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Fraternity, Charity, Loyalty: Remembering the Grand Army of the Republic

May 26, 2016 Think THF

THF202914
Detroit's Bagley Memorial Fountain stands amidst a banner and festive decorations in its original location at Woodward Avenue and Fort Street. This photograph may have been taken during a Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Memorial Day celebration. A society for Union Civil War veterans, the G.A.R. began observing the holiday - originally called Decoration Day - in 1868. THF 202914

When Civil War veterans returned home after the conflict they established their own fraternal organizations, helping one another remember and heal from their shared experiences. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) in Decatur, Illinois. The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization made up of Civil War veterans who fought and served for the Union. 

Veteran Robert Burns Beath, writing in 1888 of the returning home of veterans said, “They were soon to part, each in his own way to fight the battle of life, to form new ties, new friendships, but never could they forget the sacred bond of comradeship welded in the fire of battle, that in after years, should be their stimulus to take upon themselves the work confided to the people by President Lincoln ‘to bind up the Nation’s wounds,’ ‘to care for him who shall have borne battle, and for his widow and his orphan.”

This unique “bond of comradeship” would be the catalyst for veterans to join together in influencing a nation still reeling from the aftermath of war. Under the watch-words “Fraternity, Loyalty, and Charity” the G.A.R. set out to serve their brothers in arms as well as loved ones left behind by the fallen through charitable initiatives.

Steve LaBarre is the head of adult services and reference for a public library. He is a historian, researcher, and author of Mid-19th Century United States History and the American Civil War.  Becky Young LaBarre is Assistant Director at Glessner House Museum (1887) in Chicago’s Prairie Avenue Historic District. They reside in the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.

Did you know?
The GAR helped establish May 30 as Memorial Day—or Decoration Day as it was then known—asking members to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades with flowers on May 30, 1868.

Confederate veterans who fought for the South formed their own organization, called the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), in 1889.

Civil War Remembrance

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