in some instances of calling their local organizations “posts” and appropriating to each other the fraternal name of “Comrade,” believing that these terms should remain exclusive features of the Grand Army of the Republic.”2 While the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War would ultimately emerge as a viable organization, from this discourse, it is obvious that the term” comrade” was one that G.A.R. members considered sacrosanct and jealously guarded.
In the latter vein, records of Snohomish’s Oliver Morton G.A.R. post pertaining to burials at the G.A.R. cemetery list several names in the “Comrade” category that, to date cannot be connected to the rebellion. Still, in light of the afore noted background for the term “Comrade,” these names have been included in the veteran category. Hopefully, at some future time additional information will come to light pertaining to these individuals’ connection to the American Civil War and the G.A.R.
1 History of the Sons of Union Veterans of The Civil War FILII VETERANORUM PART 2
Robert W. Wolz The Banner Winter 2004 page 10-11
Buried at Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery Snohomish
Karyn Zielasko Weingarden
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