Inventory

Morton Post No. 1, Dept. of Indiana
        Grand Army of the Republic

Dates:  1873-1944
Accession Number:  790723C
Donor:  Vigo County Historical Society
Description: Four folders in a flat storage box
                           

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, 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.

History of Morton Post, No. 1

According to the History of the Grand Army of the Republic (SpC 369.151 B),  Morton Post No. 1, Terre Haute, organized with fifty-six charter members, May 11, 1879 as Post 51, Department of Illinois.  Captain John B. Hager, a prominent citizen and business man, was chosen as Post Commander, and in sixty days, the Post was recruited to 300 members. The earliest adjutant's report for the Morton Post dates from 1880 and lists over 300 members.  The post was named in honor of Oliver P. Morton, Governor of Indiana at the outbreak of the Civil War.

According to the records of the Morton Woman's Relief Corps, by 1940, there were only three surviving members of Morton Post No. 1.  "Comrade Chapelle" died on December 20, 1940 and "Comrade McKinney" died on July 18, 1941.  James Hutchinson, the last surviving member, is mentioned several times in the 1943-1948 minute book of the Morton Woman's Relief Corp.  Upon Hutchinson's death on July 10, 1944, Morton Post No. 1 automatically disbanded.

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. 

Content and Scope of Collection

This collection consists of items from Morton Post No.1, Department of Indiana, Grand Army of the Republic.  These items include two "descriptive books" of the post's membership; one booklet of general orders from the national headquarters of the GAR and one booklet of general orders from the Department of Indiana, GAR; and a journal of proceedings from an annual convention of the Department of Indiana, GAR.

The first book is labeled "Descriptive Book No. 1" and is in fair condition.  It is over 80 pages in length, lists 728 members of the post and presents the following categories of information for each individual:   name; age; birthplace, residence, and occupation at time of muster into the GAR;  date, rank, company and regiment on entry into and discharge from service; length of service; cause of discharge; date of muster into the GAR; date of departure from the GAR; nature of wartime wounds, when they were received and in what battle; and final remarks.  The final remarks column was usually reserved to record that members had died or had transferred to another GAR post.

The second book is labeled "Descriptive Book No. 2" and is dated January 1, 1899.  The book is in very poor and brittle condition.  It appears that the front pages of the book are missing and it appears that the numbering begins in the 400s. .  On the page following the last enumerated member (928),  there are two other members listed.  One of the individuals, James Hutchi[n]son was almost certainly the last survivor of the post when he died in February, 1944.  (See the inventory folder of Morton Post, No. 1, Acc. #20011030, Inventory folder for Mr. Hutchinson's obituary.)

 For related materials, see the Morton Post No. 1 Collection (Acc. No. 20011030) and the Memorial Hall Association Collection (Acc. No. 830824C).
 

Flat Storage Box

Folder 1

Descriptive Book No. 1

May 3, 1879

Folder 2

Descriptive Book No. 2

Jan. 1, 1899

Folder 3

General Orders No. 2, Series of 1939-1940:  Springfield, IL (National Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic)

Nov. 10, 1939

 

General Orders No. 3:  Indianapolis, IN (Headquarters, Department of Indiana)

July 3, 1902

Folder 4

Journal of Twenty-First Annual Session of the Department of Indiana,  Grand Army of the Republic. Volume XVII  (Indianapolis, IN)

May 16 and 17, 1900

 

Journal of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Session of the Department of Indiana, Grand Army of the Republic held at Winona Lake. Volume XXI

June 15 and 16, 1904