Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Context files: Grand Army of the Republic

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Civil War Union veteran's organization, is widely known as a public and political and fraternal force in the late 19th century -- and now as a genealogical resource where its records have survived. What I learned from Robert C. Nesbit's History of Wisconsin, volume 3, Urbanization and Industrialization, 1873-1893 is that the group was almost moribund prior to its 1880 "grand national encampment" in Milwaukee. After that it became a political power as its members moved into their peak years of numbers and political efficacy. Even so, at its peak, it recruited no more than one fifth of the available veterans.

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