The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was an organization of honorably discharged Union veterans of the American Civil War, who organized to promote the principles of “Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty.” Applicants for membership had to prove that they were honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Revenue Cutter Service (predecessor to the U.S. Coast Guard), who had served between April 1861 and April 1865.
The great majority of GAR records were maintained by the officers of the local GAR chapters (Posts). Many records were kept in the homes of key officers such as the Post Adjutant (secretary) and the Post Quartermaster (treasurer). Other records were stored at the post headquarters or were kept by the Post Commander. Because of this, the records for a particular Post may not all be archived at the same location.
As the veterans died or the local chapters voted to disband, the records were supposed to be sent to the GAR Department headquarters. This often didn’t happen. Many records were given to other organizations. A few were simply destroyed. Private collectors or the families of the last Post officers also still hold some records.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Records Project is an ongoing project sponsored by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) to document the location of repositories of records of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of Union veterans of the Civil War. The organization tries “to assist in every practicable way in preserving, and making available for research, documents and records pertaining to the Grand Army of the Republic and its members.”
The primary feature of the GAR Records Project is an online catalog listing all known GAR Posts and associated records. This is an ongoing project, and there is still much more information that needs to be gathered. Locating the repositories of surviving records for over 10,000 GAR Posts is a massive effort, and many records are yet to be found. Your tips will help the SUVCW improve this project as it moves forward.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Records Project does not hold or make available records about individual veterans. Instead, it is a catalog of where such records may be found. In most cases, an in-person visit will be required to view the records.
For instance, the records of the Bangor, Maine post of the GAR, known as the B. H. Beale Post, are located at the Maine State Library’s University of Maine Orono Special Collections, 64 State House Station (230 State Street), Augusta, ME 04333.
The GAR Records Catalog can be accessed two different ways:
- You can explore GAR Posts by State, where you can select a state on the clickable map to explore detailed historical information, open related GAR Records Catalog pages, and find links to related websites (including SUVCW sites) for that state.
- You can Go Directly to the Catalog, which will open a new window in your browser and launch the stand-alone catalog.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Records Project may be found at http://www.garrecords.org.