Monday, August 22, 2011

G. A. R. Parade, Minneapolis, Minnesota 1906

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was an organization composed of veterans of the Union Army who served in the American Civil War. It was founded in 1866 and was dissolved in 1956 when its last member died. The GAR became one of the first organized advocacy groups in American politics, supporting voting rights for black veterans, lobbying the US Congress to establish veterans' pensions, and supporting Republican political candidates. Its peak of membership at more than 400,000 was in 1890. National encampments were held annually for 83 years, the last one being in 1949.

The 40th National Encampment of the Grand Army or the Republic was held in Minneapolis in 1906. The postcards above show two views of 1906 GAR parade. An article in the Minneapolis Tribune on August 16, 1906 reported that 16,000 men representing G. A. R. eagerly participated in "one of the greatest parades ever seen at annual encampment." The parade included 29 bands and 32 drum corps and took 3 hours and 20 minutes to pass a given point. Parade Day was a municipal holiday in Minneapolis, and thousands packed the streets to pay homage to the "heroes of '61."

A newspaper article on August 17 claimed that it was the unanimous opinion of Grand Army men then in Minneapolis, that the annual parade of the veteran soldiers be discontinued because it strained the endurance of the old soldiers. However the GAR parades continued for 30 more years.

A 1936 article in Time magazine described that year's parade (which was supposed to be the last parade) as follows:
The Grand Army which tottered down six blocks of Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue at its 70th Encampment last week was a sentimental relic which, by Death and the dimming of old passions, had been stripped of political power for a generation. Of the 355 parading oldsters, whose average age was 92, only 170 crickety survivors of the mighty march of 1883 were able to hobble along at a funeral pace under their own power. The rest rode in automobiles.
The 1937 encampment was held in Madison, Wisconsin. At the 1937 Encampment, 192 veterans attended the proceedings, and 122 hardy Grand Army veterans marched around the Capitol Square.

The last surviving member of the Grand Old Army was Albert Woolson of Duluth, Minnesota. He died on August 2, 1956 at the age of 109. He had gone to war as a drummer boy when he was 17.


  1. With the last person dying in 1956, somehow this reminds me that the Civil War is not a s distant in time as we think.

  2. I wasn't hep to just what GAR stood for until I started collecting postcards. It's sure referenced on a lot of them! (Ellen Clapsaddle did some great artwork on several GAR postcards)


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