Thursday, January 24, 2008
GAR Military Records
The Grand Army of the Republic is a military organization that was organized by veterans on the Union side of the Civil War in 1866. This group was located in almost ever town in Southeast Michigan of any size. This group is similar to a VFW hall that we would have in modern times.
The records by this organization are a little hit and miss. Many of the records for the individual groups were destroyed for a variety of reasons over the years, but some have been kept. Applications for this organization were often as detailed as those used for pension records. Another interesting outcome was the publication of the group magazine called "The National Tribune". Here the soldiers would write detailed stories about their experience in the war. These can be very interesting and offer flavor to your ancestors past if they participated in the same Regiments in the war.
The GAR held annual meetings on a national, state and local level. In the city of Detroit and Toledo held one of the national meetings. At the time this was a pretty major event and would bring thousands of people from all across the country to your city. There would be marching bands, speeches and a variety of other activities. In most cases the President of the United States would be in attendance at this event.
The city of Jacokson held the State convention on several occasions. This was well attended by people all over the state of Michigan. You will find pictures and many post cards of downtown Jackson decorated for this event.
On a more local level the individual regiments will have reunions. I have seen documents for reunions in Adrian, Jackson, Ann Arbor, Howell, and Detroit.
All of these gatherings would produce items for the soldiers. Many medals, ribbons, water canteens, cups, books and pins were produced as keep sakes. Pictures were also taken in abundance and many pictures can be found with males wearing medals. If you have old pictures this is a excellent clue to participation in the Civil War.
Similar to today's Women's Auxiliary for the VFW the GAR had a Women's Auxiliary. Records were also kept for applications for this group as well. Information and clues exist in their records but many have experience the same fate as the men's.
A good place to start your search is to determine if your person participated in the Civil War. Then check out the Michigan Historical Society website. They have many sources on the GAR.
Another link to check out is manuscript collection at the Library of Congress. On their website they have a listing of all the GAR posts in Southeastern Michigan. They are intermixed with the rest of Michigan, but this will help find if there was a local post in your area. When I looked, most cities large and small had a GAR post.
Another current group that grew out of this group is Sons of Union Veterans and Daughters of Union Veterans. These were organized as the veterans began to pass on and kept their children involved in the group. There are some of these groups spread across Southeast Michigan and meet on a monthly basis.
Good luck on your GAR research.