Ever heard of the Grand Army of the Republic? Mtn. Grove rededicates 100 year-old monument in their honor on town square

Published: May. 30, 2022 at 9:22 PM CDT
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MOUNTAIN GROVE, Mo. (KY3) - With over 200 American flags all around town put up by the American Legion, Mountain Grove was awash in patriotism on Memorial Day and its square has several monuments honoring those who have fallen in the line of duty.

There’s one dedicated to World War I and unknown soldiers from all wars.

Another one honors World War II, Korean and Vietnam soldiers.

Then there’s the monument that many people don’t know that much about.

“Me and most of us here have walked past this a thousand times and never gave it a second thought,” said Mtn. Grove resident Dale Crandell.

Yet Crandell was one of those who organized the Memorial Day rededication of that very memorial, known as the Grand Army of the Republic monument.

The GAR monument was originally dedicated 100 years ago to the day--May 30, 1922--as the rededication ceremony. It is topped by a statue of a Union solider because the Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Revenue Cutter Service (Coast Guard) who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Founded in 1866 right after the Civil War, GAR was one of several post-war veteran groups but quickly became the dominate organization with over 7,000 posts and 490,000 members. The fellowship of veterans marched in community parades, had military tributes at member funerals and dedicated countless monuments and memorials.

The organization was dissolved in 1956 after its last member passed away.

Immediately after the Civil War though GAR became a form of militia group by pledging to keep the newly reunited country from fragmenting again.

“There was talk of continued uprisings,” said Walter Busch with the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. “And the GAR was ready to defend the country.”

“The GAR was one of the most influential advocacy groups in America during the period of reconstruction,” added Missouri State Senator Karla Eslinger. “It embraced African-Americans who served for the Union cause, fought for veteran benefits and encouraged patriotic education.”

And the organization played a key part in establishing the Memorial holiday.

“In 1868 General John Logan, the Commander-In-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, proposed a national day of remembrance for those who died during the war,” Eslinger explained. “Decoration Day, as it was originally known, continues as Memorial Day.”

“The 30th day of May is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in the defense of their country,” announced Kip Lindberg as he quoted General Logan’s General Order #11 to the crowd. “Honoring the bodies who now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet church yard in the land.”

Besides the Union soldier statue, the monument also has references to World War I veterans and nurses in the Spanish-American War.

The inscription on the front of the monument says, “Presented to the City of Mountain Grove, Missouri by the G.A.R....Defend what we leave you...All honor to our boys living and dead of the World War...Sacred to the memory of all American soldiers who died in defense of the flag...”

On the back of the monument the inscription reads, “In remembrance of our heroic nurses who cared for our needy comrades and the boys of the Spanish-American War.”

As to why the World War and nurse references are on a monument dedicated to a Union soldiers?

“Research shows that they had trouble raising money for the monument,” Crandell said of the fact that Missouri was a border-state during the Civil War with a long history of family ties to both Union and Confederate armies. “So part of making it palatable to getting donations was to also honor World War I and the Spanish-American War. Keep in mind this was dedicated and erected in 1922 after those two wars. So it made sense to make those two wars part of the effort to raise money and to make note of them on the stone.”

The crowd on hand in the town square for the rededication of the GAR monument included several members of various veterans organizations who were dressed in uniforms or dresses from the war era.

“I’m from New York originally and coming out to the midwest I see more of Americana,” said Gerrie-Ellen Johnston. “And to come here today and see all these men and women from different organizations dressed up is very touching.”

“It’s important for me to be here because I believe that we should preserve our history,” added Dee Dosch. “This monument has been here for a hundred years and it needs to be here for another 100 years.”

An effort is underway to do just that as a $1,000 check was presented at the ceremony towards a $20,000 campaign to restore the monument.

“I think it’s important because of how rare and unique our town is to have such a monument,” Crandell said. “We take it for granted and it was good today to be reminded of just how special it is.”

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