Speech, 1885, Grand Army of the Republic

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Speech, 1885, Grand Army of the Republic


Handwritten speech delivered by Jacob M. Hunter a Civil War Veteran of the 50th New York Engineers. Hunter enlisted on 3 February 1864 in Company K, 50th NY Engineers at the age of 19 years. Mustered out on 13 June 1865 at Fort Barry, Virginia.

After the war he migrated to Ohio and invented the "Hunter Sifter" which became a household item for sifting flour in the kitchen.

The speech was presented by Hunter to a gathering of GAR Veterans in 1885.

Donated by Greg Starbuck


Jacob M. Hunter


Historic Sandusky-University of Lynchburg




Permission to publish or reproduce required
inquire at info@historicsandusky.org



“They left the ploughshare in the mould,
The flocks and herbs without a fold,
The sickle in the unshorn grain,
The corn half garnered on the plain,
And mustered in their simple dress,
For wrongs to seek a stern redress,
To right those wrongs, come weal, come woe,
To perish or o’ercome the foe!”

There is no tongue so silvery, no word so golden, no eloquence so inspiring that it can’t be used in responding to or presenting any subject pertaining to the Grand Army. Made up, as it is, of men who in their country’s hour of greatest peril cared less for personal comfort, personal safety and the preservation of their lives than they did for that starry banner and the preservation of the of the Republic of which it is the beautiful emblem, it may as justly be called the grand Army of Patriots as the Grand Army of the Republic.

The man who cannot produce that strongest test of the highest type of patriotism--- evidence of an honorable discharge from the army or navy and bearing a date covered by the war period --- must ever ask in vain for membership in the Grand Army of the Republic.

It is an organization whose ties of friendship and comradeship are more than ties; they are very chains of iron and bands of steel, more powerful in binding men to each other than a combination of the ties fraternal in other societies, for they are chains and bands made in cause both great and holy, by service both noble and patriotic, and at times when the stoutest-hearted and bravest of men were tested to the quick.

These comrades, when young men, stood in battle-line, elbow to elbow, and bared their breasts to showers of lead and storms of iron, and they did it because they loved their country and wanted to preserve it. Truer patriots than are found in the Grand Army of the Republic, and among the men from whom it recruits, the world has never seen, nor will ever see.

Today, in common with nation’s 55,000,000 people, all free, they are enjoying the fruits of the victory which cost them and their fallen comrades most dearly. In five thousand posts, standing shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart, may be found 300,000 of these well-tried men who almost a quarter of a century ago helped to make up the grand armies of the Union; who helped to make the long, solid walls of blue which stood between the life of the Republic and an ignominious death. Many of them are bending with age, whose touch is frosting their heads. But within the breast once buttoned in blue, there are hearts which will be warm and loving and sympathetic and young so long as they are permitted to pulsate. In all of these posts are found comrades and brothers who are such in the truest sense of the terms.

In the Grand Army there are no Generals, Colonels, Majors, Captains, or Lieutenants: no Admirals, Rear Admirals, Commodores, or Commanders; all are comrades. The man who wore the two stars of the Major-General sits by the side of the man who was starless, birdless, leafless, barless and chevronless, and they clasp hands as comrades.

The boy who trudged along in the ranks burdened with knapsack, haversack, canteen, gun, and equipment, breaks away from his duties as general manager of a great railroad to spend an hour with his comrades, among whom he finds the old Colonel--- now an auctioneer. Rank separated them in the service, but in the Grand Army the general manger, who in the field wore the plain blue coat, without as much as a chevron to keep him from standing guard, does not rank the man who rode at the head of his regiment with an eagle on each manly shoulder, but who now chatters to mixed audiences in the auction store.

The private who is at the head of the leading wholesale house in the city looks at his watch on post night and says: “Come, General, let us go over and see the old boys.” And the great merchant and his book-keeper, who twenty years ago commanded a brigade, lock arms, and go to the hall, salute the Commander, who was a Corporal, and they are with the “old boys” and they are happy. The Sergeant, who is a Congressman now, wears the little metal badge with as much pride as his former Captain does, who drives a span of mules hitched to a bob-tailed streetcar. Generals Sherman, Logan, Sheridan, and Hancock are on a level with private Smith and Jones and Brown and Green. They all rank as comrades.

The greatest events of their lives occurred while they were winning that rank of honor and eminent distinction. They look back to those stirring events, and drop a tear to the memory of those who fell by their sides, and with swelling hearts look up and thank God that they were able to play a part in the great war drama; that they had a hand in shielding from disgrace and danger that grand national emblem; that they helped to save the Republic.

America well knows what these aged veterans of the army and navy accomplished during the years of dread war, and we have a right to believe, and we do believe, that every sincere lover of the American government and its institutions appreciates their services--- knows that to their valor and to their patriotism the world is indebted for the grandest and most perfect Republic mortal eyes have ever looked upon.

The people have seen these soldiers and sailors, after their long, hard and dangerous service, return to the paths of peace and take their places by the side of and as equals with the country’s most useful citizens. They have seen a grateful nation tap the shoulders of three of their comrades and lead the way to the most exalted station known to civilization--- the Presidency of the United States; and braver, more honest, and manlier characters have never held the place.

The people have gone to the ranks of our comrades for Governors, Senators and Representatives, and they find none who serve them better. They see in the professions great numbers of lights dazzling with brilliancy --- men who were once soldiers, guarding the sacred trusts which came to us from Washington and his companion patriots.

They see these comrades in every manly walk of life, and seeing, honor them. But we may doubt if the general public comprehends the remaining missions of the old veterans. I think I hear you ask, as has been asked by thousands of others, what are the objectives of the Grand Army of the Republic? Let me briefly answer. The three cardinal principles of the Grand Army are fraternity, charity, and loyalty. Fraternity --- to preserve and strengthen those kind and fraternal feelings which bind soldiers, sailors, and mariners who united to suppress the rebellion. Charity --- to assist such former comrades in arms as need help and protection, and to extend needful aid to the widows and orphans of those who have fallen. Loyalty --- to maintain true allegiance to the United States of America, based upon a paramount respect for, and fidelity to, the National Constitution and the laws; to discountenance whatever tends to weaken loyalty, incites to insurrection and treason or rebellion, or in any way impairs the efficiency and permanency of our free institutions, and to encourage the spread of universal liberty, equal rights and justice to all men.

Do the people know that every post of the Grand Army of the Republic is taking advanced ground in the important work of giving the country a true history of the mighty struggle for liberty and Union? Do they know that the choicest war literature has its inspiration at the post meetings? Do they know that each of the campfires, whose high-reaching flames light the valley, the prairie, the hillside and the mountaintop, are normal schools from which go forth well-trained educators in patriotism; go as sons and neighbors of the veterans --- veterans whose love for country and flag is so intense that those who meet them catch the spirit? This country cannot have too many educators like these men.

Do the people realize the value of the lessons in patriotism which the old soldiers unite in imparting; that they will bear rich, ripe fruit in the centuries to come; that the times long past the year 2000 will feel the effect of Grand Army heartbeats of 1885? Do they know that these lessons teach men that they cannot too sincerely and too deeply love the American nation; that they can make no sacrifice in its behalf which is too great? These are some of the missions of the Grand Army of the Republic.

I wish that all could know, as I think I know, of the love, sympathy, patriotism and pure gold there is in the Grand Army of the Republic, and among the men who are eligible as members. I wish they could see, as I think I can see, a million pair of eyes, many of them in tears, centered upon a home in the northern part of this state, and know of a million hearts rounded up with deepest sympathy for the family of that grand old hero, the great Commander of Commanders, who has but recently taken his place of rest in the abodes of the Infinite.

How the great heart of the mighty American nation grieves at the loss of the chief who in her time of direst need shouldered her burden and bore it to the end in honor and glory! General Grant will live in history with Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon and Washington as one of the master spirits born to command and wield the destiny of a great nation. In face of the greatest difficulties and such as would have caused the stoutest heart to falter he was ever found equal to the occasion and managed to come out of every engagement with honor and credit.

A hero, a soldier and a martyr, he should ever beloved by his country; his highest duty it was to serve in time of war and whose chief concern has been in time of peace the greatest good of the people. Future ages will do honor to the memory of General Grant, and his fame, undimmed by time, will emblazon the record of the illustrious men of the century in dazzling splendor. Calm, sober, self-sacrificing, he responded to his country’s call, and saved from dissolution the glorious Union of our States, cemented by the blood of our fathers and left as a precious heritage to their children.

“He sleeps his last sleep; he has fought his last battle; no sound can awake him to glory again.” General Grant is dead! He has paid the penalty of existence, and joined the throng of heroes amid the eternal light that beams beyond our mortal vision, but his grateful homage and true devotion.

Soldiers rest thy warfare o’er,
Dreams of battlefields no more;
Sleep the sleep that ‘s not breaking;
No more toil or night waking.

If the country should be imperiled during the next five year, and men of iron nerves were needed to shield it from insult and ruin, an army of such men, recruited from the Grand Army of the Republic could be assembled as speedily as steam could whirl them over the land. And an hour from the time of assembling they would be ready for a great battle. If such peril comes --- which God forbid --- it must come soon if the old veterans are to respond. Their stay on earth will be all too brief. Only a few years can pass ‘ere the angels reach down from heaven and life to the golden pave the last hero of the Grand Army of the Republic, there to enjoy a reunion with the millions who fought that the American nation might live.

And now Comrades, as one by one our great leaders are added to the long list of those who have been “mustered out”, let us close up our broken ranks as in the olden time, and march forward shoulder to shoulder under our glorious banner of fraternity charity and loyalty, until for us “The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat the soldier’s last tattoo.”


Jacob M. Hunter, “Speech, 1885, Grand Army of the Republic,” Historic Sandusky Archives and Collections, accessed April 15, 2024, https://historicsanduskyarchives.omeka.net/items/show/247.