Digital Collections -> Pathfinders -> Many Roads to Freedom -> G.A.R. Roster and Scrapbook


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1890: The Beginning of the Book
This book has a complicated history. Around 1890 the publisher, Louis H. Everts of Philadelphia, printed volumes like this one for use by the Grand Army of the Republic. They contained richly embellished pages in which to inscribe names and details of Civil War veterans and their organizations. This particular volume was intended to provide a historical record of the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of New York, members of the E.G. Marshall Post No. 397 of Rochester.

Original Entries in the Book
This volume's original title was Personal War Sketches of the Members of the E.G. Marshall Post No. 397, Rochester. It was presented to the post in 1892 by Richard Curran, a Civil War surgeon who became mayor of Rochester in 1892. Most of this book consists of handwritten lists of names of members of the organization.

When the post was disbanded by the sole surviving member (and former commander of the G.A.R., Dept. of New York), Joseph Bauer, Bauer handed the book over to an Auxiliary post which took the name of James A. Hard, who was the last soldier to hold the New York commander post. James Hard had served as a private in the war from the Battle of Bull Run to Antietam. After the war he became commander of I.F. Quinby Post No. 409.

1948: The Closing of the Book
By the time of the 82nd Encampment of the New York State G.A.R. at Rochester in June, 1948, there were only two New York members left alive: James A. Hard and Robert Rownd. Rownd, 103, was taken ill and could not attend. Hard, at 106 years of age, was left to close the books on the department by himself, a task which he admitted was lonely: "It's not pleasant to think about -- that I am the last of all those thousands of men."

However, the ceremonies surrounding the encampment were full of Rochesterians, who commemorated the encampment with a parade and ceremonies at Highland Bowl. Over 13,000 people attended the ceremony at the bowl, in which Hard was wheeled onstage to officially close the gathering. At the ceremony, he turned this volume over to the City of Rochester "while flames from the traditional campfire soared skyward in front of the stage" (as described in a newspaper article of the time). Miss Emma Swift, head of the History Division of Rochester Public Library, accepted the volume on behalf of the city. The library was placed in charge of preserving it in its new purpose as a scrapbook of Army records.

What the Book Contains
In its new incarnation as a scrapbook, the book was re-titled as Rochester Civil War Veterans: Roster and Scrapbook, Grand Army of the Republic, Dept. of New York and Auxiliaries. Unused pages were converted to use as a scrapbook. The scrapbook pages contain many newspaper clippings and pictures. Also, there are several pamphlets inserted into the book which deal with various veterans' organizations and events.

Closing Thoughts
On June 11, 1948, Mae G. Hughes, Past Service President of the National Woman's Relief Corps, G.A.R., wrote the following words in the "Record of Presentation and Acceptance" page of the Roster. Her words seem the best description of the true meaning of this historic volume:

"It was not the intention of the one who compiled this book that it would be a complete record of the men who went out from Rochester to serve their country in the great Civil War. Rather, it represents the last roll call of a vanishing army that in the war years of 1861-1865 rendered heroic service and were an inspiration throughout the eighty years of its existence.
The book is now closed and there remains only the memory. The campfire is extinguished and the 'Taps' sounded for the last time. May their souls go marching on!"
View the scrapbook here