38-Star Grand Army of the Republic Flag Printed on Silk, Circa 1885

This is an beautiful and finely printed silk flag that celebrates the “G.A.R.” or Grand Army of the Republic.

The flag features the Grand Army Badge, printed on a dark navy blue canton. The Grand Army Badge is composed of an eagle on crossed cannons above a 13 star vertical flag and a five-pointed star. "Grand Army of the Republic Veteran" and the dates of the war (1861-1865) encircle the badge. The Grand Army Badge is surrounded by 38 radiating stars. Thirteen red and white stripes complete the flag's design. The canton rests on the red war stripe, commemorating the sacrifice of fallen comrades. The flag was most likely printed for one of the yearly G.A.R. National Encampments, to be proudly displayed and flown during the reunion. It is a late 19th century pennant, circa 1885.

In 1866, the United States of America- now one nation again- was faced with great responsibility of healing the wounds of the Civil War. In previous conflicts, the care of the veteran was the domain of the family or the community. Given the tremendous scope of the war, and the advances in the care of wounded soldiers, many who would have surely died in earlier wars returned home to be cared for by a community structure weary from a long-drawn-out war. Faced with the needs of widows and orphans, in addition to the profound number of veteran soldiers, communities were overwhelmed and not prepared to give such care. State and federal leaders, from President Lincoln down, had promised to care for “those who have borne the burden” of war, but had little funds and even less idea of how to accomplish such a monumental task.

Additionally, men who were once in camps together, living side by side and experiencing the struggles of war together, were now separated and alone, without the companionship and emotional support of their fellow brothers in arms. As a result, groups of soldier veterans began joining together — first for camaraderie and then for community efforts and even later, political power. The Grand Army of the Republic emerged as one of the most politically and financially powerful among the various organizations.

The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was founded in 1866 as an organization of veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marines, and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. From its beginning in Decatur, Illinois, it grew by 1890 to a membership of 490,000 veterans- organized into hundreds of local posts across the North and West. From 1866 to 1949, the G.A.R. held an annual National Encampment at sites across the country every year. The G.A.R.’s founding principles were “Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty.” The G.A.R. functioned as both a fraternal and a political organization and was closely allied with the Republican Party, helping to elect five Union veterans as President of the United States—Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley.

CONDITION:

Very good condition. Only minor staining and a few small reductions. Colors are strong and still vibrant. One printer’s error in the canton where the sheet was folded when inked, appearing as a white streak which does not affect aesthetics. This flag as been archivally framed in custom-built gold beaded frame. Framed dimensions: 27” H x 35”W x 2.5” D




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