Exhibit & Flag Raising Mark Veterans Day at CMCC
November 16, 2015
The Veterans Club at Central Maine Community College (CMCC) held a flag-raising ceremony on campus November 10 in recognition of Veterans Day. After the ceremony, several veterans and others gathered in the CMCC Hall of Flags to mark an exhibit of materials on the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of Union Army veterans of the Civil War. The documents are from holdings of the Androscoggin Historical Society in Auburn.
The GAR was formed in 1866 by Union Army veterans for the “defense of the late soldiery of the United States, morally, socially, and politically.” Nationwide membership reached a peak of more than 400,000 in 1890, with over 7,000 posts. The GAR held regular local meetings as well as regional and national “encampments.” Like later veterans organizations, GAR posts served as a venue for social gatherings.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Maine had up to 100 GAR posts, usually named after Union Army generals. Lewiston had the George Armstrong Custer Post (No. 7, formed in 1877) and Auburn the Ambrose Burnside Post (No. 47, organized in 1881), each of which once had over 500 members. Because the group focused just on Civil War veterans, its membership inevitably declined, to the point where by the 1930s, it had few active members and most posts were disbanded.
The exhibit was organized by Chris Beam, CMCC adjunct instructor in history, adviser to the Veterans Club, and a member of the Androscoggin Historical Society Board. He is a veteran of the Marine Corps who served in Vietnam in 1968-69.
Photo: Chris Beam, left, discusses the GAR exhibit at CMCC with Douglas Hodgkin, president of the Androscoggin Historical Society.