The Grand Army of the Republic has a surprise visit. From the Council Grove Guard July 22nd, 1904; “Tuesday evening while Council Grove Post No. 7 was holding council in absence of their Post Commander, J.M. Miller, they were surprised by a corps of the enemy who had been concealed some place in the darkness and crept up and captured their outposts and thereby succeeded in reaching the inner camp and by some strategy captured the inner guard and by one grand rush captured the Camp without firing a gun. The whole thing is a great mystery to the Camp at least or to part of them. There may be a conspiracy in it but I think the Post Commander will call an investigation and if the inner guard is discovered to be in the plot he will be court-martialed and shot. There is signs already of a plot for I noticed that some of the comrades had on their dress suits while some were just in the mess or fatigue suits. After the capture there was great confusion and noise. One man named Bailey continued to make such a noise that the enemy was going to resort to the water cure for him but as the water was not plenty they used ice cream and cake of which they had plenty, but not until they had repeated the dose several times would he keep quiet. Those of the comrades who were absent without leave will be sorry they were not in camp when the attack was made. This probably all happened because of the absence of the Post Commander. Come again enemy.”
This was nearly forty years after the end of the American Civil War. Reunions and Grand Encampments were an annual event especially on the anniversary of an important battle. Both sides, Federal and Confederate soldiers, would come together and shake hands, embrace, tell stories and cry together on fields where they once tried to kill each other.
In 1913 thousands of men gathered at Gettysburg for the fiftieth anniversary of the great battle. For three whole days the men camped on the old battle ground. A road divided the blue and the grey. A reenactment of Pickett’s charge was made, but when the men met on the field instead of hand to hand combat they gave a hearty hand shake to show that old animosities had been put to rest.
The above event was not an actual encampment, rather, it seems, the ‘camp’ was their regular lodge meetings, and the ‘inner guard’ was an individual’s honorary position possibly as door keeper. I have found no information as to where these G.A.R. meetings were held, but I do have a few possible suggestions to satisfy our imagination until something is confirmed. The west end of Farmer’s and Drover’s Bank houses a large dining hall upstairs in which many organizations and various events were known to be held. Also, the Masonic Lodge and the Odd Fellows could have hosted such a gathering. These seem the most likely to me as there were members of these Lodges and employees of the Bank who were Civil War veterans.
Once again, it is very difficult to dig up much information on any fraternal organizations. Often any documents would be the responsibility of one or a few individuals. It was not public information. If a group dissolved an individual ended up in possession of the lodge’s documents or else they were thrown away; or, as in the case of our Odd Fellows, all the documents concerning it were likely lost in the fire that claimed the building.
For those curious about their own family members in the Civil War, the following site will take you to the G.A.R. lodges and members in Morris County for 1894 and 1917. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ksmorrhp/military/military.html
Addenda 8-22-2012: While reading the article on the 1886 fire I found that the GAR and the AOUW were located in the upstairs of the post office, which was destroyed. The only thing is we can’t pinpoint for certain where the post office was located. It had been in several different buildings over the years. The closest we can come is it was somewhere in the vicinity of 126 W Main Street; it could have been on that spot or either side. The G.A.R. managed to save the post flag and their records from the fire.