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قراءة كتاب The New England Magazine, Volume 1, No. 2, February, 1886. The Bay State Monthly, Volume 4, No. 2, February, 1886.

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‏اللغة: English
The New England Magazine, Volume 1, No. 2, February, 1886.
The Bay State Monthly,  Volume 4, No. 2, February, 1886.

The New England Magazine, Volume 1, No. 2, February, 1886. The Bay State Monthly, Volume 4, No. 2, February, 1886.

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 6

department of Illinois, where the Grand Army had its birth, had been reduced from over three hundred posts, and a membership of forty thousand, to less than twenty-five posts, and these barely existing in name; and two years later its entire membership was but two hundred and thirty-eight. Indiana, with two hundred and seventy-nine posts, and thirty thousand membership, had become utterly disorganized; Iowa, with one hundred and forty-four posts, had ceased to have a recognized existence; the thirty posts in Kansas had dwindled to nine; Minnesota had shrunk from twenty-five to two posts; the one hundred and twenty-nine posts in Missouri had no department existence; in Wisconsin, of seventy-nine, less than a dozen were left, and in Pennsylvania, one hundred and forty-three out of two hundred and twenty-four had been disbanded. At the session of the National Encampment in May, 1870, the Adjutant-General reported that only three departments, Massachusetts being one, could give the exact number of the members upon their rolls, and the national headquarters were then involved in over $3,000 of indebtedness.

But in Massachusetts, the founders of the Grand Army of the Republic wisely bolted and double-barred the doors against the intrusion of partisan topics, and the growth of the organization was steady and continuous. In January, 1868, comrade A. B. R. Sprague was elected to succeed Commander Cushman, and at the end of his term was able to report seventy-three posts, with a membership of six thousand one hundred and eighty-nine.

How well the department of Massachusetts kept, through these early years, the Grand Army banner in the front, is evidenced by the following:—

The percentage in this department alone of the entire membership in the United States was, in 1872, 38 per cent; 1873, 42 per cent; 1874, 43 per cent; 1875, 38 per cent; 1876, 32 per cent; 1877, 33 per cent; 1878, 30 per cent; 1879, 21 per cent.

From the latter year, because of the rapid growth in Pennsylvania and New York, and of the reorganization and great increase of the departments in western states, this percentage was rapidly decreased to six per cent in 1885, but for ten successive years the official national reports accord to Massachusetts, in all respects, the position of "the banner department." In April, 1868, Commander-in-chief Logan issued his order for the observance annually of the thirtieth of May as a Memorial Day, "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of those who died in defence of their country during the late rebellion," and the ceremony into which so much of tenderness and patriotic love has since been wrought, was most heartily inaugurated in this department.

Comrade F. A. Osborn succeeded Commander Sprague, occupying the position during the year 1869. Within his term, a new ritual, establishing three grades or degrees, was adopted by the National Encampment, largely in compliance with the desires of the members of the western departments, against the earnest opposition of Massachusetts, where was a strong wish to "let well enough alone." This change was the first adverse blow felt in this department, where not only was the rapid and continuous growth of the organization retarded, but in a single quarter ending Sept. 30, 1869, there was a net loss of one thousand seven hundred and nine members. But this was partially recovered during the subsequent three months, and the Assistant Adjutant-General was able to report at the close of the year, one hundred and seventeen posts, with nine thousand members. During this year there was put in operation the system of careful inspection of the several posts by department officers, which has since become a part of the national regulations, and which, from its inception in this department, has contributed so largely to the efficiency and growth of the organization. With the retrogression of the western departments, Massachusetts in this year went to the front in point of numbers, as confessedly also in perfection of organization and completeness of Grand Army work, and held that position until 1880, when Pennsylvania passed her in point of membership. It will be impossible in the limit of this article to speak in detail of each distinctive year's administration, but the numerical loss of membership was not the most serious result of the introduction of the grade system; among those who then dropped out of the organization, disbelieving in the departure from the original simplicity of forms, were some of the most active and influential members, the loss of whose interest and personality was severely felt for years.

During 1870 and 1871, the growth was small, and high water mark for that period was reached in the first quarter of 1873, when a membership of ten thousand and seventy was reported. From this point came a reaction, the numbers slowly and steadily diminishing for six years, the lowest point in membership being reached in the spring of 1879, when there were but seven thousand seven hundred and forty-eight upon the rolls.

From that time, slowly at first, but without retrogression, the membership has risen to its present point, numbering eighteen thousand.

The question of an appropriate badge, which had received much consideration by two successive National Encampments and their committees, was finally settled by a resolution passed October 28, 1869, adopting the design now in use, to be made of bronze from cannon captured during the war.

During one or two years of the Grand Army in this state, there was no organized charity work, but the necessity for systematized action early became evident, and in 1870 posts began the establishment of a relief fund, placed in the hands of trustees, and administered by special committees; and in this direction Massachusetts has grandly led all other departments, having expended in the past fifteen years, from the various relief funds of posts, over $600,000.

This work has been most thoroughly systematized, in nearly every instance cities being divided by wards, and large towns into districts, with a special investigating committee for each, and, from the intimacy of association, the knowledge of records, and the veterans' natural hatred of shams, a like amount of money could hardly have been as judiciously or economically disbursed through any other channels; while from no hands could aid to the family or dependent ones of a needy veteran come with so little of the chilliness of reluctant charity as from those of old comrades-in-arms.

Unlike most, perhaps every other charitable society, the larger part of this money has, continually, from the first, been expended in behalf of those who are not of its membership.

From time to time the posts have appealed to the public, by fairs, concerts, lectures, and like entertainments, for the means to replenish their relief funds, and the response has ever been worthy the generosity and patriotism of the Commonwealth.

At the present time, the posts have in these funds about $120,000.

With the incoming of Commander Horace Binney Sargent, in 1876, the Grand Army entered upon a new and broader field in its work of fraternal charity; large as had been the liberality of Massachusetts towards its veterans, the Commonwealth yet lacked for its own what the national government had established for the helpless and needy wards of the Republic,—a Soldiers and Sailors Home. With the same earnestness and fervor which had made him the trusted military confidant of Governor Andrew, and later, a splendid commanding officer in the field, Commander Sargent threw himself into the work of securing this great need of the Commonwealth. The times were far from auspicious; business was suffering from severe depression, property values were feeling the apparent shrinkage incident to the approach to a coin basis, Comrade Sargent personally