St. Louis, MO (KPLR)— Long before the American Legion and the VFW veterans had formed an organization that provided them with both camaraderie and power.
Those who survived the Civil War made friends for life and created organizations to give them a way to remain friends. The grandest of the all was a group of Union soldiers called the Grand Army of the Republic. Although it took years for its membership to reach a grand scale.
By 1890 the Grand Army of the Republic had 400,000 members across the United States. This gave it tremendous political power to fight for veterans' causes. in 1887 the group held its national encampment St. Louis. a spectacular, but temporary arch, was built at 12th and olive to welcome them.
In recent years there have been attempts to keep the organization alive by holding encampments for the descendants of the original members.
Largely, the Grand Army of the Republic remains a grand relic of the past.
"The last meeting was in 1949. There were 16 members left and the last official member died in 1956 when he was 109 years old." said Chris Gordon of the Missouri History Museum
The GAR with its system of local posts and commanders became the model for groups like the VFW and the American Legion. IN 1868 it was the GAR that first set aside the last day in may as a day of remembrance, or as we call it now, Memorial Day.