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

. (page 28 of 64)
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 28 of 64)
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Now substitute the word hats for rats, and the description is
perfection, for the appearance of the average Post dressed in the
slouch hat, properly so called. With the possible exception of
the latest fashion, I can truthfully say that I have seen the cord
and wreath on every kind of hat familiar to this age, from the
high- crowned slouch to the low ; through all shades of color from



NINETEENTH ANNUAL ENCAMPMENT. 261

black to the lightest ; from the one-storied Derby up through the
whole catalogue of stiff hats, not even omitting the classic beaver ;
and even straw hats often fall victims to these typical decorations.
All of which, it may be said, indicates, in large measure, the
democratic character of our grand institution, and the large liberty
tolerated in what many still regard as a non-essential. But the
exercise of this liberty has been so shocking to comrades of natural
military instincts that they could well be pardoned if they exclaimed
with ]\Iadame Koland, " O liberty, liberty ! how many crimes are
committed in thy name ! "

Still we are making rapid strides forward in this respect. Sev-
eral Posts have uniformed during the year, and some of those appear-
ing best on parade, once having adopted a cap, have adhered
to it continuously, and are never seen with a go-as-you-please
annex of comrades bringing up in- the rear. I am a steadfast
believer in standing by the old traditions, in being the Boys in
Blue that we were twenty years ago; and while I recognize and
appreciate all that individual Posts are doing to make a creditable
appearance on parade, 1 am sure that they would mean more to
the people of today and of twenty years hence if clad in the uni-
form they wore in Rebellion days, than in the gaudiest trappings of
possible manufacture. Nay, they would mean more to themselves.
In harmony with this idea, I would recommend that the sash worn
in the service be added to the uniform adopted by the Fifteenth
Annual P^ncampment, and that so much of the requirements as
necessitates the light blue welt in the pantaloons be rescinded.
There has only a portion of one Post complied with this require-
ment, so that it would work no great hardship to make the change,
and in the respect of both taste and simplicity would be an
improvement. It is gratifying to note that some of the newest
Posts are the most interested to [)ut themselves on a respectable
basis in this respect.

In this connection I desire to express my hearty approval of
the plan adopted by a few of our Posts of having the comrades
attend Post meetings in uniform. I should like to see it univer-
sally adopted, for I believe its effect on the organization and on
the community is salutary. The effect in Post meetings is very
satisfactory. P^ven the Grand Army badge is almost an unknown
quanfty in many Post rooms. This ought not to be. The badge
of the comrade should be worn on every Grand Army occasion,
whether private or public.

THE soldiers' HOME.

I shall take little of your time in referring to this monument
to our Fraternity, in which we take such laudable pride. The
report of the Trustees, which you have already received, embodies
all needed information in relation to it. 1 may say in brief, that.



262 HISTORY DEPT. OF MASS., G.A.R.

on the testimony of those who know, it has no equal in the land,
and will further add that Posts in this vicinity, as well as some
more remote, who once questioned the expediency of founding
such an institution, are now ranked among its warmest supporters.
I desire once more to call the attention of Posts through this
representative gathering to the grand carnival in preparation to
raise an endowment fund of ^100,000 for the Home. Let nothing
be left undone in the power of comrades to do to make this the
most marvellous success in the history of such enterprises. " A
long pull, and a strong pull, and a pull all together," and the
desired result is accomplished. I believe that the people have
only to fully understand the work which the Grand Army is doing
to respond most liberall}' to the call which we shall make upon
them.

GOOD OF THE ORDER.

There are a few thoughts which I desire to present that may
fairly be included under the above caption. They are related
more or less intimately to the successful working of Posts gen-
erally. First in importance among these I rate the selection of
Post officers. It is not enough to select a " good fellow " for
Commander. He ought to be a man who has influence in the
community, and commands the respect of it. Popularity with the
boys is excellent when other needed qualities are added, but may,
in some respects, be undesirable in a Post which needs toning up,
inside and out.

Again, there is a deeply rooted theory in many Posts that if
a comrade is good enough for a Junior Vice-Commander, he can-
not be such a wretehed failure as a Senior Vice-Commander, and
is, by courtesy at least, entitled to promotion. And if a Senior
Vice-Commander has done his duty faithfully and well, with other
things equal, he should be the preferred candidate for Post Com-
mander. I am in full accord with this theory. I am aware that
a few Posts take delight in being exceptors to it, but I make no
quarrel with them if the interests of their ranks are best served
in that way. The rule is, however, that comrades, looking back
to active service, remember that promotion came for duty faith-
fully performed ; and when somebody is jumped over them in the
Post offices, they are only human if they feel hurt, and with their
immediate friends become sulkers in their tents, and in various
ways show themselves affronted. I am not now defending them,
I am stating the facts, and can name several instances from the
recent election as evidence. I am a thorough believer in promotion
in Posts, contending that comrades should be selected for the
three highest offices with special reference to their fitness to fill
either place acceptably. If they prove their unfitness on trial, or
do not care for advancement, then drop them. I am confident that



NINETEENTH ANNUAL ENCAMPMENT. 263

this plau, faithfully carried out, in four out of five Posts would
add to their efficiency.

Then we have some Post Commanders who seem to hold office
by free grace rather than by election. They discuss all the ques-
tions, make themselves essential to the very existence of the Post,
riding it like a veritable Old Man of the Sea. They are not
wholly to blame, as the office is often forced upon the man ; Init
they should not be too passive. Every comrade should stand
ready to take any position, with its honors or its burdens, which
he is qualified to fill, if his comrades impose it. I recognize the
fact that many small Posts have one member of influence in the
community who can really do more for the Post as its Commander
than any one else. Still, I am clearly of the opinion that in Posts
having more than thirty members, no comrade should be at the
head more than two consecutive years.

Another evil which many Posts are afflicted with, and which
should be abated in the interests of the Oi'der, is the bores who
kill off Posts by long speeches made up of repetitions, or by
ridiculous parliamentary discussions. The question so lono-
debated by the Idealists as to the number of angels that could
dance on the point of a cambric needle, is of infinite importance
when compared with those which these bores drone over night
after night. Any Post thus afflicted should adopt a by-law with
which to doivn such offenders soon " after sight," for I know of
nothing that more surely or speedily depletes the attendance and
interest in the Post room.

Smoking in the Post room during its session seems to me an
evil, which, so far as I can learn, is allowed by but very few Posts
in this Department No other Order tolerates it, I am told.
But aside from this argument by comparison, there seems to me
good reason for its inhibition on other grounds. It is a fact that
comrades, both non-smokers and smokers, who do not like to go
home having their clothing saturated with the fumes of tobacco,
absent themselves from meetings where the social pipe holds
sway, at which they would otherwise be constant attendants. The
Post room should be neutral territory^ and I respectfully submit to
the most devoted admirer of the weed, the query as to whether
he cannot forego indulgence in his favorite pastime for a single
two hours in a week or two weeks for the "good of the Order."
If he cannot, then let him withdraw to the ante-room, but let no
man be excluded from the meeting on account of the selfishness
of any comrade.

I believe it not for the good of the Order that any Post should
hold its regular meetings on the Sabbath. In my judgment, it is
neither necessary nor legal. It matters not what views you or I
may entertain as to the proper observance of that day, the people
of Massachusetts believe in the Sabbath. But the people of



264 HISTORY DEPT. OF MASS., G.A.R.

Massachusetts also believe in the Grand Army, and 1 submit that
we cannot afford to needlessly affront the moral sense of the com-
munity which so loyally sustains us in our relief work. The only
Post in this Department, or any, so far as I know, which held its
regular meetings on the Sabbath, gave them up early in the yeav.
But I now learn, on credible authority, that they are about to
be resumed at the same time, and, worse still, at the same place,
with its undesirable annex. I trust that this Encampment will
acquaint itself with the facts, and take such action as seems
proper to protect the Department from the continuance of what
seems to me an outrage on public sentiment.

Another source of detriment to the Order I believe to be the
closing of Post rooms during warm weather ; a practice which has,
1 think, been too generally adopted throughout this Department.
The inevitable tendency is for comrades to lose interest and forget
for two months that there is such an institution as the Grand
Army. I can see no good reason for such a practice. Systematic
relief work is as needful then as at any time. The halls should
at least be open where the comrades can assemble for social and
fraternal enjoyment, if not for Post work ; but I am an earnest
believer in the setting aside of one evening in a week, or at least
two in a month, twelve months in the year, for regular Post meet-
ings.

I further believe that the good of the Order requires repre-
sentation in this Encampment from every Post in the Department,
and, to assure it, Posts should pay their delegates' expenses.

Another topic falling under this head seems to me important
enough to call for some action on the part of this P^ncampment.
It is coming to be a frequent occurrence for some Post to evolve
a scheme which, if fully carried out, it no doubt honestly believes
is for the good of the Order, and at once blank petitions are pre-
pared and sent to other Posts in the Department, requesting sig-
natures ; the petitions, when signed, to be forwarded to a central
committee or to the State or National Legislature. Now, if there
is one Post in this Department which is, par excellence, the brainy
Post, the source of every new and brilliant idea, I have no criti-
cism to offer on that body of comrades, if it is capable of taking
this entire Department dangling along as a tail to its kite. If it
is a fact that all of the wise and prudent generalship in the Order
is resident in one comrade, in one, two, or a dozen Posts, it
would seem desirable that a headquarters be opened at once for
those indispensable articles in the aforesaid Post or Posts, and the
Order directed in all respects from those headquarters. But I
respectfully submit to the delegates of this Encampment the ques-
tion whether it is for the best interests of the Order for any Post
to take the initiative in any legislative measure involving the
approval or dissent of every Post in the Department, without



NINETEENTH ANNUAL ENCAMPMENT. 265

having it first considered after the usual custom by this assem-
blage. Any proposition that will not bear the light and scrutiny
which your deliberations concentrnte upon it shouhl be stifled at
its birth; but if, on the other hand, it will stand the test, then we
can move as a Department, in solid column, and not as a thin
skirmish line in its support. No exigency is likely to arise calling
upon the Order for action which cannot wait for your oflicial
sanction. The "sacred right of petition," so called, would not
be invaded by your restrictive action, for any comrade who dis-
likes the government of this Order can set his own time for leav-
ing it. You determine the conditions of his entrance and his stay,
and you enact such legislation as will preserve your integrity, in
which he has a voice, and to which he must be obedient if he
remains. 1 therefore submit that any questions which divide the
opinions of the Grand Army should first have their standing adju-
dicated at this tribunal. There is a tradition extant that the con-
sideration of such matters once constituted an important part of
your deliberations, and so far as I now recall, the integrity of
your action on propositions originating with Posts has never been
impeached. I have yet to learn of the first good reason why you
should relinquish this vital prerogative, and sincerely trust that
such a reason may never appear.

Another change, which I believe would result in good to the
Order, would be brought about by Posts confining their canvass
for "the sale of fair tickets to their own territory, and not tres-
passing on that of their neighbors. Tickets are mailed to the
various Posts in this Department, and have even been received
from beyond the Mississippi in dozens, accompanied by the mod-
est request that they be disposed of and the proceeds remitted to
the sender. One of the most vital objections to this practice is
presented in the fact that so large a share of this money comes
from the comrades themselves. It is true they will spend their
money where and for what they please, as is their right ; but I
would respectfully submit to a comrade about to invest, the query
whether his own Post does not need the money more, or if he
engages to sell such tickets outside the Post, whether his com-
munity ought to be called upon to support other Posts than his
own. This latter query has, of course, less force made of com-
rades having membership in city Posts.

And this question of fairs brings me to a consideration of
the lottery phase, whose discussion is thrust upon me at this time
by current events. I will preface what I have to offer by saying
that it has always been a source of regret to me that the men who
were the stern enforcers of law, even to the use of " the last argu-
ment of kings," should in any wise appear to the people as law
breakers. It has been said that exceptions should be made in
favor of the Grand Army on account of the object it has in view.



266 HISTORY DEPT. OF MASS., G.A.R.

I believe I shall accurately represeot the average sentiment of the
Order, when I declare that the Grand Army spurns with disdain
the offer to make it an exception in the enforcement of any law.
But what it does ask is, that if there be any statute violated by
any Grantl Army Post, any Lodge of Odd Fellows, or any reli-
gious society, in this Commonwealth, that statute shall be impar-
tUiUy enforced. While members of the Order are divided on the
question of expediency in this matter, they very properly object
to being made the scapegoats, and only ask that treatment which
is accorded to other bodies whose aims are often far more selfish.
While I sincerely believe that the letter and not the intent of the
law is violated by this method of raising money, I shall yet hail
with delight any scheme which will accomplish the same object
with a reasonable amount of effort, and at the same time secure
the cordial co-operation of ever}' member of the community, so
many of whom now conscientiously withhold it.

MASSACHUSETTS VETERANS' REUNION.

I wish to give my cordial indorsement to the contemplated
reunion of the Massachusetts veterans, and bespeak for it, from
the comrades of this Encampment, their warmest co-operation. I
have been an advocate of such a gathering since the earliest
attempt to hold one, and believe that whatever objections may
present themselves in its tentative stage will soon disappear, and
the annual recurrence of this occasion be one of much pride and
enjoyment to every old soldier.

REPORTS OF OFFICERS.

You will shortly have put into your hands the various reports
of the Department otlicers, to each and all of which I invite your
careful attention. This year we have accomplished for the first
time the plan of submitting these reports in print. It is done
without additional expense, results in some saving of time, and is
a convenience which I am sure you will fully appreciate.

The excellent and comprehensive report of the Assistant
Adjutant-General is a work not a tithe of whose labor appears to
the casual oliserver, but very valuable to comrades for reference.
The work of this ofBcer has materially increased with the growth
of the Department, and 1 cheerfully recommend the usual appro-
priation of S200 for clerk hire. It is to be remembered that oiu-
membership has increased more than one-half during the past three
years, while the appropriations for the Assistant Adjutant-Gen-
eral's office have remained essentially the same. For the com-
rade who has filled this important office during the past year,
turning day into night again and again in the prosecution of his
labors, " o'er books consuming the midnight oil," — but Dejjart-



NINETEENTH ANNUAL ENCAMPMENT. 267

meiit books, — I can only wish tliat his fnture may be as prosper-
ous as his past has been honorable and glorious.

The report of the Department Inspector contains much valu-
able information. Two thorough inspections have been had
during the year, — one in the spring by order of the Commander-in-
Chief, and the usual fall inspection. In each case every Post was
inspected. It gives me the utmost pleasure to bear testimony to
the conscientious service of this Staff ofiicer, manifested in no way
more conspicuously than in the fact that of the nineteen new Posts
chartered, just nineteen of them have been mustered by the
Department Inspector in person. This record of service, I
believe, is without parallel in the history of the office in this
Department. Arrangements were perfected in nearl}' every case
whereby, at the adjourned meeting, the work of muster-in has
been exemplified by a neighboring Post.

The salient points of his report will readily appear to you.
One which well illustrates the unselfishness of our relief appears
in the fact that aid was not only given to 1 ,234 comrades, but to
927 who were not comrades of the Order. It further shows
$36, 84.'). 13 in Post funds, 8120,569.43 in relief funds, and a new
item, not hitherto reported, of $!)(), 009. 94 of other property held
by Posts. There is an increase in the amount of money in relief
funds of nearly $15,000 over a year ago. These figures, certainly,
show a financial condition on which the Order is to be congratu-
lated. The report also shows the sum of $35,793.51 expended in
relief, an increase over last year of about $1,600; $37,527.42
was the sum expended in relief for the calendar year.

I am of the opinion that if a thorough spring inspection is to
be annually recpiired by the Commander-in-Chief, only a portion
of the Department need be inspected in the fall, which would save
some expense, and yet result, I believe, in no detriment to the
Order. The excellent character and standing of maj}y Posts is a
sufficient warranty for this latter opinion.

I have already referred to the report of the Assistant (Quar-
termaster-General. While the routine work of this oflfice is neces-
sarily performed by the Assistant Adjutant-General, it has been
under the supervision of the former officer. His important and
carefully prepared report will receive your discriminating atten-
tion.

The position of Chief INIustering Officer has not been a sine-
cure on my Staff, and the incumbent of that office, although living
on one edge of the Department, has earned his honors by muster-
ing the officers of eight of the new Posts, as well as by attending
the various meetings of the Council.

The legal department has not been overworked, owing in
large measure to a better understanding of Rules and Regulations,
and to the assistance rendered Post Commanders by the volume



268 HISTORY DEPT. OF MASS., G.A.K.

of Decisions and Opinions with wliich each is supplied. Justice
to the Judge Advocate requires the statement that continued illness
in his family has prevented his meeting the comrades of the
Department as often as he would otherwise have done.

The reports of the Council of Administration, the Medical
Director and the Department Chaplain *v\nll also merit your care-
ful consideration. The suggestions of the Council respecting the
finances will give additional weight to what I have already offered
on this head, and will, I trust, lead to such initial action as seems
most desirable in connection with the subject considered.

LOYALTY TO THE ORDER.

The year just passed has witnessed, perhaps, the most excit-
ing political contest of the nineteenth century. Members of the
Order were found in all the political parties. Party spirit, I
believe, never ran higher, and in my judgment there has never
been a year when, if any Post or number of Posts had lost their
heads and gone over bodil}' into politics, their bitterest foe could
have done other than condone their breach of allegiance. But it
gives me the utmost satisfaction to report that whatever may
have been the ajypearance in any individual case (and I have
been told again and again that the Grand Army was in politics),
no Post of this Department has violated Rules and Regulations
in this respect.

For the restraint which comrades displayed during the cam-
paign, they have my sincere thanks. Fully informed in relation
to past experiences, and gathering from the situation after the
nominations were made enough to giA'e me some concern as to
the outcome of the canvass in its effect upon the Order, it can
readily be imagined that I saw the dawn of November 5 with no
great regret. One incident of the campaign touched me very
deeply, and illustrates that loyalty which cements us so strongly
together. The incident was this : One of our large Posts, on
learning that a prominent soldier nominee was intending to visit
the city of its habitation, voted to give him a reception. On
learning of this through the public prints, I wrote the Commander
a letter of inquiry and questioned the wisdom of the movement,
suggesting that while it was, no doubt, innoeeutl}' intended, the
public would not divorce the soldier comrade from the soldier
candidate ; that their position would be at least an equivocal one,
etc. I commend an extract from the repl}' of the Commander to
your consideration. Here it is : —

"Your kind letter of the 26th at hand on time; but it was
such a setback to me that it has taken me all this time to get
over it; but your reasoning is sound. . . . We believe it our
first duty to uphold Rules and Regulations and abide by them.
Our next duty is to obey those in command, and I think I can



NINETEENTH ANNUAL ENCAMPMENT. 269

safely say that Post prides herself on her loyalty to Rules

aud Regulations and the Department Commander of Massachu-
setts. If we have made a mistake in our zeal to do honor to one
of the old Union generals, we are not so headstrong but what we
can see it, and do all in our power to do what our Department
Commander believes best for the Order. . , . Hoping that you
will not blacklist us until you hear from me again, I remain,

Yours, etc."

One of the unpleasantest exhibitions of the year has been
that of our Order divided on tlie question of proper pension legis-
lation. There are j'et comrades among us who believe that the
Grand Army was not organized to engineer pension legislation;
that for many years it found its legitimate sphere of action out-
side of this question ; but as this class is now in a hopeless
minority, and as the Grand Army has appropriated to itself the
direction of legislation for the veterans on the floor of Congress,
so far as it can legitimately do so, the only question to consider
is, that of the proper means to be used by the Order to secure
this end. Unquestionably, our influence must be directed by



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 28 of 64)