Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grand Army of the Republic - Kirwin, Kansas

Dear Grandfather Hugunin,
My cousin Ron Pearce, one of your great-great-grandsons, sent me a photograph yesterday that I believe shows you and your wife at a G.A.R. encampment and I have been looking for more information on the G.A.R. since.

G.A.R. badge worn by veterans of the Army of the Tennessee
While we are marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, it is helpful to not only look at what our ancestors did during the war, but also afterwards. Each time the men and women of the United States have answered the nation's call to arms, they have returned to find their home communities altered in their absence as they had been altered by their experiences. They have naturally sought the companionship of others who have shared their experience. After the Civil War, Union veterans formed a number of organizations, the most prominent was the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.). The organization's principles were "Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty."

In 1896, the G.A.R. Commander-in-Chief, General Lucius Fairchild, described the G.A.R. as a "Fraternity so wide-spread as to embrace all who honored themselves by enlisting in the Union Army; a Charity so broad as to have included within its benefactions sufferers of every class, and of all sections of our county."

Membership eligibility; "Soldiers and sailors of the United States Army, Navy or Marine Corps, and of such State regiments as were called into active service and subject to the orders of U. S. General Officers, who served between April 12th, 1861 and April 9th, 1865, in the war for the suppression of the rebellion, and those having been honorably discharged therefrom after such service, shall be eligible to membership in the Grand Army of the Republic.
No person shall be eligible to membership who has at any time borne arms against the United States."

I've found papers stating "Van Epps Hugunin enlisted in the 13th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, September 16, 1861 at Janesville in Rock County and served for three years to the end of his term of service November 19, 1864." I'm sure that your experiences during the War remained an integral part of your life and know you became a member of the Phillipsburg and then Kirwin, Kansas Chapters of the G.A.R.

G.A.R. Encampment probably near Kirwin, Kansas
Oct. 10-12, 1889
Couple sanding to the left are Van Epps and Amanda Gibson Hugunin
This photograph is the one sent to me by Ron Pearce. (Ron, thanks for sharing it!)

The date is estimated from a reunion souvenir in the possession of your great-grand-daughter Betty Werst Cone.

The "History of the Grand Army of the Republic" by Robert B. Beath published by Bryan, Taylor and Company in New York, 1889 is available on-line at
It is a treasure trove of portraits and biographies of the men integrally involved in the G.A.R. movement to that date. As the Union veterans aged, the leadership of the organization evolved from those who were senior officers during the war to those younger men who enlisted as privates but rose to leadership roles during peacetime.

I'll try to write more about your experience during the war soon.


1 comment:

  1. How wonderful for you to have access to this picture! Enjoyed your information about the G.A.R.