If you are the daughter, granddaughter or great-granddaughter of a Civil War veteran, you are eligible to become a member of the above-noted patriotic society. This non-profit society was founded in 1885 by and for women who are direct descendants of a veteran. It is the oldest and largest genealogically-based U.S. Civil War women's organization. There are chapters ("Tents") in most states and also memberships-at-large for those who do not live close to a local chapter. Their aim is to preserve history (battlefields, historic sites, monuments, etc.) and to promote patriotism. They hold conventions, have ceremonies on special holidays, have a scholarship program and maintain a Civil War Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
Because my great-grandfather John Barry (c1837-1889) fought in the Civil War, I was eligible for membership. Several proofs were required:
--- the complete war record of the honourably-discharged ancestor (or proof of his war-time
--- proof of his membership in the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic). [The G.A.R. was a
post-war veterans' society (similar to our Legion); they met regularly after the war, held
conventions and parades, etc. John was a member of the Overton Post #99 in Morris,
---- documentation that proves a lineal relationship back to the veteran.
Birth, marriage and death certificates for myself, Dad, and my grandmother Margaret (Barry) Maloney were submitted. For John it was necessary to provide copies of his enlistment in the Marine Corps, his death and marriage certificates, obituary, pages from his pension file, proof of his honourable discharge, and evidence of his G.A.R. membership. I was accepted as a member in 1989. The annual dues were minimal and as a member-at-large, I received regular newsletters from a Minnesota Tent. As far as I can tell from their website, membership has not been extended further than great-granddaughters, so my generation is the last to be included. I can only presume that the membership is declining.
John Barry was typical of many immigrants to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Arriving in Boston about 1860, he may have been the first of his family to emigrate from post-famine Ireland. He was born near Rathcormac, County Cork--one of ten known children. It can probably be assumed that the family would have suffered severe hardship during the famine, possibly being evicted from the Rathcormac area. Most of John's siblings also emigrated, remaining in the Salem-Beverly area in Massachusetts before migrating to Minnesota. Many years later, one of John's brothers travelled back to Ireland to bring their elderly parents to America.
The American Civil War began in April 1861 and, like many Irish immigrants, John enlisted. Most soldiers were members of local Volunteer Regiments formed in each state; however, on August 13, 1861 at Charlestown, Massachusetts, John enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was described as a 26-year-old labourer, 5' 7 1/2" tall, with dark brown eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion. (The Charlestown Navy Yard is now a National Historic Park which we visited in 1995.
Following his basic training, John was part of a battalion that was dispatched to South Carolina. they were aboard the "Governor" near Cape Hatteras when the ship was heavily damaged in a hurricane. The waters were too rough for any other ship to come alongside and the men were forced to jump into the icy waters before being rescued. Several of the marines drowned, and many years later when John applied for a Veteran's pension, he claimed deafness in both ears caused by this event.
John's battalion served in the Carolinas and Florida before being posted to Marine Headquarters in Washington DC. The war ended in June 1865 and when his four-year term ended in August, he was discharged. His military file contains a re-enlistment in February 1866 for an additional four years. It also contains a notation that he deserted in March of that year. The circumstances and reasons for this re-enlistment and desertion are not known. Desertion was common following the end of the war. In John's case, it did not seem to adversely affect his eligibility for citizenship, a homestead grant, or G.A.R. membership
[More information about John's Civil War service, the hurricane, and his discharge and/or desertion is found elsewhere on this website. See "John Barry (1837-1889).pdf" under Biographies and Narratives.)