The G.A.R. in Missouri, 1866-1870
By JAMES N. PRIMM
WHEN IT WAS ANNOUNCED IN 1949 THAT THE NATIONAL
encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic was meeting for the
last time, there was a brief flurry of public attention for the tottering
remnant of that once-powerful organization. Due tribute was paid to
the patriotism and heroism of the men who had worn the blue, and
there was some editorial notice of the fact that the G.A.R. had favored
pensions, but there was little mention of the partisan role played by
organized Union veterans in the political turmoil of the years
immediately following the Civil War.
According to the records of the order, the Grand Army was founded
by Major B. F. Stephenson, a former regimental surgeon of the 14th
Illinois Infantry, who organized the first post at Decatur, Illinois, on
April 6, 1866. It appears that Dr. Stephenson was motivated primarily
by a desire to perpetuate the comradeship of the march and the
bivouac.' From its beginnings at Decatur the G.A.R. spread rapidly into
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Missouri. The first state
encampment, which met at Springfield, Illinois, on July 12, 1866,
recognized Stephenson as provisional commander-in-chief of the
and elected General John M. Palmer department commander. This
meeting of the Illinois department attracted considerable attention in
St. Louis, where the Radical Missouri Democrat reported on July
16 that the Grand Army convention was the great event of public
interest at Springfield. On August 1 the Democrat's Springfield
correspondent predicted a Radical future for the newly formed
veterans' organization, noting with satisfaction that it had "already
filled with terror the Copperheaded leaders
I The Grand Army Blue-Book Containing the Rules and Regulations of the Grand
Army of the Republic and Official Decisions and Opinions Thereon (Philadelphia,
THE G.A.R. IN MISSOURI
of this city, already they see their political doom written upon their
castle walls which a fond fancy had reared, by these mysterious but
mighty fingers; and already have they commenced to bowl and
lament because of the judgments they see approaching." It was clear
to this Radical writer that the Union
soldier would vote the way he shot.
Organized activity by Union veterans in Missouri began in
1865 with the formation of the Volunteer Mutual Aid Society at
St. Louis in July. Its principal purpose was to obtain employ-
ment for honorably discharged Union soldiers. This group also
provided unemployment relief and maintained itself by contributions
and benefit balls. The secretary and most active member of the
society was Fred T. Ledergerber, who was also secretary of the
Second Ward Radical Citizens' Club.'
Another group of ex-Union soldiers met at the county courthouse
at Ironton, Missouri, June 9, 1866. This body resolved to establish a
permanent organization., to be called the "Iron Countv Soldiers'
Association." Its purpose, as the resolutions adopte~ indicate, was to
insure public appreciation of the services rendered by the soldier. To
achieve this objective, it was necessary for veterans to stand by one
another and to support "the unflinching Union men of the country
who stood loyally for us while in the field." The Iron County men felt
that existing pensions for wounded soldiers and the widows and
orphans of the slain were too small." Thev also favored equalization
of bounties, so that all who had served in the war, as United States
troops or as members of the Nfissouri militia, should receive fair
compensation for their services. It was the duty of the Missouri
3 Radicals were Republican extremists who favored harsh treatment for the
defeated South. They broke with President Johnson early in 1866 and thereafter
branded supporters of his moderate or "Soft" Reconstruction policies as Rebels and
4 Robert B. Beath, Histonj of the Grand Army ot the Republic (New York, 1889),
5 St. Louis Missouri Democrat, March 30, 1866.
6 Pensions were based on the "general law pension system" established by a
congressional act of 1862. This act provided pensions for soldiers who had incurred
permanent bodily injury or disability as a direct consequence of the performance of
military duty. The system also provided for widows and other dependent relatives of
soldiers who had died while in service or from service-connected injuries or diseases.
Payments ranged from eight to thirty dollars a month. See William H. Glasson,
Federal 111ilitary Pensions in the United States (\ew York, 1918), 125-27.
358 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY
ture to call upon Congress to make such provisions.7 In another
and even more sweeping demand they asserted the claim of the
ex-Union soldier to the "almost unlimited public domain, stretch-
ing to the Pacific." A final resolution expressed the veterans'
intention of standing as a barrier between their country and dis-
There were a number of similar meetings held over the state
during the summer of 1866. While available accounts do not
show that these groups became affiliated with the G.A.R., there
is e-6dence that some of them considered themselves to be acting
in accord with the Illinois body. At a meeting in Turners' Hall
on July 14 the Soldiers' League of St. Louis endorsed the pro-
ceedings of the Springfield convention and instructed an officer
to correspond with the secretary of the Grand Army.'
This St. Louis organization was franl-dy a Radical political club
and considered Radicalism synonymous with loyalty. The call
to the meeting, Wklmich appeared in the Democrat and the "loyal"
German-language newspapers of the city, warned veterans that
41 copperheads and rattlesnakes hidden under Union flowers" were
trying to swindle them of their victories by destroying the re-
public. Union General Francis P. Blair was characterized as a
"false 'Moses" who aspired to lead the rebels back to their old
power in _NlissourL by perjury at the ballot box or rebellion if
necessar~,." A Copperhead victory, according to the sponsors of
the calL would mean that:
We, the former volunteers, would be persecuted and driven from
our homes in the -North just as it is already done in the South. Tbe
graves of our co=ades, mouldering in the Southern sand, would be
desecrated; the rebeel soldiers would receive pensions and bounties
out of the Federal treasury; the rebel debt would be paid; the Union
declared to be bankrupt; our cripples would be outcasts; our families
abandoned to the bitterest misery, and we ourselves would be insulted
'T The federal bounty for recruits had been increased by degrees from $100
in 1861 to $300 in 1%4. Older veterans thought that they had been penalized
un:lustly. James G. &ndall, The Cidl War and Reconstruction (New York, 1937),
428-30. The situation in Missouri was further complicated by the demands of
the state militia, whQ had received no federal bounty.
St. Louis Misswri Denwcrat, June 20, 1866.
Ibid., Jul), 1%
THE G.A.R. IN MISSOURI a59
The Soldiers' League meeting, which was attended by a large
number of presumably apprehensive veterans, was addressed by
several prominent Radical leaders. Emil Preetorius, proprietor of
the Westliche Post, spoke to the assembage in German and then
read a letter from Governor Thomas C. Fletcher, in which the
latter expressed the hope that the men who had done the fighting
would exercise "their right to name and control the terms of set-
tlement after the fight was over. "12 After the speechmaking was
concluded, a set of resolutions was presented by Fred T. Leder-
gerber, each of which was adopted unanimously and enthusias-
tically. These resolves pled-ged the organization to patriotism;
promised support to widows, orphans, and crippled veterans;
demanded equalization of bounties; and denounced treason as
the highest crime.13
Shortly after the Turners' Hall meeting Missouri was organized
as a pro-visional department of the G.A.R. General John McNeil
of St. Louis was elected provisional commander and Colonel Fred
T. Ledergerber adjutant general. These activities of the Grand
Army in Missouri were not publicized in the newspapers as were
those of the Soldiers' League, presumably because of the secret
nature of the former organization. It appears that most non-
Radical Missourians were either unaware of its existence or con-
sidered it unimportant. The first notice of the G.A.R. to appear
in the Conservative Missouri Republican of St. Louis was on
August 30, 1866. Even then the Republican reported a Grand
Army meeting at Indianapolis as if it were the first to be held
anywhere. The story was a noncommittal recital of the professed
objects of the order, which were chiefly fraternal and charitable
in nature. One can imagine the editorial explosion if the Re-
publican had known of the existence of a secret organization of
Union veterans in Missouri, the leadership of which was com-
posed exclusively of St. Louis Radical Union politicians.
The Democrat, in its editorial and news columns, continued
12 Ibid., July 16, 1866. Fletcher and other Radical leaders were trying to
identify their program with the veterans' welfare. The terms of settlement that
be wanted fighting men to control were to be -Radical in nature if it could be ar-
ranged. It was necessary to convince the veteran that Rebels and their Conserva-
tive allies must be kept politically ineffective in order to "preserve the fruits of
14 Beath, Hi4tory of the Grand Army of the Republic, 547.
360 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY
to urge ex-Union soldiers to join Radical political clubs and gave
much publicity to meetings of the Soldiers' League. As the lead-
ing Radical newspaper of 'Missouri, the Denwcrat was able to
sponsor and encourage the growth of Radical veterans' groups
throughout the state. On July 23 the paper featured a long edi-
torial eulogizing the Union soldier, castigating the Rebels, and
predicting a reign of terror for loyal men if the Conservatives
should win the coming elections.15 The only true course for the
soldier was to sustain the policy of Congress and "scorn all
alliance with Copperheads and Graybacks."16
Four days later the Deniocrat published a call for a mass con-
vention of soldiers who supported Congress against President
Johnson to meet at St. Louis on August 10, 1866, the fifth anni-
versary of the battle of NN7ilSon's Creek. This appeal was signed
by General Chester Harding, General John McNeil, General Wil-
liam A. Pile, Colonel Christian Ploeser, Colonel R. J. Rombauer,
Colonel Joseph Weydemeyer, and forty-four others, all officers.
An editorial appearing in the same issue urged veterans to answer
The response was immediate and impressive. A large and en-
thusiastic group of Radical veterans met at Lohman's Hall in St.
Louis on July 28 to prepare for the coming convention. After
electing General Harding chairman, the assembly endorsed the
Ledergerber resolutions that had been adopted by the St. Louis
Soldiers' League at Turners' Hall; and further resolved that
Andrew Johnson was tning "to reconstruct the rebellion, in-
stead of the Union." A Captain Wieber, who was present from
Stoddard County, said that Union soldiers in Stoddard and many
other counties Ld banded together for protection from their
Copperhead and ' Rebel neighbors."
While this meeting was in progress a larger group of veterans
was gathered at Union Park in St. Louis with Colonel Weyde-
Meyer presiding. Governor Fletcher, the featured speaker at the
open-air affair, expressed the hope that the Wilson's Creek anni-
versary convention would lead to the perpetuation of loyal rule
15 "Conservative" as used here is a categorical term applied to the forces
olliposing Radicalism, including not only moderate Republicans, or "Claybanks,"
as tbey bad been called in Missouri~ but many ex-%Vhigs and War Democrats.
16 St. Louis Af issouii Democrat, July 23, 1866.
17 Ibid., July 27, 1866.
18 Ibid., July .30; 1866.
THE G.A.R. IN MISSOURI
in 'MissourL Another speaker castigated the Conservatives for
"marching to the tune of the Democratic party.""
On the same clay a group of Pike County veterans, calling
itself the Grand Army of the Republic, met at Louisiana to elect
delegates to the August 10 convention at St. Louis. The Pike
County men approved the Turners' Hall resolutions and added a
few of their own in which they pledged support to Congress,
endorsed the proposed amendment to the federal Constitution
(Fourteenth), advocated strict enforcement of the Registry LaW,20
and urged a fair share of civil offices for ex-soldiers. To encourage
local recognition of this latter principle, they decided to attend
the Radical Union county convention and demahd half the places
on its ticket. The body then resolved itself into the Soldiers'
League of Pike County, with Major Henry C. Campbell as presi-
dent.21 Whether this new organization superseded the G.A.R.,
supplemented it, or whether a duly constituted Grand Army post
had actually existed in Pike County is not known. It seems likely
that there was a G.A.R. post, which was the nucleus of the Sol-
diers' League, a frankly partisan body. The latter could send
delegates to the Wilson~s Creek conVention without disturbing
the technical sanctity of the G.A.R.
-Numerous other Soldiers' Leagues were formed over the state
during the two weeks preceding the St. Louis convention. Vet-
erans meeting at Palmyra, St. Joseph, Warrenton, DeSoto, Cape
Girardeau, Steelville, and Jefferson City selecteddelegates to the
state convention. The Jefferson City league chose more than one
hundred representatives. At each of these meetings strong Radi-
cal resolutions were adopted, and endorsements of Congress and
the Radical state administration were the rule."
19 Ibid. The Lohman's Hall and Union Park groups were subsidiary to the
central organization that had been formed at Turners' Hall.
20 The notorious "test oa&' for voters, incorporated into the Missouri Con-
sfitution of 1865, prescribed a sweeping list of disqualifications, ranging from
active participation in the Rebellion to mere expression of sympathy. A man who
took the oath was not sure of voting, however, for the constitution also required
the General Assembly to provide for a complete biennial registration of all voters.
The registering officer had the power to hear and judge all evidence for and
against the "loyalty" of individuals desiring to register. For a complete discussion
of the test oath and Registry Law, see David D. March, "The Life and Times of
Charles Daniel Drake" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of MissourL 1949), 383-88;
Thomas S. Barclay, The Liberal Republican Movement in Missouri (Columbia,
Mo., 1926), 14-20.
21 St. Louis Missouri Denwcrat, August 3, 1866.
22 Ibid., August 8, 10, 1866.
362 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY
The Radical soldiers, however, did not have the political arena
all to themselves. The Conservatives hastily arranged a counter-
demonstration to commemorate the battle of Wilson's Creek ac-
cording to their own lights. This affair was to be held at the
courthouse in St. Louis on August 10. The call to this mass meet-
ing, which appeared in the Republican, was signed by General
Francis P. BlaLr, Captain T. E. Noell, and many other non-Radical
ex-officers and soldiers. They advertised that General William
T. Sherman, General Winfield S. Hancock, Colonel David Mur-
phy, and Colonel James 0. Broadhead had been invited to speak
at their meeting.3 The use of Sherman's name infuriated the
Democrat, since the general had refused to address the Radical
conN,ention. Upon being questioned by a representative of the
Democrat, Sherman denied any intention of appearing at the
Conservative soldiers' gathering or at any other of a political
The great Soldiers' League convention was called to order at
10:00 A.-m. and lasted all clay. An impressive succession of speak-
ers harangued the delegates, all of them dwelling upon the
-%=,tues of Congress and the Radical Union party of 'IN-fissouri and
the iniquities of Johnson and Blair. Colonel Ledergerber began
the bombardment and was followed during the day by Governor
Fletcher, General August Willich of Ohio, Colonel T. S. War-
moth, Colonel NV. T. Denny, and Colonel James Gravelly. In
the evening the delegates went to Union Park, where a crowd
estimated at ten thousand ex-soldiers and civilians was gathered.
There were four speakers' stands, all in use at the same time. The
most flamboyant extravagant, and popular speech of the evening
was delivered by General John Logan of Illinois. "Black Jack"
waxed indignant because Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and
other southern leaders had not been hanged, saying, "Why, they
say you would make a martyr of Davis! Well, I don't care what
it makes of Davis after he is dead." This sally was greeted with
thunderous applause, according to the Democrat. Referring to
the Conservative Union party, Logan called it "the Grand Con-
servative, Copperhead National Union speckled prodigy of the
last dispensation." This abominable organization was none other
23 St. Louis Afiwruri Republican, August 8, 1866.
24 St. Louis Afiwvuri Democrat, August 10, 1866.
than "the party of Vallandigham and Fernando Wood, Alexander
Stephens and old Toombs, Dick Taylor, Pendleton, and all the
rest; those men who are crippled in fortune and politics, and
depraved somewhat in disposition."'-' No velvet glove for this
future commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic!
The Wilson's Creek veterans' convention and mass meeting
was a triumph for the Radical Union cause. All sections of the
state were represented. Colonel W. T. Denny of Randolph Coun-
ty was elected president of the committee on permanent organi-
zation, and the thirty vice-presidents were geographically well
dispersed." Eleven hundred appointed delegates were in at-
tendance, and many times that number were present in an un-
The resolutions adopted by the delegates were the traditional
Radical propositions advocating the control of nation and state
by loyal men, no surrender to rebels at the ballot box, dictation
of the terms of restoration by the victorious states, embodiment
of the civil rights amendment in the federal Constitution, sup-
port of Congress against the President, a rather cautious advocacy
of high tariffs, equalization of bounties, and armed action against
rebellious moves or resistance by rebels. After these postulates
were endorsed unanimously there was considerable discussion
of the question of the immediate enfranchisement of Negroes.
A resolution offered by Colonel W. S. Pope on this subject was
finally adopted by a sizable majority. It read: "Resolved, that
the United States soldiers of the state of Missouri demand that
in Missouri, at the earliest day possible, the franchise shall be
given to black men of the proper age.
In the election of officers for the Soldiers' League of MissourL
the convention showed an affinity for men who were prominent
in the G.A.R. General John McNeil was chosen as president of
the Council of Administration and Fred T. Ledergerber as sec-
retary, positions which were the exact equivalents of those held
by the two men in the Missouri department of the Grand Amy
of -the Republic.
THE G.A.R. IN MISSOURI
25.1bid., August 13,1866.
27 Ibid., August 27, 1866.
28 Ibid., August 13, 1866.
364 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY
The convention of "Blair" soldiers, held at the courthouse, was
apparently something less than a success. Though the Republican
reported a large attendance, neither Sherman, Hancock, nor
Broadhead, advertised as the chief speakers, attended. Those
who did speak concentrated upon the shortcomings of the Sol-
diers' League, an organization, according to one orator, composed
mainly of men who had never seen action. A letter from James
0. Broadhead was read, in which he deplored the existence of
soldiers' political organizations as being the first step toward the
establishment of a military despotism.3" Five weeks later, a small
delegation, made up entirely of senior officers from St. Louis,
represented this group at a Conservative veterans' national con-
vention held at Cleveland."
Organization of local Radical Soldiers' Leagues throughout
Missouri continued after the state convention. At a Gentry
County meeting the veterans served notice on all ministers that
they were expected to take the "test oath" or stop preaching, and
that the clergy were to consider the warning as final notice and
govern themselves accordingly.22 Not for the last time were or-
ganized veterans setting themselves up as guardians of the public
A national convention of Republican veteran's was held at Pitts-
burgh, September 25, 1866, to uphold the course of Congress
against President Johnson and to determine upon a plan of action
for the campaigns of 1866 and 1868. The Indiana department
of the Grand Army of the Republic was represented by delegates
from the state's 138 posts at this openly political function, that
department being apparently unconcerned about the propriety
of a public demonstration oi its political affiliation.33 A delega-
tion from Missouri was selected by the Soldiers' League, though
there is some question as to whether it ever reached Pittsburgh."
The most important achievement of the Pittsburgh convention
30 St. Louis Missouri Republican, August 11, 1866.
31 St. Louis Missouri Democrat, September 19, 1866.
32 Ibid. The test oath was mandatory for attorneys, priests, clergymen, teach-
ers, jurors, and holders of public office, as well as voters.
83 Beath, History of the Grand Amy of the Republic, 26-27.
34 The St. Louis Missouri Democrat, of October 5, 1866, reported the "heart-
warming recognition" accorded the Missouri delegation at Pittsburgh. The Jeff er-
son City Missouri State Times, of the same date, hailed the Pittsburgh convention
as a great success end regretted that the Missouri delegation had been unable to
attend, owing to damages to railroads along the route.
THE G.A.R. IN MISSOURI
was the formation of a national organization of "Boys in Blue"
for the presidential campaign of 1868. This group was to have
responsibility for political action, thus keeping the G.A.R. free
from accusations of partisanship. In practice, it was difficult for
the veteran or the ordinary citizen to distinguish between the
Although there were a number of G.A.R. posts in St. Louis by
the late summer of 1866, and Missouri had been organized as a
provisional department, the date of organization and location of
individual posts cannot now be ascertained. Notices of.post
meetings, which began appearing in the Democrat on November
5, did not at first give any information other than post numbers
and meeting schedules. They appeared "by order of the post
commander," without divulging the commander's name."' This
secrecy was characteristic of the G.A.R. in Missouri, and it was
only gradually that Grand Army activities began to receive at-
tention in the newspapers.
Missouri was prominently represented at the first national en-
campment of the G.A.R., held at Indianapolis, November 20 and
21, 1866. Commander-in-Chief Stephenson, in his general order
calling the convention, provided that each post should be entitled
to one delegate for each one hundred members and one for each
additional fractional part thereof." In addition, all department
officers were to be ex officio delegates. Of the 2,38 qualified dele-
gates who attended the encampment, 160 were from Indiana, 32
from Illinois, 15 from Ohio, 9 from Missouri~ 7 from Wisconsin,
6 from Iowa, 3 each from Kentucky and Pennsylvania, and one
each from Kansas, New York, and the District of Columbia."
Although there are too many variables here to determine the size
of the G.A.R., it is probable that Indiana had the largest mem-
bership and that Missouri ranked at least fourth at the time of
the Indianapolis gathering.
General John M. Palmer of Illinois was chosen to preside over
the convention, and Governor Fletcher of Missouri was one of
35 Beath, History of the Grand Amy of the Republic, 27-29. Frank H. Heck,
The Civil War Veteran in Minnesota Ufe and Politics (Oxford, Ohio, 1941), con-
tends that the G.A.R. was never a wholly partisan group in Minnesota.
36 St. Louis Missouri Det?wcrat, November 5, 12, 26, 1866.
37 Proceedings of the First Meeting of the National Encampment, Grand
Army of the Republic (Pidladelphia, 1876), 2.
38 Ibid., 4-5. Of the 238 delegates, 220 were former commissioned officers.
366 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY
the ten i4ce-presidents. Missouri was further recognized by the
appointment of Fred T. Ledergerber as chairman of the com-
mittee on work and ritual and General John M-cNeil as chairman
of the resolutions committee." McNeil's committee drew up a
set of resolves similar to those passed by the Soldiers' League in
Missouri, in which the Grand Army pledged itself to stamp out
treason. support loyalty, and protect freemen throughout the en-
.i - ially in the South. Bounty equalization, wid-
tire countn esp1c I
o-ws, pensions, and speedy adjustment of soldiers' pension claims
%vere endorsed as a matter of course, and the additional demand
that Congress make it impossible in the future for a man to buy
a substitute for military service was passed with enthusiasm.
Even more Dopular. however, was the suggestion that the country
should reserve " ositions of honor and profit" to worthy veter-
The permanent national organization of the Grand Army of
tre Republic dates from November 21, 1866. National officers
elected ,vere representative of the fairly wide geographical dis-
tnibution that the order had achieved. S. A. Hurlbut of Illinois
Was chosen to be the first commander-in-chief, and the founder,
B. F. Stephenson, was made adjutant general. Missouri was rep-
resented by William A. Pile as chaplain and Governor Fletcher
as a member of the council of administration.
Frequent notices of the founding of new posts and reports of
the activities of existing Grand Army units in the St. Louis area
aT)T)eared in the Afigsouri Democrat during the winter months
.4' The St. Louis District G.A.R.
follovving the national convention
ga-ve a pre-Christmas benefit ball for disabled soldiers and the
v..-ido-,vs and orphans of deceased soldiers at Turners' Hall on
December 15. General Grant declined to attend this function,
but a large number of veterans accepted and enjoyed themselves
in an atmosphere of "strict order and decorum," as the Democrat
rather defensively reported.
41 Ibid-, 4-9. GenerJ File was the Radical congressman-elect from the first
6~strict. Sevtn of the nine Radical candidates for Congress in Missouri in 1866
vvtrt Union %-r-terans.
42 St. Louis Mi4jsouri Deynocrat, December 10, 14, 28, 1866, February 25,
lV;-i. and othtrs.
0 Mid T)e.-.e-n1bPr 17, MR
THE G.A.R. IN MISSOURI
During the winter of 1866-1867 there was apparently no ques-
tion as to the political orientation of the GA.R. in Missouri, at
least in the Radical camp. Notices of Grand Army meetings ap-
peared in the Democrat in a column reserved for announcements
of Radical ward organizations." Even the denials of partisan
activity sounded at times like Radical campaign documents. One
such defended the honor of the order as follows: "While it is
true that ninety-nine out of every hundred of the G.A.R. are
staunch Republicans, and co-operating actively with the party
N,vho befriended them in the field, yet the organization is entirely
separate from any political party."45
The Missouri Republican still hoped for the redemption of the
G.A.R. as late as February, 1867. The soldiers had been "bam-
boozled," said a Republican editorial, "into voting the Radical
ticket by fulsomle adulation and assurances that they should have
offices." Radical failure to deliver on these promises would un-
doubtedly open their eyes and convince them that they had been
the "very silly dupes of an arrant set of swindlers." That General
Pah-ner had not been elected United States senator by the Illi-
no-is legislature was ascribed to the disillusionment of the rank-
and file of the G.A.R.
During the spring of 1867 Conservative newspapers began to
attack the Grand Army in'Missouri and elsewhere. They charged
that or-anized veterans were being used as an instrument of
Radical Reconstruction, particularly by those who desired to
impeach the President. According to the New York World, the
organization %vas part of a "gigantic plot" to further the revolu-
tionary measures of Congress. In explaining the origins of the
Grand Army, the World said:
The formation of this Army made almost as little noise in the coun-
try as the fall of a snowflake. It was not designed that it should take
a prominent place before the public till some great necessity for its
services should arise. In addition to the main purpose of supporting
the government, its object was of a benevolent nature, and by this
means it presented special attractions to the soldiers, till, in a short
time, its ranks embraced over five hundred thousand men. 47
4 4 Ibid., November 2, 5, 1866.
45 Ibid., November 5, 1866.
41; St. LX)UiS Missouti Republican, February 6, 1867.
47 New York World, February 9, 1867, quoted in St. Louis Missouri Re-
Publican, February 14, 1867.
368 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY
This huge army, the writer believed, stood ready to be used at
any time to sustain congressional policy by force. If not, why
was it necessary to create military departments to carry out the
objectives of a benevolent organization?"
In April the Missouri Republican issued a bitter denunciation
of the G.A.R. as a "Praetorian Guard" which threatened to under-
mine the Constitution and the liberties of the people.49 Not con-
tent with this broadside, the Republican editors sought the
perfect epithet, which eluded them until midsummer, when they
discovered that the letters G.A.R. stood for "Great Array of
Opponents of the Grand Axmy gained a valuable ally in June,
1867, when the vitriolic pen of Horace Greeley was enrolled in
their service. After Greeley had been publicly assailed by an
Ohio post of the G.A.R., he lashed out at the organization as "a
group of office beggars and politicians, . . . meeting in out of
the way places with grips and passwords, and passing resolu-
tions demanding confiscation and farms.
Apparently unperturbed by the Conservative campaign of de-
nunciation, the Missouri department continued to expand and
consolidate. Notices of newly organized posts were frequent, and
names of posts and comrades were no longer concealed. The
"City News" column of the Democrat advertised meetings of
Camp Sigel, Camp Butler, Camp Lyon, Camp Cavender, Camp
Schaefer, Camp Curtis, Camp McPherson, and Camp Fletcher
(Negro), all of which were in St. Louis." Not many details,
however, were released to the public. Even the organization of
the Missouri department on a permanent basis failed to appear
in the St. Louis press and the Radical Missouri State Times of
Jefferson City. This permanent organization was effected on May
7, 1867, and General Carl Schurz, newly arrived in Missouri, was
chosen department commander."
In September, 186-1, an important precedent was set by the
St. Louis Grand Army posts. Their appearance as a body in a
49 St. Louis Missouri Republican, April 7, 1867.
50 Ibid., July 1, 186-t.
51 Ibid., July 2, 1867. Tht G.A_K bad protested Greeley's action in obtaining
the release of Jefferson Davis from military prison.
52 St. Louis Missouri Democrat; April 15 through August 2, 1867.
53 Beath, History of the Grand Army of the Republic, 547.
THE G.A.R. IN MISSOURI
procession honoring General Philip H. Sheridan upon his arrival
in the city was the first public demonstration of G.A.R. strength
in Missouri. Four thousand two hundred veterans marched in
the Grand Army line, which stretched for two miles. Any doubts
that may have lingered as to the political nature of the organi-
zation should have been dispelled by the numerous banners car-
ried by marching members, inscribed Aith such Radical slogans
as "Kentucky requires a Butler or a Sheridan7 or "The Phil of
Radicalism a tough cure for rebels."54 It is significant that the
Grand Army chose this occasion for its first public appearance.
Though Sheridan was not the first prominent general to visit St.
Louis after the founding of the order, be was at the moment a
highly publicized symbol of Radical opposition to President
After the Sheridan demonstration the Grand Army in Missouri
appeared to place increasing emphasis on the military aspects of
the society. This tendency was viewed with equanimity by its
friends and with mixed emotions by its detractors. The Demo-
cratic St. Louis Times remarked contemptuously that the few
thousand members of the G.A.R. could hardly prevail in the
event of an armed outbreak in the state. In rebuttal, the Demo-
crat boasted that thousands of members in Missouri and a half
million in the national organization stood ready to fly to the de-
fense of their St. Louis comrades." At this time notices of post
meetings appearing in the Democrat were invariably military in
tone. Comrades were ordered to appear at their "barracks"
promptly at the appointed hour or suffer disciplinary action. 117
It was obvious, the Republican charged, that the G.A.R. wanted
to substitute bullets for ballots and that the Radicals considered
membership in the Grand Army of the Republic preferable to
membership in the Grand Army of Saints."'
54 St. Louis Missouri Democrat, September 11, 1867; St Louis Missouri Re-
publ1can, September 10, 1867.
55 President Johnson had transferred Sheridan from command of the fifth
military district at New Orleans to a post at Leavenworth, Kansas, because of
what Johnson considered to be arbitrary conduct by Sheridan at New Orleans.
The Radical press was infuriated.
56 St. Louis Daily Times, September 2,8, 18%, quoted in St. Louis Missouri
Democrat, September 30, 1867.
57 St. Louis Missouri Democrat, September .30, October 2, 7, 1867.
F58 St. Louis Missouri Republican, November 7, December 7, 1867.
37i 0 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY
Owing laraely to the negligence and inefficiency of its principal
officers, the national organization of the G.A.R. deteriorated con-
siderably, and no national encampment was called during 1867.
When the second national encampment finally convened on Jan-
uary 15, 186S, the organization was revitalized by the election
0, Radical Congressman John A. Logan of Illinois as commander-
in-chief."' Lo,,ran immediately removed national headquarters
to Washington, where he was able to co-ordinate his Grand
Army and congressional activities. As tbe tempo of the quarrel
between Congress and President Johnson increased during the
spring of 1868, the belligerent Logan became excited about the
supposed danger of a presidential attempt at dictatorship. His
fi.Tst opportunity to use the veterans as a military threat against
Johnson arose from the dismissal of Edwin kl. Stanton as Secre-
t,-n- of ~17 ar. Wheen Stanton refused to surrender the office to
General Lorenzo Thomas, Logan offered the services of the
G.A.R. to prevent forcible ejection. Rifles and ammunition were
isSued to members of Washington posts, and sentinels were sta-
tioned at strategic points about the city. General Logan, mi a
moc7k-beroic gesture, slept evIery night on a couch at the War
Department offices, as did Stanton."
It was soon eNident that Logan and his Washington henchmen
,,,:ould not have to carry on alone. When the news of the Stanton-
Johnson imbroglio reached 'Missouri, Grand Vice-Commander
John S. Cavender rushed a telegram to Washington, offering the
S~_r--Ices of fiffir thousand Missouri Grand Army veterans "to
carry out the action of Congress."" Logan immediately pub-
Lshed the telegram, presumably to impress the opposition with
the immense power at his disposal. The New York World won-
dered if the Grand Army of the Republic, commanded by Logan,
had superseded the regular army, commanded by General Grant.
In Missouri, the Republican doubted that there were fifty thou-
5~rld G.A.R. members in the state who would blindy follow any
=an's lead, especially if that man were the military nonentity John
S. Cavender. The editor professed not to know whether to fear
59 Beat%, History of the Grand Army of the Republic, 81-83.
60 Ibid., 92-93.
1~1 St. Louis Mitsouri Republican, March 2, 1868.
C2 New York World, February 29, 1868, quoted in St. Louis Missouri Re-
publican, March 2, 1868,
THE G.A.R. IN MISSOURI
bloody revolution or to treat the whole matter as the ludicrous
and absurd posturings of a few generals."
Cavender's action in sending the wire to Logan, though pre-
cipitate, was representative of G.A.R. feeling in Missouri. A
special meeting of post representatives, presided over by De-
partnient Commander Schurz, unanimously adopted resolutions
pledging unconditional support to Congress in the event of an
open breach with the President. 64
After the House of Representatives passed an impeachment
resolution on February 24, General Logan was chosen as one of
a committee of seven to draw up articles of impeachment against
Johnson and became one of the impeachment managers at the
trial. Any possibility of a military coup d.'&at was precluded
when the President accepted the impeachment proceedings
peaceably and the defection of seven Republican senators from
the Radical cause resulted in acquittal.'15
As it became eNident that Johnson might be acquitted by the
Senate, Radicals everywhere began to concentrate upon the com-
ing presidential campaign. -Missouri posts of the G.A.R. nomi-
nated delecates to a "loyal" soldiers' convention which was to
meet at Chicago on May 19, just one day before the opening of
the Republican national convention in the same city. Delegates
from the St. Joseph district were sent as G.A.R. representatives
without subterfuge, but in most districts some attempt was made
to conceal the G.A.R. connection, as at Macon, where the "Loyal
Soldiers and Sailors of the Eighth Congressional District," meet-
ing in a hall generously provided by the local Grand Army post,
elected delegates and endorsed General Grant for President."'
The Chicago convention was a thinly disguised unofficial gath-
ering of the G.A.R. General Logan was elected permanent chair-
man but modestly declined the honor in favor of General Lucius
Fairchild, another prominent Grand Army leader. General John
OL'St. Louis Missouri Republican, March 2, 1868.
64 Beath, History of the Grand Army of the Republic, 547.
65A number of writers have called attention to the widespread fear of the
G.A.R. as a militM threat during the period of Johnson's difficulties with Con-
gress. See Randall, Civil War and Reconstruction, 745; Ellis P. Oberholtzer, A
History of the United States Since the Civil War (5 vols., New York, 1917-1937),
1, 417-18; William B. Hesseltine, Ulysses S. Grant, Politician (New York, 1935),
06 St. Louis Missouri De=crat, April 27, 1868.
372 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY
McNeil of Missouri was chosen vice-chairman. The resolutions
committee, headed by the ubiquitous Logan, pronounced it to
be the duty of the President and state governors to appoint
veterans to office. After endorsing Grant for the Republican
presidential nomination, the convention made Logan happy by
denouncing "an), Senator who voted for the acquittal of Andy
Johnson as tulworthy of the confidence of a brave and loyal peo-
The second annual encampment of the Missouri department
of the G.A.R. was held just before the Chicago convention. R. J.
Rombauer was elected to succeed Schurz; as grand commander,
and Congressman Joseph W. 'McClurg took Cavender's place as
senior vice-commander. N-either Governor Fletcher nor Schurz
took an active part in the proceedings, which were dominated
by Radicals of the extreme ldnd. The new department com-
mander was an ultra-Radical, and his subordinate, McClurg, was
one of the most narrow1v partisan members of the Radical party.
In July the latter was nominated for governor at the Radical
state conventiom at which function the incumbent Fletcher was
During the summer of 1568 Grand Army posts in Missouri
were busy with public demonstrations, one effect of which was
to emphasize the political objectives of the order. On May 30
local units over the state observed the first Memorial Day in
obedience to a general order from Commander-in-Chief Logan."'
Impressive ceremonies were held in cemeteries, featuring
speeches bristling with patriotic sentiments and fearful volleys
in the direction of the defunct Confederacy. At Jefferson City
the Honorable T. A. Parker brought sobs from a crowd of four
thousand veterans and their friends with stirring reminiscences
of Sherman's campaigns.
Department Commander Rombauer was active in keeping the
67 Ibid., May 20, 1868. The vote on the eleventh and most important article
of impeachment had been taken in the Senate on May 16, with 35 votes for and
19 against convictior4 one short of the necessary two-thirds majority.
68 Barclay, Liberal Republic= Movement in Missouri, 137. At the time of
the department encampment, there were 12 G.A.R. posts in St. Louis, 14 in St
Louis County, and 83 in other districts of the state. Beath, History of the Grand
Army of t1w Republic, 548.
69 St. Louis Mi4souri Democrat,. June 3, 1868; Jefferson City Missouri State
Times, June 5, 1868.
70 Jefferson City Missouri State Times, June 5, 1868.
THE G.A.R. IN MISSOURI
order in the public eye. As grand marshal of the Fourth of July
celebration at St. Louis he gave the G.A.R. a place of honor in
the procession through the streets, and as department commander
he ordered all members in the city to take part."' When General
Grant visited St. Louis in August a -surprise reception" was
arranged for him at-the home of William McKee, proprietor of
the Democrat. This affair soon became a mass demonstration,
with long lines of marching men representing various Radical
clubs. The Grand Army was represented in the procession by
the full membership of four posts and delegations from two oth-
ers. Radical Congressman IN-Tilliam A. Pile, junior vice-command-
er of the Missouri department, delivered the featured speech of
the evening. General Pile assured the candidate that the Union
soldiery of Missouri would make him ruler over both civil and
military affairs .72
Throughout the campaign in Missouri the Conservative press
hammered away at the G.A.R., emphasizing the military aspect
of the organization. On one occasion the Republican likened the
Grand Army to the Ku Klux Klan," and on another informed
readers that each G.A.R. post was manned by an armed band of
Radicals, "revolutionary bandits" who would start a civil war if
foiled in their dark plots.-,' Far from denying such accusations,
the Democrat advertised the Grand Army as the military and
vigilante wing of the Radical party, and was prone to attribute
Radical political defeats in various sections of the country to the
absence of G.A.R. posts in those benighted localities."
The dire predictions of the editorial opposition were never put
to the test, as the results of the November elections were eminent-
ly satisfactory to Missouri Radicals. With Grant in the White
House and McClurg in the governor's mansion, what more could
be desired? There was now little to occupy Grand Army posts
except charitable and social activities and routine business. No-
tices of post meetings, once a regular feature in the Democrat,
appeared infrequently after November, 1868, and not at all after
Memorial Day, 1869. Camp Boomer at Jefferson City, which
7 '1 St. Louis Missourl Democrat, July 1, 3,18ffi.
72 Ibid., August 26, 1868.
78 St. Louis Missouri Republicart, August 25, 1868.
74 Ibid., August 26, 1868.
75 St. Louis Missouri Democrat, April 13, 1868.
374 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY
had at first met weekly, then every two weeks, changed to a
monthly schedule during the summer of 1869." After December,
1869, it apparently disbanded. Corporal Dix post at Kirksville,
one of the strongest in the state a year earlier, was inactive by
early 1869.7' At the t1drd national encampment, held at Cincin-
nati, May 12, 1869, Missouri was reported as not entitled to rep-
resentation because of nonpayment of dues. After some debate,
G. Harry Stone, the sole Missouri delegate, was admitted to the
encampment. This miserable showing came from a department
which had claimed fifty thousand members a scant year before."'
Although Missouri sent no delegates to the national conclaves
for many years after 1869, there were enough active members
left in 1870 to hold a department encampment at Jefferson City,
chiefly for the purpose of issuing a last-gasp denunciation of
. rebel enfranchisement."79 In 1871 the department organization
was abandoned, and no active post remained in the state.110
Though the decline of the Grand Army of the Republic in
Missouri was paralleled all over the nation, particularly in west-
ern states, in no state was utter collapse more sudden. It would
be a mistake to assign any single factor as the cause of this rapid
demise, but it is apparent that political involvement made a con-
siderable contribution. Partisanship was not a source of weak-
ness as long as the true "Reber' was the enemy, but proved
disastrous when Missouri Radicals began to quarrel over political
objectives. First to break away were men of comparatively mod-
erate views like Schurz and Fletcher, who became leaders of the
Liberal Republican movement. The Germans, backbone of the
G.A.R. in the St. Louis posts and in the department organization,
largely followed Schurz away from ultra-Radicalism. As time
passed they began to regard the symbols of their former narrow-
ness with distaste."'
713 Jefferson City Missouri State Times, August 6, 1869.
T7 Eugene M. Violette, History of Adair County (Kirksville, Mo., 1911), 157.
78 Beath, History of the Grand Army of the Republic, 98. Illinois, Indiana,
Iowa, and Kansas were ineligible for the same reason.
79 Jefferson City Daily Tribune, August 24, 1870.
80 Beath, History of the Grand Army of the Republic, 548.
81 During his long career in politics Schurz never again participated in G.A.R.
ar-bvities. In his Reminiscences , he claimed to have been out of sympathy with
tiie impeachment proceedings from the beginning, and expressed his admiration
for the course of Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri, who had voted against
tfonviction. In 1868, however, Schurz had favored impeachment and was scorn-
THE G.A.R. IN MISSOURI
When the common enemy was defeated in the election of 1868,
there was little further justification for the continuance of the
Grand Army as a military force. The membership reacted against
further orders from their former superiors, who had always pa-
raded their military rank- in newspaper notices and encampment
proceedings. The complete predominance of ex-officers with a
political ax to gnnd was evident in Missouri.
Another contributing factor was the more settled condition of
affairs, public and private. Missouri was beginning to settle
down, and so was the veteran. The unemployed ex-soldier with
time on his hands became a family man, with private responsi-
bilities and little time for secret meetings and drills.
While the charitable and fraternal objects of the Grand Army
of the Republic cannot be denied, and were a great source of
strength in later years, they failed to hold the organization to-
gether in 1869-1870. So complete was the disintegration that
only a very rash man would have wagered that the "Great Array
of Rascals" would ever again exchange secret grips and pass-
words in 'Missoun's hidden and out-of-the-way places.8-"
ful of the seven Republican senators who strayed from the Radical fold. See Carl
Schurz, The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz (3 vols., New York, 1908), 111, 282,
292; Joseph Schafer (ed.), Intintate Letters of Carl Schurz, 1841-1869 (Madison,
1928), 407, 434, 438.
82 The G.A.& was reborn in Missouri on December 1, 18779, when Frank P.
Blair Post Number One was organized a, St. Louis. This post was so named as
part of an effort to bury old animosities. Beath, History of the Grand Army of
the Republic, 548-49.