During his presidency, Abraham Lincoln had promised to care for the men in the armed services-and for their widows and orphans. Lincoln was unable, however, to keep that promise. In response, the Grand Army of the Republic or G.A.R. emerged as the most powerful of the post-Civil War organizations. it was the idea of Dr. Benjamin E. Stephenson, a former surgeon in the Fourteenth Illinois Infantry. Dr. Stephenson had been motivated by President Lincoln's promise. In the beginning, the G.A.R. was an organization of Union veterans with three objectives; fraternity, charity and loyalty. Membership in the G.A.R. was limited to honorably discharged Union veterans who served during the years 1861-1865. The organization soon became one of the most powerful political organizations in the United States. By the year 1890, there were over 400,000 members, and political candidates for national office sought the prestigious endorsements of the G.A.R. In addition, the G.A.R. became well known for supporting the idea of Memorial Day, and establishing veterans' homes throughout the nation.
This image shows the original charter for
While the G.A.R. is best remembered as a national organization, the very first chapter was organized in Decatur, which was chosen as the location partially because there was a printing shop owned and run by two union veterans, I. N. Coltrin and Joseph Prior. These two men had been approached by Dr. Stephenson's Fields, Robert Mann Woods and John S. Phelps to print up the first by-laws and rituals for the new organization. Veterans showed so much enthusiasm toward Dr. Stephenson's idea that, on April 6, 1866, in a small room on the second floor of a building located at 253 South Park Street, the twelve original members chartered Decatur as "Post No. 1, Grand Army of the Republic."
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Fraternal or Sororal Organizations • War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Looking for Lincoln series list.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Birthplace of the Grand Army of the Republic (here, next to this marker); Music Please, Maestro (within shouting distance of this marker); The Transfer House (within shouting distance of this marker); The Railsplitter Candidate (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Choosing a President (about 600 feet away); Dedicated to All Veterans (about 700 feet away); Abraham Lincoln's First Political Speech (about 700 feet away); Let Us All Be United (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Decatur.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on June 29, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 442 times since then and 11 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on June 29, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.