G.A.R. Michigan Department History -Michigan's Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall and Museum


224 South Main Street, Eaton Rapids, Michigan 48827
Email: GARmichigan@gmail.com
Telephone: 517-922-6427

History of the
Grand Army of the Republic in Michigan

In May 1867, then Michigan’s Boys in Blue Commander, General Russell A. Alger was elected at a convention of the Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Union, as Provisional Commander of the G.A.R. in Michigan. General Alger sent his Adjutant General, Colonel William A. Phelps, of Detroit, in September of 1867 to the Department of Indiana to “procured the necessary Rituals, Rules, and Regulations, … unwritten work of the Order, … the necessary blanks and forms for our work, and the authority to proceed with this organization of this Department”.

In the meantime, the National Organization of the G.A.R. appointed Brevet Brigadier-General William Humphrey, Colonel 2nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Provisional Commander of the Department of Michigan on October 1, 1867. General William Humphrey as Provisional Commander was charged with organizing the Department of Michigan. He and Comrade J. H. Fee represented the Department of Michigan at the National G.A.R. Encampment in Cincinnati in 1869. Based on these two actions, neither the G.A.R. National Organization nor the Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Union was aware of the other’s efforts of the to organize a G.A.R. Department in Michigan.

Unfortunately, there are no records or other information available that describes how the two Department organizational efforts were worked out. However, given that he was elected by the Michigan Department Encampment in May 1868, General Russell Alger is considered to be the first Provisional Department Commander. General Alger was followed in that office by William A. Throop in 1869.

At the 1871 National Encampment of the G.A.R. the Adjutant General reported that the Department of Michigan was in excellent condition, with all reports and dues having been promptly made. However, at the 1872 National Encampment it was reported that no returns were made to National Headquarters in 1872. The Department of Michigan was subsequently dropped from the rolls of Departments.

Between 1866 and 1869, 49 local Posts had been chartered in the state and then subsequently lost due to a variety of reason, the least of which was the membership requirements placed on them by the Commandery-in-Chief and the politicization of local Posts, the Department, and the National Organization itself (see Table 1), . It was not until Major C.V.R. Pond succeeded Captain Purinton as Provisional Department Commander in 1878 that a sufficient number of local Posts were chartered to form a permanent Department in Michigan. This was accomplished on January 22, 1879 in Grand Rapids with C.V.R. Pond being elected Department Commander.

From 1879 on, the Michigan Department began to grow very quickly with the mustering of new members and the chartering of new Posts in Michigan. Eventually, the number of Posts that would eventually be formed in Michigan would reach 463 (see Table 2).



-----. 2020. Various Records. Michigan’s Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall and Museum, Eaton Rapids, Michigan. Beath, R.B. 1889. History of the Grand Army of the Republic. Bryan Taylor & Company, Publishers, New York, New York. 702p.

Cravath, I.M. (Editor and Compiler). 1869. Manual of the Grand Army of the Republic, Containing its Principles and Objects Together with Memorial Day in the Department of Michigan, May 1869, List of Officers, etc. W.S. George & Company Steam Books and Job Printers, Lansing, Michigan. 154p.

G.A.R. 1877. Proceedings of the First to Tenth Meetings 1866 -1876 (Inclusive) of the National Encampment, Grand Army of the Republic with Digest of Decisions, Rules of the Order and Index. Samuel P. Town, Printer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 516p.

G.A.R. 1866. Proceedings of Enlistment & Muster of the Grand Army of the Republic, 1866. Unknown Printer. 13p.

G.A.R. 1866. Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Grand Army of the Republic, Adopted in General Convention at Indianapolis, Indiana, November 23, 1866. Department of Pennsylvania, Head-Quarters at Philadelphia, December 1866. Merrihew & Son Printers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 25p.

G.A.R. 1868. Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Grand Army of the Republic as Revised and Adopted in National Convention. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania January 15, 16, 17, 1868. H.J. Hallgreen, Boston, Massachusetts. 16p.

Heiple, R. 2000. "The History of the Department of Michigan, Grand Army of the Republic", Michigan's Messenger. Michigan Department, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Lansing, Michigan.

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