by Dennis Loba & C. Finlayson “The Veteran” Nov-Dec 1997 (an “Encore” article)
After the Civil War when the GAR saw its greatest gains in membership the Dept of Louisiana/Mississippi when its 8 white Posts refused to recognize the 8 “colored” Posts. At the 26th National Encampment in Sept. 1892 at Washington, DC. the Commander in Chief, John Palmer, reported how he had finally resolved this long-standing problem.
“A man who is good enough to stand between the flag and those who would destroy it is good enough to be a comrade in any department of the GAR. No department should ever be established for any color or nationality. Posts 9 to 17 (the “colored” posts) reported that at the annual meeting of the Department of Louisiana/Mississippi in February 1892 that they were refused admission or representation. The Department Commander was ordered by the Commander in Chief to recognize posts 9-17, which he declined to do.”
Palmer suspended the Dept. Commander, but subsequent appointees also failed to comply with the order. Palmer further stated, “The first duty of a soldier is obedience. Every soldier has learned by experience of actual service that, unless rules and discipline are maintained, an organization degenerates into a mob.”
The LA/MS Dept. surrendered its charter on May 1892, in direct violation of the Rules & Regulations of the GAR. C.I.C. Palmer then appointed Past Dept. Commander A.S. Badger Commander pro-tempore and ordered him to recognize Posts 9 to 17.
“After the reorganization I ordered a thorough inspection of the Posts and the report shows each comrade produced either his discharge, pension certificate or satisfactory evidence of service.”
The department was reorganized in New Orleans on August 6, 1892 where delegates from 13 posts were present. The encampment apparently was harmonious. “The Department is represented today in this (26th) National Encampment by a full delegation, regardless of color or nationality, with the gratifying assurance that there are no contests except to see who can best serve the interests of the Order.’ So passed a turning point in the history of the GAR.