Some things never change. Politicians made empty promises to “care for those who have borne the burden, his widows and orphans.” Immediately following the end of the war, there was little political pressure to see that these promises were kept. Consequently, on April 6, 1866, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was founded in Decatur, Ill., by former Union officers to serve as a united voice in holding the government accountable to make good on those promises.
By 1900, about 7,000-plus GAR Posts were scattered across the U.S., providing a place for veterans to turn to for fellowship, networking and, if needed, charity. Think of it as today’s American Legion or VFW Posts for veterans of the Civil War. The GAR founded soldiers’ homes and were active in relief work and in gaining more liberal federal pension legislation. Orphan schools were founded in Pennsylvania to care for and educate the children of veterans.
The Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie has been documented by scholars as probably the most intact GAR Post in the country. In a 1911 catalogue, veterans from the post wrote “… we leave for our children and their children, this room full of relics, hoping they may be as proud of them as we are, and that they may see that they are protected and cared for all time.” It’s a responsibility to our veterans that we don’t take lightly. We are honored to tell their stories, display their artifacts and educate the public on what they accomplished for our nation.
The Capt. Thomas Espy GAR Post 153 is open to the public, free of charge, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday. Private tours can be arranged by appointment. A lecture is held every second Saturday of the month. The Jan. 11 talk begins at 1 p.m. and is on the Battle of Philippi, W.Va., with speaker Jon-Erik Gilot. Light refreshments are served. For more information or to schedule a tour, call 412-276-3456, ext. 9.
Diane Klinefelter is the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall Espy Post curator.
Text source: Tribune and Review
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