Remembering Civil War Soldiers

One hundred and fifty years ago, men from this area were embroiled in the battles of the Civil War and the tedium of camp life between battles. Soon after they returned home, an organization, known as the Grand Army of the Republic, was organized for the Union veterans of the Civil War. It was in 1882 that Jamestown area veterans organized the James M. Brown Post No. 285, named for a local officer, Colonel James M. Brown, who was killed during the war.

In the collection of the Fenton History Center there is a large book that was presented to the James M. Brown Post No. 285 by the James M. Brown Woman’s Relief Corps No. 73. This book is “Personal War Sketches, Grand Army of the Republic.” Recorded in this book are handwritten personal war sketches of many of the members of the Post. Unfortunately most of the sketches include only when and where they enlisted, their rank, company and regiment, and length of service. Sometimes a place of birth is recorded.

At a later time someone has recorded when the veteran died.

The history of the Post is included in the beginning of the book. It is not as detailed as the minutes of the Post’s meetings would be but does include the names of the officers elected each year. The book was presented in 1893 and the history recorded only goes to 1895. After that year no other history was recorded.

When the Post was disbanded in 1933, the book was presented to the James Prendergast Library Association. It was presented on March 8, 1933, at a luncheon in the G.A.R. Room at the Fenton Mansion in Memorial Park. Pasted in the front matter of the book is the Librarian’s acceptance speech.The librarian accepting the book was Lucia Tiffany Henderson. In her acceptance speech she includes a tidbit of history in that she says accepting this book has “an added significance for me, in that it was my mother, who, as a young girl, presented the flag to the first company that left for the front, from this region – ‘Old Company B.’ It is something of a coincidence that it is now my privilege to accept the Record Book of the Veterans who bore such honorable part in defense of the Union.”

This book is one of many items of historical significance that were transferred from the James Prendergast Library to the Fenton Historical Society in 1964 after the organization of the society.

As Memorial Day approaches we are reminded that it was the Grand Army of the Republic that started the tradition of decorating the graves of veterans on what was then called Decoration Day and is now called Memorial Day.