The GAR was founded by Benjamin Stephenson in 1886 and was composed of Veterans of the Union Army who served in the American Civil War.
Its organization was based partly on the tradition of Freemasonery and partly on military tradition. Military style uniforms were worn by its members. There were posts in every state in the US and several posts overseas. The organization wielded considerable political clout nationwide. Between 1868 and 1908, no Republican Party member was nominated to the U.S. presidency without a GAR endorsement.
In 1868 general order #11 of the GAR designated May 30 as a day of memorial for Union Veterans. Originally called Decoration Day , this later became Memorial Day.
The GAR led to the creation of the Old Soldiers Homes of the late 19th century which evolved into the current United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The GAR created The Sons Of Union Veterans of the Civil War SUVCW in 1881 to ensure the preservation of their own mission after Union War Veterans all had died. The GAR also generated several auxiliary organizations such as the National Women's Relief Corps.
In Ticonderoga Alfred Weed Post #252 was organized in 1874 with James McCormick as the first commander.
Charter members were George Coates, W.H.Smith, A. Little, W.G.Wiley, G.Ives, W.D.McLaughlin, L.Fachr, E. Wilson, O. Myott, L. Hack, D.O'Dell, R. Arthur, A. Weed, J. Tefft, J. Malaney, H. Spicer, V. Rickert, W. Lamson, S. Bryan, J. Potter, and H. Ellis.
They had the task of collecting names of volunteers in the event of a call. In 1900, the post presented bronze tablets at the fort commemorating colonial and revolutionary events there. They decorated graves on Decoration Day until 1921 when the job was given to the American Legion; there being only eight Civil War veterans still alive and very aged.
For a short time, there was a group called The Ladies of the GAR and in 1892 Fort Ticonderoga Camp #87 Sons of Veterans met in the GAR rooms on S. Main St.
A GAR post in Crown Point called the C.F.Hammond Post often joined with The Alfred Weed Post for special events.
In 1896, a large group from both posts were presented a spirited and eloquent description of the Battle of Cedar Creek by E.J.Barker. He was 21 years old at the time of the battle and was a part time commander of the Old 5th NY Calvary. In the 1920s this veterans organization was without remaining members. Today, we can still find many metal GAR markers in our local cemeteries.
This series of articles is compliments of Ticonderoga Heritage Museum, located in the 1888 building at the entrance of Bicentennial Park.