Saturday, January 1, 2011
The Grand Army of the Republic
This is the picture of the Grand Army of the Republic Plot as it appears today at Mountain View Cemetery. The veterans who are buried there are veterans of the Union in the Civil War. They came from all over the world to get to this place, and in the coming blog posts I will be sharing their stories.
But first, what was the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)?
Founded in 1866 in Decatur, Illinois, it was the first voluntary veteran's organization in the United States. Although membership was slow to grow initially, it would, at its peak, have 490,000 members. The GAR would establish Memorial Day and lobby for its place as a national holiday. They fought for the establishment of pension laws to help veterans who had served in the Civil War. They promoted the, then, controversial idea of voting rights and integration for blacks. And, more visibly, they organized national conferences, called Encampments, which brought together veterans from around the country.
On the local level, the organization of Posts created a more fraternal organization which focused on community organization for supporting local members and social activities. In Oakland, they worked with the Mountain View Cemetery governing body to set aside a plot for the burial of members. This was never, given its size, going to contain all its deceased members or even all of it's prominent members. This leaves the plot as one of the most fascinatingly diverse burial spaces from the 19th century in Oakland.
The creation of this blog is to tell the stories of these veterans. In many cases, these stories are woefully incomplete. In others the research, continues to be in process. And in one case, the one unknown "U.S. Soldier" in the plot, there is no story to tell.
I am organizing the stories chronologically from their dates of death, and will also add details about their professions, the City of Oakland they lived in, and my own musings about the process of this project. I hope you will come along with me in discovering the lives and the deaths of these men who served our country in the Civil War.