The Grand Army of the Republic was founded in 1866 as a fraternal and charitable organization for Union veterans of all service
branches who served between 1861 and 1865. One of their tasks became the establishment of burial plots for veterans who
died without means or family to bury them. In Buffalo, the Erie County Burial Association of the GAR bought 3,000 square feet
of Forest Lawn property for this use in 1880. In ten years, their need for more space resulted the purchase of more land. And in
1904, Forest Lawn and the GAR agreed to a new space entirely for the GAR and 234 veterans were disinterred and moved to
the new "soldier's plot" bounded by Delavan Avenue and Main Street. The Soldiers' Monument, erected by the GAR as
part of the original contract with Forest Lawn, was also moved to the new location.
On May 30, 1904, the new GAR plot was re-dedicated at the end of the city's Memorial Day parade. Reports were that the
ceremony was witnessed by thousands. Anselm J. Smith, chairman of the committee on ceremonies, began his address:
"In the name of honor, in the name of freedom, in fond remembrance of past companionship, we come to dedicate this God's
acre, this plot of mother earth, the last resting place of all humanity, to the use and memory of our dead."
There was a 13-gun salute, the 74th Regiment Band played "The Star-Spangled Banner" while the
flag was unfurled for the first time at this new location. Another very large flag covered the statue
and was ceremoniously pulled away near the ceremony's end. Lafayette students sang, "Cover Them
Over With Flowers."
The GAR began as a fraternal organization but quickly found its voice as a political power.
Although the ranks of GAR members was rapidly dwindling by 1904, the organization had
influenced pension legislation and for years determined the Republican Party's nominations.
Five GAR members became President of the United States. And, in 1868, the headquarters
of the GAR sent orders to all Posts to set aside May 30 as the day of remembrance, thus
creating Memorial Day.
Early on, the GAR determined to embellish their members with identifying badges and buttons,
as was common with all fraternal organizations of the era. The GAR badge (above and below) was created
as a variation of the Congressional Medal of Honor, something which by the 1880's caused enough friction
to prompt the GAR to revise its badge.
The symbolism of the badge is extensive. For example, the 5-pointed star was cast from captured cannon.
In the center is the Goddess of Liberty, representing Loyalty; on either side a soldier and sailor clasping hands,
representing Fraternity; and two children receiving benediction and assurance of protection from the comrades,
The last GAR member buried in the GAR section of Forest Lawn was George H. Howard, laid to rest in 1942.
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