Battlefield Dispatches #5
Kansas: “The Great Soldier State”
On April 1, 1866, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was established in Decatur, Illinois. By the late 19th Century the GAR became the largest organization of “Union” Civil War Veterans in the United States. During the late 1870s and early 1880s Kansas was known as “The Great Soldier State” because more members of the Grand Army of the Republic moved to and resettled in Kansas than in any other state. Most of the cities and towns in Kansas had (1) or more “GAR” Posts. In 1894, there were (6) “GAR” Posts located in the Linn County and (4) Posts in Bourbon County. The “Posts’ in Linn County were located in the towns of Pleasanton: Jewell Post No. 3, La Cygne: Robert B. Mitchell Post No. 170, Goodrich: James M. Arthur Post No. 300, Mound City: Montgomery Post No. 33, Blue Mound: R.B. Burleigh Post No. 264 and Prescott: Osterhaus Post No. 485. The Bourbon County “GAR Posts” were located as follows: Bronson: Bronson Post No. 482, Uniontown: James Montgomery Post No. 154, Fort Scott: William H. Lytle Post No. 32 and Fort Scott: Sgt. Richard Steele Post No. 486.
The Sgt. Richard Steel Post was one of the (6) “African American” GAR Posts in Kansas. The other “African American GAR” Posts were located and named as follows:
- Kansas City, Ks.: Sumner Post No. 10, Lawrence: Sam Walker Post No. 365, Leavenworth: Shaw Post No. 208, Atchison: W.H. Grimes Post No. 236 and Topeka: Fort Pillow Post No. 321. Also, if a town did not have a large enough African American population to support an independent “Black GAR” Post, the local post would often be intergrated as were GAR Posts in Wichita, Ottawa, Dodge City, Ellis, Hill City and Dighton, Kansas.
In order for a new “Post” to become a member of the GAR: Department of Kansas, it had to be enrolled (mustered in) by a GAR Officer in good standing. The following letter from Commander F. A. Lyon of the W.H Lytle Post in Fort Scott indicates that the Sgt. Richard Steele Post No.  was enrolled in the GAR Department of Kansas on July 22, 1893:
Fort Scott, Kansas
July 22, 1893.
Hon. A. B. Campbell
A.A.G. Dept. of Ks. GAR
Dear Sir and Comrade,
I have the honor to forward the Muster roll of Charter Members of Sgt. Richard Steele Post No. , Dept. of Kansas GAR.
I have performed the duties assigned to me in Special Order No. 17 and duly mustered the above Post with 22 Charter members on the 21st Day of July 1893.
Yours in Fraternity, Charity & Loyalty,
F. A. Lyon, Cmdg.
Today, “The Sons of Union Veterans”, a national organization, the “SUV”, Department of Kansas and the “SUV” Mine Creek Camp No. 6 at Mine Creek Battlefield SHS near Pleasanton are perpetuating the legacy, traditions and heritage of the Grand Army of the Republic. Any descendent of an Honorably Discharged Union Veteran who is interested in joining the “Sons of Union Veterans” or the associated “Women’s Relief Corps” is encouraged to contact Arnold W. Schofield.