Saturday, February 11, 2012

The (International) Grand Army of the Republic

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Scott MacKenzie at Slaveholders' War posted an interesting tidbit today concerning GAR veterans in the Great White North. I suppose I should not be surprised that a number of Union veterans made there way to Canada after 1865 and naturally, considering their tendency to organize, I should not be surprised that they formed GAR posts. Scott listed the posts on record - you never know...there may be more.

I have to admit that I am embarrassed on my lack of knowledge of international GAR veterans. My own research stopped at the borders, so to speak. Scott points out that little, if any research has been done on these guys and wonders about things such as national origin, ethnic identity, and how their presence affected their communities.

If anyone has any insight, chime in. While the overwhelming majority of Union veterans returned to their homes or relocated to places in the United States, some surely left for international locales. Hmmmm - maybe an ambitious historian out there should break some new ground. My current project concerns Union veterans who migrated to California - maybe I'll tackle the Canadians next. Unless, of course, somebody beats me to it!



  1. I'm afraid that previous attempts to track down numbers of Canadian Civil War veterans have failed. The two main texts on the subject, Robin Winks' older but still excellent Canada and the United States: The Civil War Years, and Greg Marquis' newer In Armageddon's Shadow, each agree that definition remains the biggest hurdle. How does one define "Canadian" back then? The white population back then had large numbers of European migrants. Any enlistment record or commission would register "England," "Ireland," or some place other than "Canada." Moreover, those living in the US - and there were many of them - may define themselves as American. At most, we could come up with a minimum number - 18,000 to Winks, 25,000+ to Marquis - out of a total population of 3.2 million. Even those numbers make the Civil War Canada's fourth largest war behind WW2, WW1, and Korea, and slightly ahead of Afghanistan.

    Fun fact: Calixte Lavelee, the composer of "O Canada," the national anthem, was a Civil War veteran - a musician with the 4th Rhode Island, wounded at Antietam.

    Another fun fact: the last verified survivor of Pickett's Charge, William Hatcher Barnett of the Company F, 11th Virginia (CS), died in Bottrell, Alberta in 1933 at the age of 90.


    On this website is the international GAR. These are the posts I have heard about. I have a roster of the Hamlin post in my files.

  3. Thanks Barb - I knew I could count on you :)