Grand army of the republic. Dept. of Massachusetts.

Journals of the encampment proceedings of the Department of Massachusetts G.A.R. frm 1881 to 1887 inclusive online

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Online LibraryGrand army of the republic. Dept. of MassachusettsJournals of the encampment proceedings of the Department of Massachusetts G.A.R. frm 1881 to 1887 inclusive → online text (page 27 of 64)
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as a matter of permanent record for Posts and comrades. I may
add that a recommendation similar in substance was made two
years ago by Past Department Commander Patch.

Comrades, called, all but unanimously, by your suffrages one
year ago to take my place at the head of the column as your
leader, to occup}' the station so ably and honorably filled by dis-
tinguished comrades, whose lofty aims and unselfish labors have
stamped upon the Order the character so impartially recorded in
the extracts which I have presented you, I could not but feel
weighted with the responsibility so inseparably associated with the
honor imposed, for it was then devolved upon me to see that not
a single stripe in our grand banner was erased or polluted, not a
single star in the constellation of glory thus far illumining our
pathway blotted out or obscured. While I could not promise to
give to the position the time which others had devoted, I never-
theless accepted it with the determination to carry our flag still
farther to the front, to raise our standard still higher than before,
in the firm conviction, long entertained, that, with the brilliant
page which we added to the nation's history in time of war, and
the no less honorable page illustrating the victories which we
have achieved in time of peace, there could be no station too
high, no "niche in the halls of Time" too conspicuous to be
deserved and occupied by the soldier-citizen of the Grand Army
of the Republic. I could not be said to have entered the office
as a novice. My four consecutive years of experience at head-
quarters, immediately preceding, had made me familiar with the
work which would be expected of me ; and while not anticipating
that everything which I should do, however conscientiously, would
be acceptable to all my comrades, 1 took up the work where my
predecessor laid it down, and at the end of a busy and enjoyable
year, stand before you to give a resume of my labors, coupled
with such suggestions as seem pertinent in connection therewith.


I pass first to consider our standing in point of numbers.
On assuming command of the Department, I knew it would be
impossible, if it were desirable, for me to visit every Post, so I
determined that, outside of responding to the usual routine duties
— some useful, some comparatively ornamental — which Posts
have come almost to demand of Department otHcers, I would
allot a portion of time to visiting small Posts, and j^et another
portion to a careful survey of territory where new ventures might
be profitably' entered upon. This plan I have been enabled to
carry out with tolerable fidelity, and, as I believe, with a reason-
able degree of success to the Order. When it is remembered that


for more than half the year the mind of. the average citizen (and
tlie soldier is more than an average citizen) was thoroughly
engrossed in the Presidential canvass, which was waged with an
intensity of excitement said to have been without precedent in
the nation's history, no marvel in the line of success was to be

On the 31st of December, 1883, this Department numbered
nominally 160 Posts (actually 159 Posts), having, a membership
of 14,277 comrades in good standing, which, with the suspended
membership of 395 for the final quarter added, made the full
strength of the Department 14,672 comrades.

On the 31st of December, 1884, there were 180 Posts and
16,637 members in good standing, to which add the 781 reported
as suspended on the above date, and we have a gross member-
ship of 17,418 comrades. From all which we derive the fact
that there was a net gain for the year, in good standing, of 2,360
comrades, and a gross gain of 2,746 comrades and 21 Posts.
The latter includes two Posts mustered in January by my prede-
cessor. Post 55 of Taunton, having been virtually dead for
about two years, was called upon to surrender its charter, leaving
a net gain of 20 Posts for the year. O*" the nineteen which I
have chartered, nine are located on old camping ground, where,
in many instances, former prejudices clung with the tenacity of
our near friends, the graybacks, to an old stockade, and mission-
ary labors in such fields have not always met with that warmth of
reciprocation which the cause deserved. Although this is a some-
what larger number than usual to muster in a year, they are not
the fruit of an ambition to plant shadowy Posts, for, following
the plan of my predecessor, I adopted a basis of twenty-five
names as desirable on an application, but insisting on at least
twenty. Of the nineteen granted, fifteen have complied with the
higher requirements, one application having seventy-seven names.
The smallest number of names on any application was twentj'-
one. All of these Posts are interested and doing well, and many
of them will soon take a place in the front rank of the Order.


During the year it has been my honor to officially represent
the Department on one hundred and ten different occasions, only
a few of which were purely ornamental. As a portion of this
work I have attended twenty-three camp-fires. I have visited
orticially or informally eighteen different Posts. I have attended
the anniversaries of eight Posts, the dedication of six Post halls,
seven regimental reunions, seven fairs, and six meetings of vet-
erans called in the interests of new Posts. My labors have
spanned the Department from Provincetown, at the limit of Cape
Cod, in the east, to Williamstown in the northwest, and Shetfield


in the southwestern corner of the State. My official correspond-
ence has aggregated about five hundred letters and one hundred
postal cards.

In entering upon my official year as Commander, I resolved
that, so far as I was able, fully a proportionate part of whatever
influence my official garb and that of the comrades associated
with me might possess should be directed to increasing our
strength in that most charming portion of our State, the Con-
necticut Valley and beyond. In furtherance of this resolve, I
have visited it seven different times, four of which were solely for
recruiting purposes, spending in the aggregate eighteen days in
that section. Of the seven Posts organized in those four western
counties during the year, four were the direct and two the indi-
rect fruit of these labors. I am happy to acknowledge in this
connection the services of the Senior Vice-Commander of the
Department, who accompanied me on several of these occasions,
and has represented the Department in that section when I was
unable to be present, taking at all times an active interest in the
welfare of the Order in Western Massachusetts.

One of the most hopeful signs which I have witnessed in
canvassing for new Posts has been the desire to have none but
veterans who possessed the respect and confidence of the com-
munity take a hand in their re-establishment. I need not tell
you how satisfactory such an exhibition was to me, who have
made it a fundamental tenet in my Grand Army preaching to
raise the standard of membership. Some of the comrades, for
whom I " set down nought in malice," have thought me too
strenuous on this point, because, as I believe, they do not fully
understand me. I will state m}' position as plainly as I can
briefly, in the hope that no one shall be at a loss hereafter to
know where I stand, and hope to stand while I remain in the


To begin, I antagonize the proposition, so frequently and
emphatically announced at camp-fires, that an honorable dis-
charge is the only requisite for admission into this organization.
No one circumstance has been prolific of so much harm to the
Order. It is a proposition which the comrades acquainted with
me know that I have combated continually, always insisting that,
while it was an essential, there should be superadded the record
of an honest, manly citizenship. The absence of thi;5 record was
a fundamental cause of so many Posts going to the wall a few
years since, for such men can neither build up nor hold public
esteem and confidence, both of which the Grand Army 7nnst have.
Many other Posts there were which came near to Death's door,
but discovered the evils which were sapping away their life in


time to apply the remedy. What is an honorable discharge? I
answer, a discharge, which is, in many cases, anything but hon-
orable. Honorable discharges are today presented to Posts for
membership, and sent to Washington for pensions, not only by
veterans whose names are the synonym for honorable and dis-
tinguished service, but by men who were not manful, save in sex ;
who were bounty-jumpers or deserters from their flag; who on
unworthy pretexts sought refuge in the hospital; who shirked
their duty on every possible occasion; who were "invincible in
peace, and invisible in war," as the late Senator Hill once put it.
Again, many of the veterans who served the country faith-
fully and well for their full period of enlistment, on returning
home, whether demoralized by the corrupting influences of war,
or giving way to the enticements presented by too sudden a
transition into the luxuries and temptations of civil life, have
deported themselves in such a manner as to dishonor their record
as soldiers, and to disgrace themselves as citizens. What is to
be done when these men apply for membership in the Grand
Army? I answer unhesitatingly, keep them resolutely out till a
real reformation takes place. A record of honorable military or
naval service is not enough. Under the providence of God, a
man may have a black skin or a white one ; he may be rich or
poor, high-born or of low degree; he may be educated or illiter-
ate ; but no fiat of God, no accident of inheritance, no decree of
society or of letters, interferes to prevent him being a sober,
honest, respectable citizen, and so much he must be before /vote
him into the Grand Army of the Republic. The people know
nothing of what we were. They very naturally judge us, both
as to our past and present, by what we are ; and every instinct
of true manhood should conspire, in the name of the grand cause
which marshalled us, of the men who once touched elbows with
us, in placing and keeping our Order where the people every-
where must look up and not down to see us. Such, in brief, is
my ideal standard for our membership. Comrades may differ
with me, but I hope they will understand me.


There is one agency for the keeping of our ranks clean and
pure, to whose use I will refer in this connection. Complaints
have reached me during the year that personal malice has, by
means of the black ball, kept out of Posts veterans whose stand-
ing in every way entitled them to unanimous election as comrades,
and whose influence would have given us added strength. Now,
while I am, and always shall be, an advocate of using the black
ball " faithfully and fearlessly," yet, for the man who is so
mean and cowardly as to use it for personal spite, I can have no
other than feelings of the most utter contempt. He disgraces the


badge of Fraternity and Charity which he wears upon his breast,
and brings the Order into disrepute among its friends. He is a
most ignoble disciple of our Father Abraham, who had •' malice
towards none, and charity for all." It is to be earnestly hoped
that such instances will become most distinguished for their


AVith our continued growth in membership there has been a
corresponding increase in the unexpended balance in the hands
of the Assistant Quartermaster-General. The balance reported
on hand Jan. 30, 1884, was $1,744.31. On hand Jan. 29, 1885,
$2,835.62,— a gain of $1,091.31 for the year. The disposition
of this fund is a question which should receive careful consid-
eration by this Encampment or its deputies. One year ago the
Auditing Committee of the Council of Administration "recom-
mended to the Department that $1,000 of the funds be invested
in such manner as, in the judgment of the Council of Admmis-
tration, would be for the best interests of the Department."
This recommendation was referred by the Encampment to the
incoming Council, who permitted the money to remain on interest
at two and one half per cent, in the hands of the New England
Trust Company.

As the surplus revenue of the Department is likely to
increase for some years longer, unless a change is made in the
policy of the Department, some judicious action should be had
looking to its security and better investment. This will naturally
raise the inquiry as to whether it is desirable to have a Depart-
ment fund larger than will suffice to provide for ordinary contin-
gencies. Without attempting anything in the nature of argument,
I will simply throw in a few thoughts on both sides of the ques-
tion, as they have occurred to me, for the consideration of the

First. A Department fund is desirable, because, in the later
days of the Order, portions of such an accumulation will be nec-
essary to aid struggling Posts, or to keep open a headquarters till
all the property has been turned in, and the affairs of the Order
properly closed up.

Second. Such a fund would be a great blessing should any
contagion or disaster, involving general suffering and want among
comrades, take place, as has already been the case in other Depart-
ments ; or.

Third. As the time is not far distant when our great and
noble charity, the Soldiers' Home, may call loudly for funds, the
income of such a fund might very properly be diverted to that

On the other hand, a Department fund may be regarded as


First. Because it is mainly built up from the per capita
tax, which is so much money taken directly from the treasury
of the Posts, and indirectly from the pockets of the comrades.
Better lower the tax to a point where no accumulation will ensue,
and lighten, to that extent, the burdens of comrades ; or,

Second. Owing to fluctuations in securities, the investment
of such a fund is attended with more or less risk, as, in the
nature of things, it lacks that careful supervision which attaches
to personal ownership. Better not carry the risk ; or.

Third. It may be possible for officers to secure an election
for the manipulation of the funds for personal ends, as has been
the case in individual Posts.

These are thoughts, by the way, all susceptible of elabora-
tion. Other comrades may see other and better reasons, pro or
coyi. I leave the matter here, in the hope that this Encampment
will declare a financial policy, and direct its representatives
accordingly. The excellent report of the Assistant Quarter-
master-General will give you the expenses of the year in detail.
There have been no unusual expenses, if I except §25 sent to the
sutferers by the Ohio floods, and SI 00 contributed at the National
Encampment for a comrade from Dakota wdio lost his leg. Con-
tributions for this comrade's relief, varying from $50 to $250,
were being made by the several delegations, with an enthusiasm
which I never saw paralleled, when the delegation from Massa-
chusetts, sensitive to her good name, voted the above contribu-
tion, subject to the approval of the Council of Administration.
This spontaneous expression of the Fraternity and Charity of the
Grand Army was taken up by the papers, and heralded from
ocean to ocean, doing more for the Order, especially in the West,
than the most eloquent language of our most gifted orators could
have done.

By vote of the last Encampment, the actual travelling
expenses of the Commander have been paid by the Department.
In all cases, the entertainment has been provided by the Posts
interested, and a few of them have preferred to pay all the
expenses. The Encampment further voted it to be the duty of
Posts to pay all the bills when the Commander attended the
opening of fairs. It gives me great pleasure to state that this
vote has been complied with by all Posts save one. Believing,
with my predecessor, that the measure is a just and proper one,
I renew the recommendation that the sum of $300 be appropri-
ated for the actual travelling fares of the Department Commander,
or for the Department Senior or Junior Vice-Commander, when
detailed to officiate in his stead, the bills subject to the approval
of the Council of Administration. I would add the same proviso
to the above in relation to fairs. I also renew the recommenda-
tion that the fares of the Commander and Assistant Adjutant-



General be paid to the National Encampment by the Department,
for the reasons adduced one year ago. I should be glad to rec-
onniieud that the fares of the entire delegation be similarly pro-
vided for, did I not fear that it would prove too radical and speedy
a remedy for our surplus, especially should the P^ncampment meet
in San Francisco next year, as now looks at least possible.


I have heard a large number of comrades, from time to time,
express themselves most emphatically against this organization,
on the ground of opposition to perpetuating the Grand Army. I
never have had any sympathy with them, because, in the strictest
sense, such a thing cannot be done. But if they mean that they
are opposed to any body which, after the last Post is disbanded,
shall perpetuate the principles for which our Order stood, tlien I
traverse their position without hesitation, for it is inconsistent
with our daily preaching and teaching. The annual recurrence of
Memorial Day gives repeated occasion to our orators to set forth
the inestimable value of our commemorative exercises as an educa-
tion to the young; inspiring them with patriotism, with a higher
appreciation of the services rendered by the men who now, with
the gentleness and tenderness of woman, perform the sadly sweet
ceremonies of decoration, and firing them, should need arise, to
emulate the valorous impulses of their fathers. But if this educa-
tion is of value today, will its need have passed away when we
are off the stage? Rather will not our very absence emphasize
the need of a body to do just such work? But I will not pause
for argument. This fact must, however, be admitted, will we,
nill we, whether they have come early or late, like General Stone's
brigade at Gettysburg, they " have come to stay," and the Grand
Army, in self-defense, must guide them. They want the indorse-
ment of the " old man," recognizing their comparative instability
in the community without it. Realizing the situation, and feeling
that Farce had held the stage too long, and that Tragedy should
have it long enough to clear away the present double-headed
nuisance, it was my privilege to offer the following preamble and
resolution at the last National Encampment: —

Whkreas, There now exist among us two organizations, known as
Sons of Veterans, who have, from time to time, sought the indorsement
of this Order; and,

Wherkas, These organizations have substantially the same end in
view, and should be united, whether in emphasizing the principles of the
Grand Army, or as anxiliary to the same in any other manner; and,

Wherkas, They have not only failed to unite, but are detrimental to
our Order, by trading on its capital, through their appeal to the public
for funds, all of which are devoted to their own purposes ; therefore,

Besolved, That the Grand Army should take no further steps to
harmonize the two bodies, and that the incoming Council of Administra-


tion be requested to report to the next Annnal Encampment a draft of
organization for an Order of Sons of "Veterans, which shall he judiciously
subordinated to this Order, and under which, camp or other designated
formations may take place.

On motion, the whole matter in relation to Sons of Vet-
erans was referred to a committee, to report at the next National
P^ncampment. This resolution, 1 am informed, has already borne
fruit in the practical union of the two chief bodies.

woman's relief corps.

I heartily indorse the work of this organization. I never
shared the solicitude of those comrades who feared that it would
usurp the name, the badge, the work and glory of the Grand
Army, or even that it would "i?*/-?/" us all before we needed it.
While I have not beeu an enthusiast in its behalf in former years,
I have not been an opponent, and mj^ only question has been as
to the need of a State or National organization, inasmuch as loyal
women have always been ready to second us. But I am now
satisfied on that point. My mother and sisters were as good
soldiers, in their sphere, as I was in mine ; and I must be a man
much lower than the angels if I attempt to restrict them in times
of peace on a simple question of methods. Several Posts have
expressed great dependence on their auxiliary Corps. In one
case only, a lack of harmony has been reported, and in this the
estimable Department President, who has shown a constant zeal
to have the most harmonious relations on the part of her Corps,
immediately resorted to measures to secure the desired end. I
confideutly predict the time as not far distant when they will be
the right arm of our support in the community, and I give them


The session of this body at Minneapolis, last July, was a
most memorable one, calling together a ver}' large assemblage of
veterans from all parts of the country. This Department was
represented by its full delegation. The matter of changes in the
Ritual, referred to the delegation, was duly presented and referred
to a committee on Ritual, which reports at the next National
Encampment. The changes in Rules and Regulations asked for
by this Department in relation to incorporating the price of the
badge in the muster fee, and permitting public installations, were
adopted, as was also the substance of its amendment in relation
to trustees, which was embodied in amendments on this head,
offered by the Department of Connecticut.

There is one other amendment to the Regulations which I
should like to see adopted now that installation services may be
public, and that is one granting authority to install at a special


meeting. Many inquiries and requests to that end have reached
headquarters the past few weeks. The Rules, as they now stand,
are inconsistent on this point, and should be changed ; and the
change proposed would, I believe, be satisfactory to a large num-
ber of Posts.


I take great pride in referring to the improvement which has
been going on in this Department in the appearance of Posts on
parade, so many of which now turn out with full uniform on
Memorial Day and other occasions. Perhaps the Order has moved
more slowly in this respect than in many others. So repugnant
had a uniform become to many veterans while in service that they
have steadily opposed wearing one until these later days, when
time has wrought its softening influence upon them.

The first attempt at uniforming the Order originated, so far
as I can learn, with Past Department Commander A. S. Cush-
man, who in the National Convention held at Philadelphia, Jan.
15, 16, 17, 1868, " moved that a committee of one from each
Department be appointed to adopt a regalia," which motion was
laid on the table ; but I cannot find record of any definite action
ever having been taken, although propositions to that end have
been offered many times. Like Topsy, the one now generally
worn "had no farder nor mudder, nor nebber had." And as
Topsy, when further interrogated as to where she did come from,
replied, " Dunno, specs I grow'd," so likewise has our once non-
descript uniform come to assume something that will bear defini-

One of the earliest anonymous requirements was that of wear-
ing dark clothes, which practically resulted in wearing anything
from black through the shades to white duck ; in other words, to
wearing whatever the comrade was possessed of. Then came the
white belt and McClellan cap, with wreath, letters and number,
to be immediately followed in some Posts by the adoption of the
slouched hat, — one of the greatest mistakes in the direction of
uniformity that has been attempted. You will recall those lines
of Robert Browning from the " Pied Piper of Hamelin," where he
describes the Piper as followed by

" Black rats, white rats, brown rats, brawny rats.
Old rats, young rats, gray rats, tawny rats, etc."

Online LibraryGrand army of the republic. Dept. of MassachusettsJournals of the encampment proceedings of the Department of Massachusetts G.A.R. frm 1881 to 1887 inclusive → online text (page 27 of 64)