Monday, January 23, 2012

Military Monday - Philip Kuhn and the Grand Army of the Republic

Fraternity ~ Charity ~ Loyalty

The Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR, was founded April 6, 1866 as veteran's organization for Union Civil War soldiers. The organization's constitution sets forth the following aims:

1st. The preservation of those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together, with the strong cords of love and affection, the comrades in arms of many battles, sieges and marches.
2nd. To make these ties available in works and results of kindness, of favor and material aid to those in need of assistance.
3rd. To make provision, where it is not already done, for the support, care and education of soldiers' orphans, and for the maintenance of the widows of deceased soldiers.
4th. For the protection and assistance of disabled soldiers, whether disabled by wounds, sickness, old age or misfortune.
5th. For the establishment and defense of the late soldiery of the United States, morally, socially and politically, with a view to inculcate a proper appreciation of their services to the the country, and o a recognition of such services and claims by the American people.

   - "Constitution of the Grand Army of the Republic." History of the Grand Army of the Republic. Beath, Robert Burns. Bryan, Taylor, & co., 1889. Pgs. 44-45.

The GAR grew to have more than 7,000 posts and at its height in 1890 it had more than 400,000 members. It became a strong advocate for veteran pensions and also had a strong hand in winning the elections of republican candidates. The GAR is also credited with founding Memorial Day. It began as a request from General John A. Logan, then commander-in-chief of the GAR, to all post members to place flowers on the graves of fallen comrades on May 30, 1868. It was called Decoration Day and soon caught on around the country. A female auxiliary, the National Women's Relief Corps, officially began in 1883. The GAR was formally dissolved in 1956 upon the death of it's last member. The legacy of the GAR then passed to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

My ancestor, Philip Kuhn, served in "The Recent Unpleasantness" as a musician in the 120th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He enlisted on September 2, 1862 and remained in service for the entire war, discharged on July 8, 1865. His service included a period in the prisoner of war camp just outside of Tyler, Texas: Camp Ford.

Philip was a founding member of the Grand Army of the Republic, George Graham Post No. 92 on July 4, 1882 in Seneca, Kansas. He was also an active member of Centralia Post No. 188 in Centralia, Kansas.

Philip served as adjutant and chaplain as well as providing music for various events; he was a musician after all. He also shared the story of his time as a prisoner of war. The following is the newspaper story about a GAR Post No. 188 fundraiser held in 1887 as printed in The Centralia Journal, Centralia, Kansas (I have added some formatting to make reading easier):

The G.A.R. Gastronomic and Literary Feast

     The Grand Army Dinner and entertainment last Friday evening, was a grand success, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather. The dinner was superb and abundant. The solicitors scoured town and country and everybody seemed glad to encourage the boys who wore the blue. By time the clock struck twelve, tables for 100 guests were bountifully spread and literally groaned under the accumulated eatables, consisting of vast quantities of cake, pies, meats, huge paps of port and beans --"The army bean white and clean." The onslaught of this formidable array continues until after 2 o'clock, some of the guests eating as though they were hollow to the bottom of their boots. But after all had done their best there was enough left to feed half a regiment. This surplus made many needy families of the town happy.

     The evening entertainment was opened with "America," by a choir of about 20 singers, under the leadership of Prof. Bowman. This was followed by a recitation of a poem by Comrade Wheeler, entitled "Tender-foot and Grey back," written by Chaplin Lozier. "The Army Bean" was then forcibly rendered by the choir, followed by the recitation "Kentucky Bell," by Winifred Spaulding, which held the audience spell-bound. "They've grafted him into the army," was given as a solo and chorus. Mrs. Jennie Stickel, the soloist was in costume and exhibited "The very same pants that Jimmie used to wear," Mrs. Stickel impersonated an old lady singer to perfection. Miss May Preston then recited an original poem, "The Army of the Republic," and lost none of her prestige, either as author or speaker by this effort. "Blue coat and Miss Dixy," was successfully given by Ruben Mather and Miss Spaulding. "Babyton is falling," was rendered as a solo by Will Hostlander. This was followed by the recitation, "The prisoner for debt," by G.W. Pampel.

     While a camp scene was being prepared, Commander I. Stickel narrated some personal incidents of the war, on the Vicksburg Campaign; with 20 cavalry he charged a force of 80 mounted rebs, wounded and captured 30 of them without losing a man. This statement was taken from an official report made at the time, which is now in his possession. He also related a ludicrous incident of a lieutenant who was ordered out on a scout while he was having his only shirt washed. "Tenting on the old camp grounds," was then rendered very effectively. The stage presented an old time camp scene, with tent, campfires, muskets and soldiers scattered around playing cards, making coffee, etc.

     Miss Minnie Carr, of Goffs, then recited "Sheridan's ride," displaying no ordinary powers of elocution. Comrade Wheeler then recited an original poem, "The boys in Blue.Bro's, assisted by Rev. Bush, Joe Kincaid and John Tohm, then sang "Kingdom Coming," in good style, which was followed by Mr. Oberedorf reading some very interesting abstracts from his diary kept while in the Confederate service, his "dream" being very remarkable, and we trust it may never be realized, if he is to be the victim to "mark time." Comrade Root sandwiched some of his foraging stories between this and Mr. Kincaid's speech. Kincaid wore the Grey in Tenn, and was captured at Chattanooga, and gave many incidents of the war as seen from the other side. One of the Ex-confederate speakers, David Jessie, was unable to be present. Will Holtslander gave "Old Shady," as a solo. Comrade I.A. Stickel gave some accounts of the capture at Holly Spring, Miss., by the rebs; while making a charge he was surrounded and pounded over the head and shoulders with empty shot guns, but with his noble horse and making good use of his spurs and saber, got away.
     Comrade Birchfield related a goose story, and the Exercises closed with "Marching through Georgia." The singers and others marched around the stage waving flags and hats, while singing the chorus. Miss Nettie Kuhn sang the solo. This was one of the best things on the program. The large audience separated feeling that they had been highly entertained. They netted between $45 and $50, and would have been much larger had it not been for the snow storm that raged during the day and night.
The Grand Army Badge, presented to all members upon their induction in to the society.

To read more about the Grand Army of the Republic visit the following links:

The History of the Grand Army of the Republic, a free Google ebook.
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
The Grand Army of the Republic and Kindred Societies, Library of Congress reading room
Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library

No comments: