Story of the Grand Army of the Republic Flagpole
Story of the Grand Army of the Republic
By MCCWRT President Dennis Moore
On April 20, 1881, Civil War veterans from Manitowoc City and County, formed Horace M. Walker Post 18, Grand Army of the Republic. Starting with twenty-two charter members, they had by 1889 grown to 128 members, a sizable organization for this section of the state. While most Civil War veterans were in their mid 40’s or early 50’s, and in good health, others declined more rapidly and slowly but surely began to pass away. Not all of these veterans passing away had been able to set aside finances to provide for burial. Over time, a number of these veterans had been buried in cities “Potters Field”, at city and county expense.
When members of the local Grand Army Post found out about this practice, they were incensed. their pledge Fraternity, Loyalty, Charity, meant taking care of their own, even the ones who had passed on. In 1889 the Grand Army Post petitioned the Manitowoc City Council for a small section of Evergreen Cemetery for the burial of their deceased comrades. On May 30, 1889, request was granted and the City gave the G.A.R. a section in the center of the cemetery approximately 100 ft. X 100 ft. The G.A.R. immediately went to work removing the remains of their comrades from Potters Field and re-interring them in their section of Evergreen Cemetery. Additional burials soon followed. The G.A.R. enhanced their area by planting trees and shrubs, and in 1890 added a 24 ft. flagpole to the center of the plot. The flagpole, set in concrete, was of steel construction and measured 1 1/2″ in diameter. The G.A.R. made sure an American flag always flew above their comrades.
Unfortunately, the Grand Army of the Republic was a last man’s club. Only Union veterans of the Civil War could belong to the organization, so when the last member died, so did the post to which he belonged. For Horace Walker Post 18, G.A.R. this occurred on September 3, 1933 when Frank Braun, a Civil War veteran and member of Company D, 1st Wisconsin volunteer Infantry, passed away.
On February 16, 1934, a coalition of veterans and civic groups, to include: Spanish American War Veterans, Woman’s Relief Corps, Historical Society, American War Mothers, Daughters of the American Revolution, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary, met to make plans for a community-wide ceremony to honor the memory and passing of their local Grand Army Post. Using the remaining funds to the now-defunct G.A.R. treasury, they purchased a large granite stone and inscribed it to the G.A.R. This stone was placed in the center of the Grand Army burial area, next to the flagpole. In addition, the flagpole which had originally been put in place by the G.A.R. in 1890, was refurbished for their upcoming event. The ceremony took place on Memorial Day, May 30, 1934 and with thousands of Manitowoc citizens attending, was the largest event in Manitowoc that year.
The G.A.R. flagpole, monument and burial area was used by veterans groups for Memorial Day observance until complaints were received about the large crowds walking over graves and crushing planted flowers. The Memorial Day observance was then moved to N. 18th St. in the front of the cemetery. Since that time the G.A.R. area has been little used.
In 2009 I was asked by the Roundtable to update the history of the Flag of Company A in the form of a book. For the cover of the book I decided to fly a replica of the Flag of Company A on the G.A.R. flagpole next to their monument. While the picture made a beautiful book cover, I could not help but notice the deteriorated condition of the flagpole. Last refurbished in 1934, it was now in desperate need of repair or replacement. At the April meeting of the Board of Directors of the Roundtable, the matter was discussed and it was decided that if permission was granted, we would replace the flagpole.
It took about a month to contact all veterans groups associated with the area, but to the post, all are in favor of the project. The cemetery too, was more than willing to give their consent and offered to help where needed. We will be obtaining a beautiful 22 ft. 3″ in diameter aluminum flagpole around the end of July, and hopefully have it in place within days. The Roundtable has committed to keep a flag flying over the G.A.R. burial area from Memorial Day to Veterans Day. We will do this to honor the memory of all Civil War veterans as our preamble so admirably states.