Veterans/G.A.R. canes

Following Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on 4/12/1865 and (after hearing of Lee’s surrender) Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s surrender on 5/9/1865, President Johnson on 5/10/1865 declared the rebellion and armed resistance to be virtually at an end.

Although jubilant, the victory was bittersweet as these dates both preceded and followed the assassination of President Lincoln on 4/15/1865.

President Johnson made plans with government authorities for a formal review to honor the troops, hoping such a review might elevate the mood of a mourning populace and promote healing.

The Grand Review of the Armies was a military procession and celebration in Washington, D.C. held on 5/23 and 5/24/1865. Nearly 145,000 soldiers of the three Union armies, Gen. Meade’s Army of the Potomac, Gen. Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee and Army of Georgia, marched through the streets of Washington through cheering throngs to receive accolades from the grateful and oftentimes weeping crowds, officials, and prominent citizens including President Andrew Johnson.

After the Civil War had ended, hundreds of Union veterans organizations were formed, the most important of which was the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), founded in 1866 and organized by a group of Union veterans who held annual encampments from 1866 to 1949 to celebrate their days of glory.  Over a million veterans belonged to the organization, with local posts in almost every state with one or more states holding annual and biannual encampments.  The national organization held annual encampments each year until 1949 in Indianapolis.

Many G.A.R. members carried canes, some by necessity and some for ceremonial purposes, to share their connection to G.A.R. or simply because canes were considered fashionable.  It was not uncommon to see veterans who had lost a leg during the war supported by their canes.  Veterans with age-related infirmities also relied on their canes. During the reunions, veterans marched in numerous parades, and celebrated their service with canes in hand and heads held high.

Both state and federal homes for disabled and aging veterans established later in the century were a source of hand-crafted canes and other remembrance carvings. For many veterans, the Civil War was the foremost event in their lives. Veterans organizations offered opportunities to socialize and share stories, and supported pensions and state homes for the disabled and orphans, reflecting the qualities of the G.A.R. motto, “Fraternity, Loyalty, and Charity.”

During this time, “secret societies” were popular and men belonging to veterans organizations were often members of fraternal orders such as Odd Fellows or Masons. Veterans therefore would incorporate symbols for secret societies to which they belonged into the narrative of their canes, along with personal information.  Many Civil War canes were carved with corps badges and other references to the War.  Of note:  Corps badges were strictly Union as the Confederate army had none.

Canes were presented as gifts or offered for sale at state and national encampments, at battlefields and at veterans reunions. Some canes were made of wood from battlegrounds and structures playing a key role in the war.  These were sold or given as souvenirs as reminders of the Rebellion.  Most of these commemorative souvenirs were crafted by veterans.

Some souvenir G.A.R. encampment canes featured a knob handled cane of white metal with the bust portrait of Gen. Grant (specifically manufactured for the 26th Annual Encampment G.A.R. September 20th 1892 Washington D.C.), seen below, or a white metal pistol grip/modified “L” cane handle with front spread winged eagle with crossed cannon and clutching U.S. flag in talons, and traditional round G.A.R. medal on each side of grip with crossed rifles (last quarter of the 19th century).

Cast white metal knob handled cane with bust portrait of a uniformed U.S. Grant on top with traditional G.A.R. medal on one side and spiral ribbon banner with the inscription “26th Annual Encampment G.A.R. September 20th 1892 Washington D.C..”

Confederate veterans organized nationally in 1889 with the formation of the United Confederate Veterans (U.C.V.) in New Orleans.  The delay in part could be attributed to hostility from the North which discouraged Confederate veterans from organizing nationally prior to then.  The last reunion of the U.C.V. was held in 1951 in Norfolk, VA.

Below:  G.A.R. cane belonging to Jesse F. Poplin from Sandwich, IL

Cast white metal a pistol grip handle with front spread winged eagle with crossed cannon and clutching U.S. flag in talons above G.A.R. below and traditional round G.A.R. medal on each side of grip with crossed rifles; handle is 2.75″ high x 2.9″ long.

The cane pictured above and in the two photos below belonged to Jesse F. Poplin from Sandwich, IL, who fought in the Civil War. He followed General Sherman to the sea, and took part in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. He belonged to the Army of the Cumberland.  Per a family member, he may have received this cane in August of 1881, Reunion #6 in Mansfield, OH.  Poplin attended yearly G.A.R. meetings in St. Louis in the 1870’s and 1880’s.

Searching the Illinois Civil War Veterans Data Base, there is a Jesse F. Poplin listed, rank of Private, Company H, Unit 105 IL US INF who resided in Sandwich, IL.

Ferrule made from a shell casing.
Jesse F. Poplin G.A.R. cane, Private, Company H, Unit 105 IL US INF.

A.N. Grant G.A.R. Cane

A. N. GRANT was born in Butler County, Ohio, August 27, 1848, and was one of nine children. His father, John M., was a native of Ohio and of Scotch descent; his mother, Catharine Grant, came from Pennsylvania, and was of German parentage. John M. Grant moved to Carroll County, Ind., in 1851, locating in the dense forest, where not a tree had been cut, and there erected his cabin home. He experienced many of the privations of the early settler. His farm is located near Burlington, on which he has resided ever since, having cleared 400 acres of heavy timber; he now owns over 700 acres of well-improved land, and is one of the leading farmers in his county. A. N. Grant assisted his father in clearing the land, going to school during the minters until he was fourteen years of age, when he joined the patriotic boys and enlisted in the spring of 1864, in Company D, One Hundred and Fifty-fourth Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry, as a private. He was honorably discharged in August, 1865. When he returned home, he worked on the farm and attended school during 1865-66, and each successive winter taught and attended school for nine years. In 1874-75, he was Superintendent of the Camden High School. In the winter of 1875-76, he attended the law school at Ann Arbor, where he graduated in the following spring. He was admitted to the bar in Carroll County and commenced the practice of law in Howard County, in the fall of 1876, when he became a resident of Kokomo. During 1880-81, he was in partnership with B. F. Harness, in law practice, and in an abstract office. He is an active member of the Republican party, and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Grant is an enterprising citizen, and has been identified with all public enterprises of the city since he became a resident of it. He was married September 28, 1876, to Miss Mary L. Darnell, of Greencastle, Ind. One daughter- Fern Etta –blesses this union. He is a member of the Grand Lodge of the I. O. O. F., of the Masonic Order in the Blue Lodge, of the Knights of Pythias, of the United Order of Honor and Grand Army of the Republic. Died 2/25, 1926 aged 78, buried at Greencastle, IN. Private in Co. B 154th Vol. Infantry, Colonel in 162nd Indiana Vol. Infantry in the Spanish War (1898).

GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) cane with pewter Cheroot top with GAR inscribed. The barrel is plugged with a seal with an American eagle. The attached pewter collar is oddly shaped, like a shield, and inscribed, A.N. Grant, Indianapolis, IN on one side, and on the other, 35 Ohio, 154 Indiana, Vol. Infantry.  In researching, an Amandus “Americus” Newton Grant belonged to the 154th Indiana regimen; no connection has been found yet with the 35th Ohio. Grant went on to become an attorney in Kokomo, IN, was married with 3 children, and was an active member of the Beta Theta Pi international fraternity.



2. Meyer, George H.   American Folk Art Canes – Personal Sculpture, Pp. 237-239.
3. “Counties of Howard and Tipton, IN” published in 1883 by F.A. Battey & Co., Chicago, IL City of Kokomo

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