Inventory
 

GAR Baird Post No. 592, Dept. of Indiana
Dates: 1893-1896
Accession Number: 20020114B
Donor: Vigo County Historical Society
Description: One folder in a document case
 

Donor Information: These records were donated by the Vigo County Historical Society which received the materials from Mr. Damon, 201 East Miller in Rosedale, Indiana. The records were delivered along with material from other organizations that used the former Memorial Hall (219 Ohio Street in Terre Haute) as a meeting place.

History of the Grand Army of the Republic

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a national organization of Union Army veterans from the American Civil War (1861-1865). The GAR was founded in April, 1866 in Decatur, Illinois by Dr. Benjamin Franklin Stephenson, a surgeon in the Union Army. The first national encampment of the GAR convened in Indianapolis in November, 1866.

Chapter I, Article IV of the GAR's Rules and Regulations stipulated that "soldiers and sailors of the United States Army, Navy or Marine Corps, who served between April 12th, 1861, and April 9th, 1865, in the war for the suppression of the Rebellion, and those having been honorably discharged therefrom after such service, and of such State regiments as were called into active service and subject to the orders of the U.S. General Officers, between the dates mentioned, shall be eligible to membership in the Grand Army of the Republic. No person shall be eligible to membership who has at any time borne arms against the United States."

The GAR adopted the phrase "Fraternity, Charity, Loyalty" as their official motto and abbreviated the phrase to F.C.L. as a salutation in correspondence. The three qualities that comprised the motto were the guiding principles that the GAR members adhered to in the conduct of the organization and the causes that it advocated. First, as a sign of fraternity with fellow members, businessmen were encouraged to give first consideration to veterans when filling jobs in their business concerns. The GAR also advocated veteran preference in government employment. Second, the GAR operated as a charitable organization, taking up collections for members and their families in need and raising money for the operation of Soldier's Homes for convalescent and disabled veterans. Third, the GAR took on the responsibility of inculcating patriotic feeling in the nation by encouraging patriotic curricula in the schools. The GAR also recognized and honored the sacrifices of Union veterans in the Civil War by raising money for the construction of statues and monuments to notable citizens and rank-and-file soldiers and sailors. The most enduring contribution in the GAR's tradition of loyalty was their advocacy of Decoration Day/Memorial Day and Flag Day as occasions for patriotic remembrance.

The Grand Army of the Republic closely paralleled a military organization in its structure. The GAR's operations were carried out through a hierarchy of headquarters (national level), departments (state level) and posts (local level) which conducted business meetings using military rituals, terminology and discipline. The GAR held yearly National Encampments (conventions) at which its members elected a Commander-in-Chief for the coming year. As in wartime, the new Commander-in-Chief issued "General Orders" to the state-level Departments, utilizing the first General Order of his tenure to announce the location of the headquarters for the coming year and to appoint staff to represent the national organization around the country. In turn, Departments transmitted General Orders from the national headquarters to their member chapters at the local level and also issued their own general orders. Individual branches were known as Posts and named after individuals prominent in the Civil War.

By the late 1940s, the GAR membership was being rapidly reduced by death. In 1948, there were only 12 GAR posts left with a total of 28 members who agreed that, due to their advanced age, their 1949 encampment in Indianapolis would be their last official reunion. By the time of this 83rd encampment, the surviving membership had been reduced to sixteen members. Only 6 of the 16 surviving members, ranging in age from 99 to 108, were able to attend. Albert Woolson of Duluth, Minnesota, the last survivor of the GAR, died August 2, 1956 at the age of 109, and the organization was officially disbanded in October, 1956. (Final Journal of the Grand Army of the Republic. House Document No 114, 85th Congress. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1957)

Even though its rules limited membership to Union veterans, the GAR encouraged the formation of auxiliary organizations by their wives, sons, and daughters. Two of these organizations were the Sons of Veterans, U.S.A., and the Woman's Relief Corp. The GAR was also affiliated with other organizations of Civil War veterans, including the Union Veteran Legion and the Union Veteran Union.

John P. Baird and Baird Post No. 592

John Pierson Baird was born in Spencer County, Kentucky on January 5, 1830 and moved with his family to Vigo County in 1832. Following his 1852 graduation from the Indiana University Law School in Bloomington, Baird began practicing law in partnership with W. D. Griswold. Following Griswold's retirement in 1854, Baird partnered with Salmon Wright for three years and then with Edward E. Bassett. In 1859, Baird served one term in the Indiana State House of Representatives.

Baird was very active in the Civil War, receiving a commission in September, 1862, as lieutenant colonel of the 85th Indiana Volunteer Regiment. On March 5, 1863, his unit was captured by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Because he was an officer, Baird was interned at Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia for two months under harsh conditions. Upon his release, Baird was appointed commander of Fort Granger in Franklin, Tennessee. As commander, in June, 1863, it was his reluctant responsibility to execute two spies who were relatives by marriage of Robert E. Lee. Baird participated in several battles during the "March to the Sea" through Atlanta but poor health brought on his resignation in June, 1864.

Baird returned to Terre Haute and resumed his law practice in partnership with Charles Cruft. After ten years of intense work in building his law practice, Baird suffered a mental breakdown in 1875. In 1876, Baird admitted himself to the Indiana Hospital for the Insane in Indianapolis. He died there in 1881 and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Terre Haute.

History of John P. Baird Post No. 592

John Pierson Baird Post No. 592 was established on August 26, 1893 as the second Grand Army of the Republic post in Terre Haute. Though no explanation was given why the post was named after Colonel Baird, judging by the number of veterans who are listed in the Minutes as transferring their membership from Morton Post No. 1 to Baird Post No. 592, one would assume that a number of the individuals held Baird in high regard because of his Civil War service. They may have even served under his command.

At the second meeting of Baird Post No. 592 (Sept.2, 1893), the members elected Isaiah Corbin as their first Post Commander and decided to hold their meetings on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. While the Post continued to meet twice a month in the years to come, the day of the week on which they met changed constantly. It appears that the Baird Post may have met at two sites during the time that this Minute Book was compiled. According to the minutes in this collection, the Baird Post held its first formal organizational meeting in 1893 in "Tenant's Hall" but there is no record of such a place in the biennial Terre Haute City Directory. According to the 1894 and 1896-1897 City Directories, the Baird Post was located at a Hall on 681 1/2 Wabash Avenue. It is unclear whether Tenant's Hall was located at 681 1/2 Wabash Avenue. From 1897 to circa 1915, the Post met at the following locations as reported in the Terre Haute City Directory:

Year Location
   
1898 Hall, Savings Bank block
   
1901 413 1/2 Wabash Avenue
   
1901-1902 411 1/2 Wabash Avenue
   
1903 413 1/2 Wabash Avenue
   
1904-1906 411 1/2 Wabash Avenue
   
1907-ca. 1915 628 1/2 Wabash Avenue
   

 

In 1910, Terre Haute's two GAR chapters helped lead a fundraising campaign for the purchase and renovation of an abandoned bank building/secondhand store at 219 Ohio Street. The building was to be utilized as a meeting hall by the GAR, their women's auxiliaries, and other fraternal organizations. The building, officially renamed GAR Memorial Hall but more familiarly known as Memorial Hall, was first used by the Morton Post in 1911 and is first mentioned by the name Memorial Hall in the 1912-1913 Terre Haute City Directory. The Baird Post seems to have delayed moving to Memorial Hall because of a vague dispute with the Memorial Hall Association which had formed to oversee the building's use. The 1915-1916 Terre Haute City Directory is the first edition to note the Baird Post's relocation to Memorial Hall. The Baird Post remained at Memorial Hall until sometime in 1931. (For a more detailed account of the renovation of Memorial Hall see the Memorial Hall Association Collection and the Morton Post No. 1 Collection in Community Archives.)

By 1931, the Baird Post was defunct, either because of lack of interest, or because of belated transfers to the Morton Post, or because of attrition due to death. The latter cause is more likely. Posts automatically disbanded upon the death of the last "comrade" belonging to the Post in accordance with the GAR's regulations which provided that when a Post's last surviving member died, the Post automatically "died" with it. Their rules also limited membership to loyal Union veterans so the GAR could not revitalize by adding younger members. The best indication that the Baird Post was defunct due to the death of the last survivor is that an address for Baird Post had appeared in every City Directory from 1894 to 1931 but did not appear in the 1932 edition. In 1932, the Morton Post is the only entry under the heading "Grand Army of the Republic". (Terre Haute City Directory. 1932. p. 588)

Content and Scope of Collection

This collection consists of a book of minutes of the John Pierson Baird Post No. 592, Department of Indiana, Grand Army of the Republic. The founding officers of the post and the membership of three committees are listed on the fourth and fifth pages of the book. The minutes start on the seventh page. An attendance record and another list of committees and their members appear toward the end of the book. The pages are unnumbered.

Document Case  
     
  Folder 1 
 
 Minutes      
 
Aug. 26, 1893-
Dec. 4, 1896