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Grand Army of the Republic and Kindred Societies: A Guide to Resources in the General Collections of the Library of Congress

Bibliographical Essay

Primary Sources

The history of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) emanates from the numerous proceedings and reports they have issued. An understanding of the official publications of the GAR and its auxiliary organizations is essential for a thorough understanding of the organization. Of primary importance are the national journals of the GAR. The Proceedings of Annual Meetings of the National Encampments, Grand Army of the Republic (sometimes entitled Journal of Annual Encampment. . .; LC call number: E462.1.A17) were published annually at various cities, from 1877-1949. The GAR's state records are usually labeled with places of publication that varied from year to year. Information about auxiliary and affiliated Civil War organizations is located in the Journals of Proceedings of the Sons of Veterans, USA, for 1884-1899 (LC call number: E462.9.A12), for 1884-1899, the Journals of the National Conventions of the Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic (LC call number: E462.15.M3), for 1883 to 1900, as well as in scattered Journals for state departments and in the Proceedings of the National Conventions (LC call number: E462.17.N5) of the Ladies of the GAR for 1886-1888, 1893-1894, and 1896-1897.

Next in importance are the specialized magazines and newspapers, often published by the societies themselves as official organs, while others were published as private ventures. The most valuable example of the second type for the northern Civil War organizations is the National Tribune (Washington, D.C., 1877- ), the premier Union veterans' newspaper of the post-Civil War era. Also useful are the American Tribune (Indianapolis 1880-1906); the Grand Army Journal (Washington, DC); the Grand Army Record (Boston 1885-1901); the Grand Army Review , (New York, 1885- ); the Grand Army Sentinel (Nashville, Tenn. 1885-86); the Great Republic (Washington, D.C. 1866-68); the Soldier's Record (Madison, Wis., 1866-76); the Veteran (Columbus, Ohio 1881-83); and, the Soldier's Friend (New York, 1864-70). In "To Care For Him Who Has Borne the Battle": Research Guide to Civil War Material in the National Tribune (Jackson, KY: History Shop Press, 1995) Richard A. Sauers has indexed the voluminous literature of GAR articles and other Civil War-related material in the National Tribune from its inception in 1877 through December 1884. Future volumes will continue the guide through the 1940s.

For a commentary on veterans and their political importance in the period after the Civil War a number of collections in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress provide salient material for the study of veterans' political activity. Among these are George Brinton McClellan, (MSS, papers 1826-1885); and William T. Sherman, (MSS, papers 1820-1891). Also, available in the Manuscript Division are the papers of American presidents which include information concerning the pension lobby and the GAR. Notable are the papers of Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley.

Among pertinent primary sources are government documents. The debates in the Congressional Record frequently detail the political role of the GAR, especially during the controversy of 1887. House Report, no. 2683, 48th Cong., 2nd sess., (1885) documents the inter-relationships among the claims agents, the Grand Army, and pension legislation.

Secondary Literature

Robert B. Beath's History of the Grand Army of the Republic (New York: Bryan, Taylor & Company; Cincinnati: The Jones Brothers Publishing Co., 1888; LC call number: E462.1.A19 B26) was considered the standard resource because it was the only major history of the organization. The book derives its validity from the fact that Beath was an early member and subsequent commander-in-chief of the GAR. His book is extremely useful for its coverage of political activities, sketches of the first officials, and accounts concerning the founding of related Civil War organizations.

More recently, Mary Rulkottet Dearing's Veterans in Politics: The Story of the G. A. R. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1952; LC call number: E462.1.A19 D4), a revision of her Ph.D. dissertation, "Civil War Veterans in Politics' (written under the name Marie L. Rulkotter, University of Wisconsin, 1938), is especially noteworthy for its coverage, in the bibliographic essay, of several collections in the Manuscript Division containing information about veterans. Dearing's monograph surveys activities of the GAR between 1865 and 1900, and concentrates on the veterans as a political force and pressure group. Stuart McConnell's Glorious Contentment: The Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1900 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992; LC call number: E462.1.A7 M34 1992) analyzes the membership, rituals, and activities of the GAR in order to explore how Union Army veterans, most of whom were white and native born, remembered the Civil War and responded to late nineteenth-century social changes. Although limited to one geographical area, Fran H. Heck's The Civil War Veteran in Minnesota Life and Politics (Oxford, Ohio: The Mississippi Valley Press, 1941; F606.H4) offers comprehensive treatment of the social and political significance of the GAR at the state level. Additionally, Elmer Edward Noyes's, "A History of the Grand Army of the Republic in Ohio from 1866 to 1900" (Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 1945) bases his analysis of the functioning of the order as an organization upon unpublished official records and printed proceedings.

Specialized aspects of veterans' activities have received extensive treatment: the GAR's role during Reconstruction, for example, is treated in W. A. Russ's Jr., "Was There Danger of a Second Civil War During Reconstruction?" Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XXV, (June 1938, 39-58). A discussion of the impetus for veterans' drive for land grants appears in James B. Hedges', "The Colonization Work of the Northern Pacific Railroad," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XIII (December 1926, 311-342). The pension issue is explained in John W. Oliver's History of the Civil War Military Pensions 1861-1885 (Madison, Wis., 1917; LC call number: H31.W62 Vol. 4, No. 1) and in William H. Glasson's, Federal Military Pensions in the United States, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1918; UB373.G534). Additional studies of the relationships among the GAR, the Republican Party, and pension legislation appear in articles by Donald L. McMurry, "The Soldier Vote in Iowa in the Election of 1888," Iowa Journal of History and Politics, XVIII (July 1920; 335-356) and "The Political Significance of the Pension Question, 1885-1895," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XIII, (December 1926; 343-346). Wallace E. Davies explains the GAR's relations with President Grover Cleveland and gives special attention to the episode of the rebel flag order, in "Was Lucius Fairchild a Demagogue?", Wisconsin Magazine of History, (June 1948; 418-428) and examines "The Problem of Race Segregation in the Grand Army of the Republic" in the Journal of Southern History, XIII, (August 1947; 354-372) and also chronicles what gave rise to patriotic organizations (including the GAR) and their appeal for leadership in Patriotism on Parade: The Story of Veterans' and Hereditary Organizations in America, 1783-1900 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955; E172.7.D3).

Paul Joseph Woods's, "The G.A.R. and Civil Service" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois, 1941) is a helpful survey of the efforts for federal veterans' preference legislation at the national level. The standard account of soldiers' homes is Judith G. Cetina's, "A History of Veterans' Homes in the United States: 1811-1930" (Ph.D. dissertation, Case Western Reserve University, 1977). Larry M. Logue's, "Union Veterans and Their Government: The Effects of Public Policies on Private Lives," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 22 (1992; 411-434) assesses the social effects of pensions and soldiers' home.

Printed personal narratives, reminiscences, letters, and diaries of various military and political leaders cast light on specific points and events and give perspective to the veterans' movement. Among them are such works as: Mary Simmerson Logan's Reminiscences of a Soldier's Wife: An Autobiography (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1913; E661.L83); George Brinton McClellan's McClellans' Own Story: The War for the Union (New York: C. L. Webster & Company, 1887 [1886]; E467.1.M2 M12); and Mary Harriet Stephenson's Dr. B. F. Stephenson, (Springfield, Ill: The H. W. Rokker Printing House, 1894; LC call number: E462.1.A19 S8).