Tag Archives: Arthur T. Bull

Arthur Bull and the GAR in the late 1880s

Sepia Saturday 403: Third in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull and his final years in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.

When my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull joined the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in 1886, the Civil War veterans’ group had recently reorganized — which led to an explosion in recruitment.

114th Regimental Reunion, May 30, 1897, Norwich, N. Y.
The 114th Regimental Reunion in Norwich, Chenango Co., N.Y. (30 May 1897). G.A.R. is penciled on the back of this photo. My ancestor Arthur Bull, a Union Army veteran of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery, might have attended similar gatherings during his time in the GAR. Photo: Library of Congress

The New York State Archives online finding aid to its GAR records describes the group’s founding and metamorphosis.[1]New York State Archives, New York State Historian Grand Army of the Republic Records finding aid, webpage, accessed 20 January 2018: Administrative History.

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a large multi-faceted organization (fraternal lodge, charitable society, special interest lobby, patriotic group, and political club) founded in 1866 by Union Army Surgeon Benjamin Franklin Stephenson. The organization was originally envisioned as a brotherhood of veterans who were dedicated to helping other veterans.

Transformation of the GAR

The GAR initially structured itself along military lines — with sentries at the door, members transferring from post to post, and a local, state and national chain of command.

In 1869, the GAR transitioned to a fraternal group with lodges, similar to the Masons — but an unpopular internal grading system prompted a mass exodus of rank-and-file members.

So in the late 1870s, the GAR transformed itself again — and its new focus on pensions likely prompted my ancestor Arthur Bull to finally join as a pensioner in 1886.[2]Ibid.

As a result of these changes, the GAR’s membership rose sharply in the 1880’s….It was through the GAR, and the pension lobby, that many soldiers and their families received pensions. The Grand Army of the Republic also promoted patriotism through parades, national encampments, placement of war memorials, and the establishment of Memorial Day as a national holiday.

An integrated fraternal order

Unlike other fraternal orders in the 1800s, the Grand Army of the Republic was racially inclusive and integrated — as befitted veterans who had fought together to end slavery — and welcomed all honorably discharged Union vets, including at least two women. [3]Wikipedia, Grand Army of the Republic, webpage, https://en.wikipedia.org, accessed 21 January 2018: Women members. According to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War:[4]Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War National Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic History, webpage, accessed 20 January 2018.

Membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003668501/
African-American GAR veterans parading in a New York City (30 May 1912). Unique among fraternal groups of the era, the GAR was integrated and open to all honorably discharged Union Army veterans of the U.S. Civil War Photo: Library of Congress

The GAR was also quick to embrace Memorial Day — a commemoration begun on 1 May 1865 by African-American freepeople with a march of 10,000 in Charleston, S.C., to honor 257 Union soldiers who died in a Confederate prison camp there. [5]David W Blight, “Forgetting Why We Remember,” The New York Times, 29 May 2011, online archives, accessed 20 January 2018.

Because the group was indispensable to Union Army veterans and their families, my great-great grandparents Arthur and Mary (Blakeslee) Bull likely found comfort in the milieu of the GAR — and perhaps its affiliated women’s group, too.[6]Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War National Headquarters, Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, webpage, accessed 20 January 2018.

And they might have turned to the GAR for assistance as Arthur’s war-related health issues reduced his ability to work, requiring him to apply for pension increases.

More on Arthur’s life in Salamanca in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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References

References
1 New York State Archives, New York State Historian Grand Army of the Republic Records finding aid, webpage, accessed 20 January 2018: Administrative History.
2 Ibid.
3 Wikipedia, Grand Army of the Republic, webpage, https://en.wikipedia.org, accessed 21 January 2018: Women members.
4 Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War National Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic History, webpage, accessed 20 January 2018.
5 David W Blight, “Forgetting Why We Remember,” The New York Times, 29 May 2011, online archives, accessed 20 January 2018.
6 Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War National Headquarters, Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, webpage, accessed 20 January 2018.

1886: Arthur Bull joins the Grand Army of the Republic

Sepia Saturday 402: Second in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull and his final years in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.

On 21 July 1886 — seven months after receiving his Union Army pension — my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull, 52, mustered into the Grand Army of the Republic in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Army_of_the_Republic#/media/File:Grand_Army_of_the_Republic_medal.svg
Grand Army of the Republic medal. As a Union Army veteran of the 6th NY Heavy Artillery — and a member of Nathan Crosby Post 550 of the GAR in Salamanca, N.Y. — my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull was authorized to wear one of these medals on his uniform. Image: Wikipedia

Having recently moved to Salamanca from the Adirondacks, he probably missed the colleagues, friends and family that he and his wife Mary left behind.

What better way to make connections at his new home than by signing up with a fraternal organization of Civil War veterans who were around his age, shared similar wartime experiences and faced the same pension challenges?

Nathan Crosby Post 550

Specifically, my ancestor joined Nathan Crosby Post 550 of the Department of New York, Grand Army of the Republic — headquartered in Salamanca, N.Y.

He appears as A. T. Bull on the membership roster in the post’s Descriptive Book, which is filed at the New York State Archives — and also available online as digital images at New York, Grand Army of the Republic Records, 1866-1931.[1]New York, Grand Army of the Republic Records, 1866-1931,N. Crosby Post 550 Descriptive Book, entry no. 30, A.T. Bull, digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 12 January … Continue reading

From entries in the Descriptive Book, it appears that Post 550 was founded in April 1885 by a group of about twenty Salamanca Civil War veterans from various ranks and regiments of the Union Army. Over time the post grew to thirty-seven members as more locals — as well as new arrivals like my ancestor — mustered in.

My ancestor’s details

The Descriptive Book used by Post 550 appears to be standard issue, with printed ledger column headings to facilitate handwritten entries. The table below excerpts the penned listing for my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, member No. 30.

Arthur T. Bull listing in the Descriptive Book of Nathan Crosby Post 550 NYS GAR – Salamanca, N.Y. – Source: Ancestry.com – New York, Grand Army of the Republic Records, 1866-1931[2]Ibid.
No. Name Age Birthplace Residence Occupation
30 A.T. Bull 52 Greene Co., NY Salamanca Tanner
Entry into the Service
Date Rank Co. Regiment
Jan. 4th, 1864 Private F H. A. NY
Final Discharge
Date Rank Co. Regiment Length of Service Cause of Discharge
Aug. 24th, 1865 Private F H. A. NY 1 year 2 m. General Order
Date of Muster into the GAR: July 21st, 1886

I was grateful to find this GAR information about my ancestor Arthur Bull — particularly since he probably provided the information himself, lending accuracy to the particulars.

Here we find Arthur’s age, birthplace, occupation and military service details — all of which reinforce what I have learned about him from other sources.

Of special interest

Of special interest is his service time, given in the book as 1 year 2 months. This is shorter than the 1-year-7-month period between when Arthur entered and mustered out of the Union Army.

However, he was was away in hospital for war-related illness for a total of about five months. Did the GAR only count active, front-line duty when registering members?

The other new  information is Arthur’s 21 July 1886 muster date into the GAR — which shows him integrating into Salamanca, N.Y., community life by joining the veterans’ group after his move there.

What more can I learn about my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull and the GAR? More in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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References

References
1 New York, Grand Army of the Republic Records, 1866-1931,N. Crosby Post 550 Descriptive Book, entry no. 30, A.T. Bull, digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 12 January 2018). Paid login required.
2 Ibid.

Union troops vote for Lincoln

On 23 Aug. 1864 — before the Union victories at Atlanta and Cedar Creek, where my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was stationed — Pres. Abraham Lincoln asked members of his cabinet to sign a folded note. Then he tucked it away in his a desk drawer. It said this:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probabl[e] that this Administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.

Oct. 1864: Pennsylvania soldiers in the Union Army of the James cast their ballots.
Oct. 1864: Pennsylvania soldiers in the Union’s Army of the James vote in the presidential election.  My ancestor’s state, New York, allowed Union troops to vote in the field and mail their ballots to their home county for tabulation. Photo: Library of Congress.

There was war weariness in the North. Tremendous loss of life in the Union Army’s spring campaigns — which sent my great-great grandfather to the hospital — had not yielded victories. And in July, the Confederates marched down the Shenandoah Valley and attacked Washington.

This was also the first wartime ballot since 1812. No president had won a second term since 1832. Yet the outcome of the U.S. Civil War — and the country’s future — hung in the balance.

Allowing the troops to vote

Then the tide turned on the battlefield. Union forces took Atlanta in September and defeated the Confederates at Cedar Creek in October — and a new offensive began at the ballot box. Here, too, Union combatants — among them my great-great grandfather Arthur — played a vital role.

Arthur’s home state of New York adopted a law allowing soldiers to vote in the field — the result of a political struggle described in the Smithsonian Magazine article “The Debate Over Mail-In Voting Dates Back to the Civil War.”

Once the law passed, New York faced the daunting tactical challenge of delivering ballots to nearly 400,000 New York State combatants stationed throughout the South.

But delivered they were — giving my ancestor the amazing opportunity to vote for President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and mail his ballot to his home county.

How did Arthur vote?

How did my great, great grandfather vote? I have no way of knowing for sure. Yet circumstantial evidence suggests that Arthur probably cast his ballot for “Old Abe,” as Union combatants affectionately called the president.

On 27 Oct, 1864, his compatriot, Sgt. William Thistleton of 6th NY Heavy Artillery Co. I, wrote this in his diary:

Soldiers were busy sending off their votes. McClellan and Seymore are evidently not favorites with the soldiers.

Lincoln won the vote by 60 percent in Broome County, N.Y. — where Arthur was from — and he received 78 percent of Union soldiers’ and sailors’ votes. In two close states — New York and Connecticut — it may have been the troops’ votes that pushed Lincoln to victory.

In the end, Lincoln garnered 55 percent of the popular vote throughout the North and was reelected with 212 electoral votes against McClellan’s 21 electoral votes — a decisive mandate to press on with the fight to end the brutal slavery system and preserve the union.

I couldn’t be prouder that my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was a participant — at the front and at the ballot box — in that historic moment.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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