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Grand Army of the Republic
"Soldiers and Sailors of the United States Army, Navy, or Marine Corps, who served between April 12, 1861, and April 9, 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." (Rules and Regulations of the Grand Army of the Republic, A. D. 1893)
The development of an organization of Union veterans was the postwar conception of Benjamin Franklin Stephenson of Springfield, Illinois. The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) quickly became the preeminent veterans' organization formed at the close of the Civil War. Membership reached its peak in 1890, when over 400,000 members were reported. By then the GAR had well over seven thousand posts, ranging in size from fewer than two dozen members in small towns, to more than a thousand in some cities.
The Vermont Commandery of the G.A.R. was established on October 23, 1868. In 1875, there were 13 posts, with 561 members. There were 151 posts at one time or another, with the largest number of posts 113, in 1892 and 1894; the highest numbered post was 117, several numbers were reused as posts came and went. The largest number of members was 5,473, in 1890.
The organization of the GAR was based upon three objectives: fraternity, charity, and loyalty. For a complete explanation of these objectives, and a more complete history of the organization, see "The Grand Army of the Republic and Kindred Societies, at the Library of Congress website.
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Middlebury GAR cannon photograph courtesy of Jennifer Snoots.