Verdugo Views: Six degrees of the Civil War
This small building on Glendale Avenue was home to the Grand Army of the Republic, a group of Civil War Veterans who settled in this area after the war. The building was later turned over to the Disabled American Veterans. Photo, ca 1940. (Couretsy of Special Gollections, Glendale Public Library / April 12, 2012)
The Civil War was one of the first times in history that men from different areas came together to fight the enemy.
In previous conflicts, members of a fighting unit came from one community, and when the survivors returned from battle they helped take care of each other.
But by the end of the Civil War, units were made up of soldiers from many places, according to the website Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, www.suvcw.org.
At the time the Civil War took place, medical care on the battlefield had improved enough so that many wounded soldiers recovered and returned home after the conflict. But many needed help. Plus, many of them needed jobs.
The soldiers also needed a place to be with other survivors of the terrible battles, a place where they could continue the friendship forged during the war. Groups of men began joining together, first for companionship, then for political power, according to the website.
The Grand Army of the Republic, known as the GAR, became one of the largest and most powerful of these groups. By 1890, more than 400,000 veterans had joined.
The community units were called posts and, at its height, the GAR had more than 8,000 posts throughout the country. They were often named to honor a deceased veteran; for instance, the post formed in Glendale in 1894 was named for a Union general, N.P. Banks.
Now, here is the connection with Glendale. Before the Civil War, a 16-year-old boy named Henry Mingay and his family were living in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Mingay was apprenticed to a printer, and the story is that when he heard the news that Fort Sumter had been fired upon, he left the print shop and enlisted in the Union forces. He served for 10 months with the ‘‘Fighting 69th,’’ which used an Irish shamrock as its badge, according to the Glendale News-Press, Dec. 4, 1945.
After the war, Mingay returned to the Saratoga Springs print shop, then he went into newspaper work on his own. He was one of the first to join the newly formed GAR, according to the newspaper account.
Later, he went to Colorado. There, he bought two newspapers, one in Canyon City and another in Florence. He joined a post in Canyon City, then made his way to California where he joined a Monrovia post.
Mingay made one more move, to Glendale, and here he joined the N.P. Banks 170 Post, which had been formed in 1894 with 21 charter members. They first met at Ayers Hall, then moved their meetings to a small building at 902 S. Glendale Ave. that had been built for another fraternal organization.
Soon it became known as GAR Hall. At one point, the post had more than 100 members. Mingay eventually became commander of the post and served for many years. They disbanded in 1944, and the property was then turned over to the Disabled American Veterans.
The Grand Army of the Republic was one of the first groups to observe Decoration Day. In 1868, their leader issued a general order asking all departments and posts to set aside May 30 as a day for remembering the sacrifices of their fallen comrades.
Ron Banes, a longtime member of Chevy Chase Baptist Church, read the Feb. 8 Verdugo Views regarding Warren Westerholm and wrote: “Just to show how so many things are connected, Warren was a part of the Youth at Chevy Chase Baptist Church way back in its ‘heyday.’ I last saw Warren at our church's 80th anniversary celebration in November of 2009. We celebrated 80 years since the church was chartered, which was actually 82 years since its founding in 1927.”