OUR PURPOSE & HISTORY
THE GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
State and Federal leaders from President Lincoln down had promised to care for "those who have borne the burden, his widows, and orphans," but they had little knowledge of how to accomplish this task. There was little political pressure to see that the promises were kept. With that as a background, groups of Civil War Veterans began forming together-first for camaraderie and then for political power. Emerging as the most powerful among the various Veteran Organizations would be the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which by 1890 would number 409,489 veterans of the "War of the Rebellion."
Founded in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson, membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Revenue Cutter Service who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865.
The GAR founded soldier's homes, was active in relief work and in pension legislation. Five members were elected President of the United States, and for a time, it was impossible to be nominated on the Republican ticket without the support of the GAR.
SONS OF UNION VETERANS OF THE CIVIL WAR
As Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), we are the legal heirs to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Our goal and purpose is to perpetuate the memory of the GAR; what they did in the Civil War and to preserve the Union, and to continue the work they started following the War. Teaching others about our flag, patriotism and citizenship were important to them and should be important to us all. Learning about the other cultures and histories that live among us today is important, but the basic history of the United States cannot take second place to that of others.
We are a National organization divided into Departments (States) and then Camps (local chapters). While perpetuating the memory of the GAR, we also work actively to locate and record the final resting place of all Civil War soldiers as well as work to restore and or preserve Civil War memorials. We also seek to honor the veterans of all wars. We participate in Memorial Day services as well as those on Veterans' Day.
DEPARTMENT OF FLORIDA
The Department obtained its charter on May 18, 1996 at Fort Meyers, Florida. The events leading up to the establishment of the Department of Florida began at a Civil War Roundtable meeting in Palm Beach County. Brother Leland Smith met Mr. Ron Bair at the Civil War Roundtable meeting, and through their similar interests and association at following meetings, they formed a friendship and decided to join the SUVCW as Members-At-Large in May 1995. Brother Smith and Mr. Bair then recruited 15 members by attending various community events. They applied for a Camp charter that was approved in December 1995. Mr. Bair was elected Commander, and Brother Leland Smith Senior Vice Commander of General Thomas McKean Camp 3. Since this was the third Camp in the State of Florida Brother Smith and Mr. Bair contacted the National Organization to learn that there was one Camp in Tampa and another in Fort Myers. The three Camp Commanders met at the reenactment of the Battle of Olustee in February 1996. It was at Olustee Florida that the three Camp Commanders planned to form the Department of Florida. The Department would oversee and assist the forming of new Camps. On May 18, 1996 at the Fort Myers Historical Museum, officers were elected with Mr. Ron Bair, Gen. T. McKean Camp 3, as Dept. Cmdr.; Mr. Warren Gentzle, John Hancock Camp 2, as Sr. Vice Cmdr.; Brother James Hayward, Winfield Scott Whitehurst Camp 1, as Jr. Vice Cmdr.; Brother Leland Smith, Gen. T. McKean Camp 3, as Sec./Treas.; and three council members were elected. The National Commander in Chief, David Medert Sr., installed the officers and presented the Department Charter to Department Commander Bair.