Tag Archives: Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) 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

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

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 According to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War: 4

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

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

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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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.7

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
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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Elizabeths in my family tree

Letter E: Fifth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Among my ancestors, there are many duplicate given names. But Elizabeth is one of the most common — as a first or middle name — on both sides of my family tree.

IMG_0323_2
My maternal grandmother’s handkerchief with the letter E. Elizabeth was a common first or middle name among my female ancestors. Photo by Molly Charboneau

My paternal great, great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — wife of my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull — apparently went by Elizabeth because there were so many Marys in her family. Here and there, it shows up as her first name on records.

My maternal grandmother Elizabeth Christina (Stoutner) Laurence was called Lizbeth by my grandfather, who knew her from childhood. But when she learned, and later taught, Early American Tole Painting, she always signed her work Liz.

She appears to have been named after her German-born grandmothers — her mom’s mother Eva Elizabeth (Edel) Mimm (who went by Elizabeth) and her dad’s mother Christina (Albeitz) Stoutner.

Then there was my Irish great grandmother Elizabeth C. Dempsey, born in 1865 in Baltimore City, Baltimore Co., Md. — a twin and part of the large household of my Irish-born great, great grandparents William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey.

There are some other Elizabeths, Lizzies and Mary Elizabeths among my side line ancestors, too — clearly a popular name on many branches of my family tree.

Have you looked for patterns in your ancestors’ given names? They might hold clues about the next generation back.

Up next: Fort Monroe in Virginia, where my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull — husband of one of my Elizabeths, Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — was hospitalized during the U.S. Civil War.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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