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RESEARCHING OHIO’S GAR POSTS
Originally published in the Ohio Civil War Genealogy Journal, Volume X, 2006, Issue 1 (Ohio Genealogical Society). ©2007 Jack Simon and the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table
The author wishes to acknowledge and thank the staff of the Cincinnati Historical Society Library and Mr. Dan Reigle for their kind and generous research and editing assistance on this article.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was the largest Union veterans organization in the country after the Civil War. National membership in the organization peaked in 1890 at a little over 409,000, and membership in the state of Ohio peaked at 49,011 in that same year. The local arm of the GAR was called a “post”, identified by an assigned number and by a name chosen by its members, usually to honor either a local soldier or an individual of national prominence. For example, one of the posts in the Cincinnati area was known as the John H. Jackson Post 689. Over 750 GAR posts were established in the state of Ohio starting in 1866, with the majority of these being chartered in the late 1880’s. The exact number of posts established in Ohio is unknown due to the reuse of defunct post numbers by the state organization. As the GAR declined due the passing of the Civil War veterans’ generation, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) became the legal heir of the GAR, and is a valuable research partner for those interested in Civil War genealogy. In this article, my purpose is to provide some research tools and resources available to those who are interested in the history of Ohio GAR posts in their communities or those who are doing genealogy research on Civil War veterans who may have belonged to one of the Ohio GAR posts.
Identification of a GAR Post
The first step of this research is to determine if a GAR post existed in a particular community. There are two resources available for doing this: (1) the Library of Congress web site at http://www.loc.gov/rr/main/gar/, at which Mr. Albert E. Smith, Jr., Reference Librarian of the Library’s research staff has compiled listings by states of the posts in that state; and (2) for Ohio, the SUVCW website at http://suvcw.org/garposts/index.htm. Both sites list the post number, name of the post, and the location by city or community. By checking this listing, it is possible to determine if one or more GAR posts were established or “chartered” in an Ohio community. The SUV is currently in the process of documenting all known GAR posts in Ohio and nationally, and are updating their information accordingly, so it is worthwhile to check both lists since there are a few differences. The SUVCW site list is an Adobe PDF document, so it can be downloaded to make it easier to search for specific town names. Unfortunately, at this point in time, neither source includes a systematic way to search for all posts in a particular county.
GAR Post Records and Minutes
The best case scenario would be locating the actual records, rosters, muster rolls, or minutes of the particular GAR post. There are a small number of post minutes and rosters scattered throughout the state at various libraries and historical societies. It would be well worth the researcher’s time and effort to check these sources that are in the community or area where the post was located, as well as checking the major archives and libraries throughout Ohio. For example, one might despair of finding information on a short-lived post in the small town of Elida, near Lima; however, the Center for Archival Collections at Bowling Green State University has in its collection a “Minute book with record of meetings”, for the “Jehu John Post #476 in Elida, Ohio, established in 1884 and disbanded in 1888.” An excellent example of an important holding in a local community is the William Anderson Post 244’s minutes, which are held by the Fayette County Historical Society, one of only two African-American GAR posts in the country to have its minutes preserved. (See article in this issue of OCWGJ on the “Washington Court House Research History Class” for further information on this post.)
Keep in mind that the records may not cover the entire existence of the post and that rosters usually list membership at a particular date. A good example of the type of information that might be found in GAR records are the minutes of Scott Post 100 in Van Wert as published by Helen Prill in this journal in 2001 (OCWGJ, Vol. V, issues 2 and 3). With that in mind, what follows is a method of creating a database of information on a particular post from sources other than the post’s original records or published rosters.
Annual Encampments of the Department of Ohio
The next step of this process is to research the reports that were published by the state organization of the GAR, called a “department”. The Department of Ohio published reports of its annual meetings, called an “encampment”. Included in these encampment reports are listings showing the post numbers and names, total membership, post commander, delegates and alternate delegates. Some years of these reports also indicate the names of additional officers and home mailing addresses. Another resource from the annual department encampment reports is the “Memorial Roll” which listed the members by post who died in the previous year. These listings included the individual’s name, military unit in which he served, and the date of death. With this information it is possible to develop a listing of a particular post’s officers and members over a period of multiple years. The Ohio Historical Society has a complete set of the Ohio department annual encampment reports, and other major libraries may also have some copies of the reports. For example, the Cincinnati Historical Society Library has 34 years of the reports, and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has 11 years. For search purposes, the title of the annual encampment report is usually “Roster and proceedings of the… (Number)…annual encampment of the Department of Ohio, Grand Army of the Republic.” Searches seem to be most successful when “Grand Army of the Republic” is used both as the title for a search by title, and as the author for a search by author.
An aid in this process is to know the organizational or charter date of the post being researched. This will provide the researcher a starting point and save unnecessary time and effort checking annual encampment reports issued before the post was organized. The charter dates of the Ohio posts are listed in a number of the annual encampment reports, such as the 1915 report used for the research in this article. Do not make any assumptions based upon post numbers. The post number does not indicate any chronological or sequential order in relation to the charter date of a post. Both online lists referred to show post number in the seven hundred range. Closer examination will reveal gaps in the numbers. Posts were renumbered by the department organization as a result of mergers, reopening of closed or dropped posts, and skipping of numbers. The charter date list from an encampment report reveals this abnormality.
Different cities across the U.S. hosted the annual national encampments held by the GAR for 83 years, from 1866 to 1949. One of the most informative items that I discovered in researching the Cincinnati GAR posts was a publication entitled “1898 Roster of Members of the Combined GAR Posts”. This booklet was published in connection with the 1898 32nd National Encampment held in Cincinnati on September 5-6. The booklet was provided to the delegates as a souvenir of the encampment. Along with advertisements for local business was information regarding the various Cincinnati area GAR posts including the post name and number, meeting place and time, officers, past post commanders, and members’ names and home addresses. There were a total of twelve national encampments held in Ohio cities, and similar booklets may have been published in those other cities during the national encampments. National encampments were held in Cincinnati (three times), Cleveland (twice), Columbus (five times), Dayton (once), and Toledo (once). The Library of Congress web site referred to earlier provides the dates of these national encampments.
An Example: John H. Jackson Post 689, Cheviot, Ohio
Two tables of data follow which will illustrate what information can be developed using the above process. Table I for the John H. Jackson Post 689, Cheviot, Ohio was developed primarily from the information that was provided in the annual Department of Ohio encampment reports. The name and location of the post was found on the Library of Congress and SUV web sites. However, the community listed was Dent, which is a neighboring community where the post was originally organized. The charter date of October 2, 1888 was found in the post charter dates list in the 1915 encampment report. All research data was available in the Cincinnati area libraries, as detailed in the reference list at the end of this article. While there are gaps in the years for which encampment reports are available in these libraries, sufficient information was available to develop a profile and members’ roster. Table II lists the names of the officers and members, which was developed from the same source utilizing the encampment and memorial rolls from each year.
The post was named in honor of Sgt. John H. Jackson who died of wounds received at the battle of Vicksburg on May 22, 1863. I was extremely fortunate to find the death notice in the Cincinnati Daily Gazette (7-2-1863). He was buried in the family plot in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati on July 2, 1863. He had died the day before in Cincinnati. He was born on July 22, 1836 in Green Township, just west of Cincinnati in Hamilton County. His family was one of the early settlers of the township and operated a nursery business there. John Jackson enlisted in the 83rd OVI for three years on August 22, 1862, and was mustered into Company K four days later at Camp Dennison. The Roster of Ohio Troops indicates that he was “appointed corporal (date not given); Sergeant May 20, 1863; died July 1, 1863 at Cincinnati, O. of wounds received May 22, 1863 at siege of Vicksburg, Miss.”
While beyond the scope of this article, additional research can be conducted for the individual members whose names are developed in the process of researching the post. Using census records, local directories, and other genealogy sources would fill in individuals’ information. One additional source that could also be researched would be local newspaper articles reporting on Memorial or Decoration Day activities of GAR posts. It was standard practice for GAR posts to march in parades or conduct ceremonies and programs to honor deceased Civil War veterans in local cemeteries each year on that day. (For an excellent example of such research, see the article in this issue on “Washington Court House Research History Class.” especially their publication on William Anderson Post 244, Grand Army of the Republic, United States Colored Troops, Washington Court House, Ohio, 1882-1912.)
Ohio was a leader in the GAR movement. We are very fortunate that there is a wealth of information about the organization in the collections of historical societies and libraries all across the state. With them a researcher is able to piece together a part of a community’s history with a small investment of research time by following the above outlined steps.
GAR RESOURCES IN THE CINCINNATI AREA
Compiled by Jack Simon, July, 2005
1898 Roster of Members of the Combined GAR Posts
This booklet was published in connection with the 1898 National Encampment held here in Cincinnati. It lists the Cincinnati area posts (not all), post officers, past post commanders, organization date, and members (some with units served and home addresses).Cincinnati Historical Society Library, 369.151 H217, reference book
Proceedings of the Annual Encampment of the Department of Ohio, GAR
Included in each year’s edition is an “Encampment Roll” listing of every post, membership number, post commander, delegate, and alternate delegate. Later years included other officers and home mailing addresses. A “Memorial Roll” lists those members by post that died the previous year. Availability is as follows:
1882 through 1894, 1899 through 1901, 1908, 1912, 1913, 1915 through 1920, 1922 through 1930 (total of 34 years):
1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1907, 1913, 1914 (total of 11 years): Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Main Library, History & Genealogy Dept. (369.151 O37.1, reference books). See catalog for volume number and year.
1911: University of Cincinnati Langsam Library (E462.1. O4 1911).
1888: University of Cincinnati Archives and Rare Books Library (E462.1 .O37 1888, reference book).
Proceedings of the Annual and Semi-Annual Encampments of the Department of Ohio, GAR, compiled and prepared by T. D. McGillicuddy, Past Asst. Adj. General
This volume covers the years from 1866 to 1880: Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Main Library, History & Genealogy Dept. (369.151 O37.1 v.01-14, reference book,).
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