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 9 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 9 of 64)
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class of our citizens who regard it as a national day of consecra-
tion, but while, as on other public days, sports and games will be
resorted to ijy the pleasure-loving portions of our communities,
it gives an opportunit}' for the comrades to lay aside the pursuits
of business, forego the demands of labor, and assemble with their
various Posts, and in the quiet cemeteries, removed from the bus-
tle of every-day life, touch elbow to elbow again with the shadowy
hosts of the past, who, by their sacrifices and devotion, made
the day a possibility. Many of the Posts have changed their
former program of arrangements, and assemble in the afternoon
of the day in a quiet way, proceed to the cemeteries, decorate the
graves, and return to the Post headquarters and dismiss ; and
assemble in the evening, and, joined by the general public, hold
impressive memorial services in church or public hall. If this
can be done without neglecting the visitation to every grave, I
believe it to be an innovation worthy of practice, for, it seems to
me, the Grand Army must not lose sight of the great lesson we
are teaching by our presence and influence upon the generation of
today, who are familiar with the causes that produced the war and
the cost by which our flag was kept unsullied and country undi-
vided, onl}' by the pages of history. Some of the Posts in our
Department iiave adopted the custom of a special memorial ser-
vice on the Sabbath prior to or following Memorial Day, as those
exercises partake both of a religious and patriotic nature. I
recommend each Post to hold such services yearly, when possible,
the Sunda}' prior to Memorial Day, in order to prepare the people
for the observance of the coming day of consecration.

I cordially concur in the suggestion I was asked to make con-
cerning the presence of the children. Let them join with us, by
all means, in dedicating one day in the year to the memory of the
brave men who died that the nation might live. Train their young
hearts to love and respect men who died for prinoii)le, turn their
childish steps to those quiet resting-places of the dead, where they


may learn the true nobility that humanity is capable of, and
guided by such teachings, they will attain the dignity and stature
of manhood and womanhood, and realize more fully that the
safety of a free republic depends upon the services of her sons.

We must use every effort and encourage every movement
that will tend to keep the day sacred to the people, so that in the
age and feebleness of our organization, the generations that come
after us shall see to it that the sentiments that cluster around the
Day of Memorial may cement more firmly the bond of union, and
control and guide them to a nobler citizenship, and a higher
appreciation of the blessings of free government, which under the
Constitution was made certain and secure by the patriotism of
those men whose services are that day commemorated.

THE soldiers' HOME.

Since the assembling of the last Convention the Soldiers'
Home on Powder Horn Hill in Chelsea has been opened. I regret,
as I believe you all do, the absence of the master mind who for
years has been the head and front of the effort to make it a suc-
cess ; and I rejoice with you that he has lived to see the fondest
realization of his expectations. With increasing 3'ears the usual
robust health that has blessed him in the past began to fail, and
he is today in the far West, hoping to regain some of his former
vigor. As Department Commander he was loved and respected,
as President of the Board of Trustees of the Home none were
better known, and I ask you, my comrades, to join with me in
sending to him in his far-away home our heartiest sympathy, and
our united wish for his complete restoration to health, and that
the blessing of the Almighty may comfort and sustain him every
daj' of his life.

The Department Chaplain will embody in his report a detailed
story of the condition of the Home, and I only desire to state that
up to the present time everything is working in a most satisfac-
tory manner under the efficient superintendent. Gen. James A.
Cunningham, and the assistance of his wife, the matron of the
Home, who is a treasure indeed, and loved by every one of the
veterans who are the recipients of her kindness.

The average number of inmates for the last three months has
been about one hundred, the maximum number that can be accom-
modated with the present fund to draw from.

The trustees will ask an appropriation from the Legislature
of a sufficient sum to maintain such a number as the Home will
accommodate. The only fund now at the disposal of the trustees
is less than $25,000, and as that is not large enough to create an
interest fund of sufficient magnitude to support the Home, the
principal is rapidly and surely depleting.


The trustees rely upon your cordial support iu their endeavor
to raise the necessary amount of funds to make secure the benefits
of the Home to the a<ied and disabled soldiers of the Common-
wealth, who, in the prime of their manhood, took their lives in
their hands and marched to the front in defence of the honor of
the State of their birth or adoption.

I recommend that at each succeeding annnal Convention of
this Department the trustees of the Home be requested to submit
a report of the yearly work of the Home to the delegates assem-
bled, in order that the Grand Army which created the Home may
be kept fully informed as to its condition and needs.


I give my voice and influence to the encouragement and con-
tinuance of county associations, and am glad to know that the
comrades are realizing their value when conducted entirely in the
interest of the Order. If used to gratify personal ambition, the
sooner they are abandoned the better.

Tlie plan of action lately adopted meets my hearty approval,
and I am sure will reduce the expense of a county association,
simplify its system of organization, and redound to the good of
the Posts in the counties where it is carried out. I refer to the
apparent intention to abstain from yearly encampments and
parades, and have monthly and semi-monthl}' visitations. I am
of the opinion that the day for parades and camps of the Grand
Army is past. Disguise the fact as you may, notwithstanding
the youthful appearance of many of our comrades, the truth is we
are getting too old to endure the tramp over paving stones in a
city, or the usual march through every accepted street of the
large country town. But we can assemble in delegation and in
barge, omnibus or boat-sleigh, as the season permits, ride several
miles to attend a camp-fire, and after enjoying the flow of elo-
quence, wit and reminiscence, supply the inner man with sub-
stantial yet inexpensive collation, and cheered by the exhilaration
of the appetizing coffee, our nerves calmed by the customary
smoke, ride home again, even at a late hour, and after a sound
sleep, such as must come after temperate enjoyment, awake
refreshed for the duties of the coming day.

To these visitations, which may be had at stated intervals
not to interfere with the regular meetings, I recommend that
worthy soldiers not members of the Order be invited, that they
receive the baptism of spirit that may bring them into the fold.

In this connection I desire to state that on such occasions as
Posts may decide to be best for their interest, I recommend that
the general public be invited to attend, that they may see how the
Grand Army enjoys itself, and learn that a camp-fire means noth-


ing but a gatheriug of soldiers who are glad to see their friends,
aud at those meetings nothing occurs that any good citizen can
object to.

I am inclined to doubt the good results of an encampment
under canvas, from the fact that it appears to be ditHcult to get
a sufficient number together to make it a success. Most of our
comrades are poor men, and the loss of time, with the extra
expense, little though it may be, draws too heavily upon those
whose presence would add much to the interest of the encamp-
ment. In alluding to this subject I desire to cast no reflection
upon those camps that have been held, or the comrades who have
labored hard to make them successful.


It was my pleasure and privilege to attend the National
Encampment at Baltimore, and I was honored by the escort of
Dahlgren Post 2 of South Boston, to whom I desire to publicly
express my thanks for the courtes}' and kindness extended to
myself and such of my staff as joined me in accepting the honor
of a special escort. By their kindness I joined with them in
receiving the true soldier's welcome from the comrades of Phila-
delphia, and I, as Department Commander of Massachusetts,
received all the honors the position was entitled to. The recep-
tion of, and attention paid to Dahlgren Post, and the honor paid
to me otticially, I am sure cemented stronger the true comradeship
of the veterans of the Keystone State aud the old Bay State,
and I believe I spoke the sentiments of your hearts when, in
responding for the Department of Massachusetts, I assured them
a warm welcome should their footsteps turn toward our Depart-
ment, for T am convinced that P^raternity is not one of the lost
arts among the comrades in our old Commonwealth.

Massachusetts was represented at the National Convention
by a full delegation, and I am glad to say all were united in
purpose and harmonious in action. The evening of the day we
arrived in Baltimore I called a meeting of the delegates, and
after a full and free discussion of more than four hours unani-
mously agreed upon our course in the Encampment; and all
acted in unison when the Convention assembled.

In the ballot for Commander-in-Chief we cast our first vote
for that eloquent veteran, the legless Corporal Tanner ; but as it
was apparent that the voice of the Convention was calling for the
private soldier from the West instead of the corporal from the
East, we changed our vote on the second ballot and the present
Commander-in-Chief was elected.

The last day of the Convention caused the position of
Chaplaiu-in-Chief to be transferred from Massachusetts to New
York, but our delegation, alive to the interests of our Depart-


ment, secured the election of another comrade to a position in the
National Encampment, Surgeon-General Comrade Azel Ames,
Jr., the present Medical Director of the Department. Upon his
return from the Elncampment he tendered his resignation as
Medical Director, but as his position was an elective and not an
appointive one, by the advice of the Council of Administration,
in concurrence with my own opinion, he withdrew the resignation
in order that the comrades of this Encampment might elect his

I am greatly impressed with the necessity of sending a full
delegation to each National Encampment in the future, that the
prestige Massachusetts has obtained in the past may lose nothing
of its influence hereafter; and in my recommendations to the
Encampment shall suggest something for their consideration in
relation to the delegates to the next National P^ncampment.

THE woman's relief CORPS.

This association, which came into existence four years ago,
has passed its days of swaddling clothes and todaj^ stands upon
a firm basis. Its objects are well understood by the comrades
and the results of the labors of that earnest band of women
workers is, 1 am sure, a benefit to this Department. Recognized
by the comrades of this State as auxiliary to our organization
and commended by the Commander-in-Chief in General Orders,
I believe we should extend to them that fraternal feeling that the
principles of our Order inculcate. Their work is confined to
assisting the widow and orphan and our suffering comrades ;
surely there seems to be nothing in such action to merit the
disapproval of any member of the Grand Army, and so far as
my personal observation and inquiry has led me to investigate, I
am satisfied that in communities where Posts and Relief Corps
work in harmony together, the best possible results have been
obtained. And if, in the history of the organization, it has some-
times happened that the best of feeling did not exist, I submit
that it would be fairer to place the blame where the facts of the
case leave it, rather than censure the motives of the organization
whose objects are kindred to our own. The Relief Corps in this
State now number nine hundred and forty-one members — a
gain of two hundred and twenty-seven the past year, with a net
gain of five regularly organized Corps. This, certainly, is an
evidence of their vitality. They expended in the year 1882 the
sum of Sr>,043.70, against $1,117.97 in 1881, and have a balance
on hand in the treasurj^ of 81,155.5G. This surelj' indicates
charity and also united work, which is necessary to secure sub-
stantial results. If the above are recognized as facts, then indeed
does the Woman's Relief Corps deserve our hearty commendation.
I am satisfied that the Corps, like the Grand Army, is gaining


wisdom by experience and is fast outgrowing wliat may have
seemed to some to be vital defects in its organization ; and wliile
I may differ with tliem upon questions of policy, I certainly feel
it to be my duty to commend their organizations to all Posts who^
can unite and work in harmony with them as an organization.
In answer to my request for a few facts to present to this
Encampment concerning their work during the past year, the
Secretary of the Relief Corps says, after giving me the figures
above used: "And we look forward to the coming year with
hopefulness and deep earnestness, that the results of our work
as a baud of women may prove financially and socially a benefit
to that noble organization, the G.A.R., for whose advancement
and interest we most fervently pray." To such sentiments we
can all say amen. And while we maj^ not be able to reconcile
individual opinions contrary to our convictions, we can stand
upon that broad plane of fairness and justice and as comrades
and gentlemen pay to these honest, earnest women that tribute
of respect and esteem due to all wives, sisters and mothers, who,
by their silent influence, exert such a power in our homes, our
State and our nation.


Twenty-two years ago this coming summer, when President
Lincoln called for men to defend the national capital, many
young men who today are citizens enjoying all the rights and
privileges under the law, Avere unborn. That significant fact
warns us that we are growing old in years, if not in enthusiasm
and love for the Order. I have always been opposed to the
introduction into our ranks of any but the genuine soldier ele-
ment, trusting that we shall complete our work with our original
membership unbroken save by death, and leaving to posterity
the grateful task of recounting our virtues and pronouncing our
epitaph; and I am still of the same opinion. But without any
attempt at prophecy, I can lift the veil of the future and see not
far distant the Grand Army of the Republic reporting more
losses by death each year than we gain by muster-in, and on
Memorial Day decorating more graves than we have members.
In this Department alone we place flowers on more than eight
thousand comrades' graves each year. I trust and believe that
our influence among the people of that day will increase in pro-
portion to our decreasing membership. But with increasing age
and its accompanying decrepitude comes a lack of power to
prosecute our work. Who shall take our place? Who shall
hold up our hands? Who better than our sons can take up the
work that we lay down and in the strength of their young man-
hood, inspired by the example of their fathers, honor our record
and perpetuate our principles? So, while I am heartily in favor


of excludiug from our membership any but those allowed by the
preamble iu our Rules and Regulations, I cordially welcome the
Sons of Veterans who are of us, but not with us. They are, as
I understand it, an association composed of the sons of soldiers,
of sixteen years and upwards, banded together for the following
purposes : To establish fraternal and social relations between
each other for the mutual benefit of all concerned. To create
by their united effort a charity fund to be used to assist each
other in time of need. And an organization to encourage such
sentiments among the people as the principles of our organization
teach and by keeping their membership intact, take up the work
of the Grand Army, perpetuate its principles, and care for the
aged and needy veteran when the door of the Post room is closed
upon him forever by reason of disbaudment. I am not prepared
to ask this Encampment to take any action concerning them as
an organization, but recommend Posts to examine the merits of
the young association and, if they can endorse them and believe
it to be a benefit, assist them in increasing their membership.


At the last meeting of this Encampment it was voted that
the Department Commander petition the General Court for an
annual appropriation of $10,000 in favor of the Massachusetts
Soldiers' Home. The petition was duly presented and referred
to the Joint Military Committee. I appeared before that com-
mittee twice and was supported b}' Past Commanders Adams
and Creasey and Senior Vice-Commander Hart, and we advocated
the appropriation, supporting it with such statements as the case
demanded. The committee, a majority of whom happened to
be Grand Army men, received us courteously and gave us a fair
hearing ; but owing to the fact that the Home was unopened and
at that time we could not decide upon a date for opening, the
committee, fearing the project would be defeated during its
passage thi'ough the Legislature, deemed it wise to refer it to the
next General Court, which was accordingly done.

The vote of the last PLucampment, providing for a collection
for the Soldiers' Home on the third Sundav in October, should
have been carried out by a circular being sent from Department
Headquarters, calling attention of Posts to the fact. I plead
guilty to an entire forgetfulness of the vote of the Convention
until the time stated had passed. The near approach to Thanks-
giving and the holiday season, and the fact that the trustees
intended to again petition the General Court for an appropriation,
caused me to question the expediency of sending the circular later,
and the vote of the Encampment has not been carried into effect.



Paragraph 5 of General Order No. 8 called upon all Post
Commanders to report the number of camp-fires, fairs, missionarj'
meetings and other gatherings held by Posts during the year. I
desired to show what the Posts had been doing under my admin-
istration to build up the Order and thought to embody it in my re-
port to this Encampment. But as only nineteen Posts responded
to the order, I am led to believe that they care but little about
the matter, and therefore no report of such facts will be made.


The suggestions I offer under this head are made after care-
ful consideration of the various propositions they refer to and a
conviction that such action as is covered by the recommendations
will result in benefit.

soldiers' records.

The preparation of several regimental histories has developed
the fact that there are many inaccuracies in our records at the
State House, also in the rolls of the War Department at Wash-
ington. Men are reported dead at Andersonville who died at
Macon, others reported dead who are living today; some men
who enlisted and served for months in a company and are living
today and can prove their service, are met by the fact that they
were never officially in such a command and should they desire
to secure State aid, pension, back pay or any other legitimate
claim, can never obtain it until the error has been corrected.
Just how far the Grand Army can take any action 1 am in doubt.
But I recommend that the incoming Council of Administration
investigate the facts in the case and if they can devise any remed}'
for the evil, give them full power to request the State and
national authorities, upon proper evidence of an error being
shown, to cause an official correction to be made or an addenda
made up announcing such corrections ; such addenda to be
attached to the original record of each land and naval organi-


Since the organization of this Department the records have
been well kept and of late years a great deal of care- has been
used to place them in such a position as to insure them from the
disastrous effects of fire, that on one occasion proved to be of
incalculable damage to the Department. The books and papers
are at present stored in a fire-proof vault for safe keeping, while
the increasing business of the Department causes an aggregation
of the value of the papers and the urgent necessity of safe


The fact thnt our organization has come to stay for a term
x)f 3'ears, to say the least, makes our records of peculiar interest
to our membership. Each year the records of our annual
Encampment are printed in pamphlet form for distribution to
the several Posts. I recommend that the incoming Council of
Administration be authorized to cause the reports of the various
Encampments to be published in one volume, including all
General Orders issued by the various Commanders, and fui-nished
at cost to the Posts who shall desire thein ; the Council not to
proceed to incur such expense until a sufficient number are
ordered to insure the expense of publication. With over twelve
thousand members in the Department I am inclined to believe
that there are enough members who would like such a record to
refer to occasionally, and in case of fire at headquarters such of
the records as would be embodied in the volume could easily be


I recommend that the delegates in Convention assembled
instruct the delegates to the National Encampment to cause the
last sentence of Article VII., Chapter 2, to be stricken out. The
sentence referred to is as follows: "If there is no election on
the first two ballots, the name of the comrade receiving the lowest
number of votes shall be dropped and so on in successive ballots
until an election is made." As I understand the spirit of the
Grand Army, the right of free and equal suffrage is assured to
all comrades in good standing. Believing that the sentence
referred to disfranchises every comrade who desires to continue
voting for the comrade who receives the " lowest number of
votes," I am opposed to its remaining as a portion of the Rules
and Regulations.


I again renew a recommendation that I have several times
endeavored to carry through the Convention when a delegate,
that under the caption " Arrearages," the word " may," in
Sections 3 and 4, be substituted for the word " shall," leaving it
optional with Posts as to the disposition of non-paying members.
The rule is peremptory and is as unjust as it is iron-clad. For
the (Quartermaster who obej's the rule is clearl3' bound to suspend
every member who is six months in arrears, or drop from the
rolls any comrade one year in arrears. Such comrade may be
one thousand miles away from home, may be confined to his bed
by sickness, and, if the facts are not known to the Quartermaster,
great injustice may be done. There appears to be no need of
such a rule, as Posts, in my judgment, are the best judges of
their own membership and if the harsh word " shall " be stricken
out and the milder word " may " inserted, Posts who feel that


they need to use severer measures can so adapt their by-laws to
reguhite any necessary difficulty that may arise. I trust the
Convention may agree with me and ask our delegates to the
National Encampment to endeavor to secure such amendment to
the Rules and Regulations.


One of the most vexatious provisions of the Rules and Regu-
lations is the system of transfers. In my opinion it is as useless
as it is troublesome, of no benefit to the Gi'and Army, and
a positive injury in many cases to comrades holding such a paper.
Under the present rules any comrade in good standing who desires

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 9 of 64)