After the Civil War ended in 1865, armies were disbanded and regiments mustered out of service. Most veterans went back to their farms and the peaceful routine of everyday living took hold.  However,  many Civil War veterans found that four years of the memories of the time they served and the friendships forged with their comrade-in-arms did not readily go away. Nostalgia and the preceived advocacy with strength in numbers impelled these veterans to come together in casual groups, which then led to more formal organizations formed for friendship and for protecting the benefits of the aging ex-soldiers. The foremost of these groups was the Grand Army of the Republic(GAR) founded in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866, on the principles of "Fraternity, Charity and  Loyalty"  by Benjamin F. Stephenson.

According to the Library of Congress website, "the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) quickly became the dominant veterans' organization formed at the close of the Civil War. Membership reached its peak in 1890, when over 400,000 members were reported. By then the GAR had well over seven thousand posts, ranging in size from fewer than two dozen members in small towns, to more than a thousand in some cities"  In September of 1882, the Grand Army, Department of Oregon had a total of 77 posts, with four posts in Portland, (George Wright, Lincoln-Garfield, Sumner and B.F. Butler) . Interestingly, Baker City was the home to the camp named for Union General Joseph Hooker, and the Edward Dickinson Baker Camp was situated in Marshfield (Coos Bay).

The GAR reached its apex of  enrollment in 1890, with over 490,000 members, and then membership numbers started to plummet with the natural attrition of the ranks due to death. However, due to the farsighted vision of the GAR leadership  in 1881, the work, tradition and memories of the GAR were handed down to a younger generation who would then carry on the legacy of the Civil War veterans  now interred in national and pioneer cemeteries. "Membership was open to to any man who could prove ancestry to a member of the GAR or to a veteran  eligible for membership in the GAR."  

Times change, and so has the memhership requirements. According to a recent  brochure for the Oregon Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, "...men who did not have the ancestry to qualify for hereditary membership, but who demonstrated a genuine interest in the Civil War and could agree to the purpose and objectives of the SUVCW, could be admitted as Associates."  Today the  Oregon number of camps has dwindled from the original 77 to only two camps named the Corporal Louis Renninger Camp #1 and the Colonel D. Edward Baker Camp # 6;  but the vital and proactive membership of both camps continues the traditions of the past.

I found out more about the community outreach of the Oregon Sons of Union Veterans camps when I invited Oregon Baker Camp SUV Registration chairman Randy Fletcher to give a presentation at Portland State University about the extensive cemetery restoration work accomplished by the camp members around Oregon in a presentation entitled  "Civil War Heroes Buried in Oregon." The former head of Corporal Louis Renninger Camp #1,  Harold Slavik, gave me and my cemetery cleanup volunteers invaluable advice as to how to identify the unmarked  gravesites of Civil War veterans in the pioneer cemeteries of Oregon. The participation of both camps with my Oregon Lincoln Bicentennial Commission's  "Remembrance Day 2008" program helped to ensure its success at Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery.

Now the Colonel Edward D. Baker Camp No. 6  has partnered again with us, this time, as the Oregon Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, to put on a "coast-to-coast" commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Ball's Bluff and the death of Oregon's Senator Edward Dickinson Baker, with special events that will take place over the period of October 21 through October 23, 2011 in Oregon and in Virginia. . Here in Oregon, we're putting on the state memorial services being held respectively in Salem and Portland on Friday, October 21 and Saturday, October 22; and the Col. Edward D. Baker Camp has a special event planned  for Sunday, October 23, 2011. Together we are working to ensure that the memory and legacy of Oregon's second US Senator is passed down to future generations of Oregonians and Virginians.


Please check out our earlier blog post, or the home page of this website for more details of the upcoming tributes to Oregon's Senator Edward Dickinson Baker.