New Paltz Chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic Elting Post 212 Records (1880-1920)

Finding Aid Completed by Courtney Fallon July 24, 2005
Volume: 3.33 cu. ft., eight boxes
Acquisition: This collection was donated to the Huguenot Historical Society by the New Paltz Chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic Elting Post 212 sometime after its dissolution in 1920. Some of the records may have also come to the Society when it purchased the Josiah DuBois House (also known as the Blake House) in 1983. The Society sold the property in 1984.
Access: Unrestricted.
Copyright: Request for permission to publish materials from these records should be discussed with the Archivist and Director of the Huguenot Historical Society.

Administrative History

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was the largest organization of the Union 's Civil War veterans and the forerunner of the modern American veterans' associations. The GAR organization was established by Civil War veterans of the Union army and navy in Illinois in 1866. The members sought to strengthen the bonds of comradeship, preserve the memory of their fallen comrades by securing the general adoption of Memorial Day, give aid to soldiers' widows, orphans, and handicapped veterans, and most importantly, fight for pension increases and other benefits owed to the soldiers. The last encampment was in 1949. [1]

The New Paltz Elting Post no. 212 of the GAR was originally formed as the New Paltz Veterans Association in 1880 and officially became the Elting Post of the GAR at Pratt Fort in Kingston in 1884. Members of the Post met weekly and elections were held annually for Commander, Senior Vice Commander, Junior Vice Commander, Quartermaster, Surgeon, Chaplain, Officer of the Day, and Officer of the Guard. Charles J. Ackert served as Post Commander from 1884 until his death in 1900 and was succeeded by William H.D. Blake, who served until 1920. Some of the Post activities include holding annual ceremonies and parades in honor of Decoration Day (Memorial Day), celebrations of Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays, organizing fairs in October, and traveling to state encampments and other local GAR Posts. The Elting Post surrendered its charter in 1920 and donated to the Huguenot Patriotic Historical and Monumental Society (predecessor of the Huguenot Historical Society) swords, weaponry, and an Elting Post GAR flag.

Collection Description

This collection documents the activities of the Elting Post of the GAR in New Paltz from its creation in 1880 until its dissolution in 1920. The collection covers two main subject areas: 1) GAR business and 2) the history of the 56th New York Volunteers during the Civil War.

The majority of the collection relates to the general management of the Elting Post from its formation in 1880 to its dissolution in 1920. Standard operational records such as correspondence, account books, rosters, and minutes from the group's weekly meetings provide information about the organization's dues and expenses, elections of officers, membership, special events such as parades and encampments, and the group's political efforts to secure better benefits packages for Civil War veterans. In addition, the collection also includes ephemera such as pamphlets, posters, songbooks, programs, and the items for GAR-sponsored events.

However, the main strength of this collection is found in the Civil War memoirs and regimental history written by William Henry Dill (WHD) Blake, a second Lieutenant with the 56th New York (Blake co-wrote the regimental history with fellow officer, Joel. C. Fisk). Both of these narratives were written in 1905 for the purpose of providing better insight into the daily life of enlisted soldiers in the Civil War. In the introduction to his memoirs, Blake states that I write my memoirs in the hope that the person who reads them will have a better understanding of that Grand Union Army in which I had the honor of serving. Throughout the memoirs and the regimental history, the authors describe details such as troop movements, camp life, enemy activities, sickness, and the treatment of prisoners during the final two years of the war, when the regiment was stationed in South Carolina . Additional items of information ö such as pension information with newspaper clippings (1900-1920), copies of general orders, passes, and other official Army correspondence are also provided. The regimental history also includes an appendix that gives an alphabetical listing and service record of every soldier in the regiment, organized by company.

Overall, the physical condition of the collection is fair to good, with pages yellowed, torn, stained, or showing slight water damage. The quality of the handwriting throughout the collection varies, but is almost all legible. The correspondence, however, is particularly difficult to read.

This collection also contains material objects such as a belt, sewing equipment, textiles, and other items. These objects are stored in collection storage and managed by the society's curator.

Series Descriptions

The collection is arranged into eight series: Minutes, Correspondence, Financial Records, Membership Records, Regimental History, Civil War Memoirs of W. H. D. Blake, Pamphlets, and Oversized Materials.

Series 1: Minutes (1880-1920), .5 cu. ft., one box
This series consists of seven bound volumes kept by the Elting Post of the GAR during its existence from 1880-1920. Records mainly pertain to general business such as reading of the prayer, roll call, and approval of the last meeting's minutes; the Quartermaster's report on the treasury and the payment of dues; induction ceremony for new members; plans for Memorial services, guest speakers, reunions, and social events; and other Elting Post activities. Minutes are arranged chronologically and are complete except from 1889-1892, which are missing from the collection.

Series 2: Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers (1880-1920), .5 cu. ft., one box
Correspondence is arranged chronologically or by size. There is one bound volume of copies of letters dating from 1908-1919 and other written correspondence pertaining to membership, receipts, bills, meetings, catalogue and form requests, notices of deaths, and reports. Correspondents typically included veterans expressing interest in the Post, other GAR Posts, the GAR Headquarters, and Washington D.C. There also are several rough drafts of the regimental history written by W. H. D. Blake in 1903-1904. Blank forms date from 1890s-1920 and relate to topics such as disability, pensions, deaths, purchases, transfers, and reports.

Series 3: Financial Records (1883-1920), .5 cu. ft., one box
This series contains five bound volumes of financial records and financial receipts dating from 1884-1920. These volumes record all financial transactions, including the collection of dues and gifts of money, and expenses made for rent, janitorial services, the purchase of sheet music, relief for veterans, attorney fees, etc. Two of the account books record money on hand at each meeting and keeps a running tally of all financial transactions throughout the Post's existence. Another book, titled ãRelief Fundä (1899-1920) specifically documents all moneys collected and disbursed to veterans in need. The remaining two account books document the collection of membership dues. In addition, financial receipts, checkbooks and deposit slips provide a record of transactions with the New Paltz Savings Bank and the Huguenot Bank.

Series 4: Membership Records (1884-1920), .25 cu. ft., one box
This series contains three volumes and several loose lists of membership records kept by the Elting Post. Members were logged numerically, alphabetically, and chronologically and information such as location, company, rank, and death was recorded along with the members' names.

Series 5: Regimental History (1905), .25 cu. ft., one box
This series contains an unbound written regimental history of the 56th N.Y.V. during the Civil War. The history describes all regimental movements and battles, details, soldier life, duties, diseases, general orders, and even the stores such as food and wood. Included are appendices that list alphabetically each member in every company of the 56th, along with statistics such as killed in action, wounded in action, death by disease and/or wound, discharges and transfers.

Series 6: Civil War Memoirs of W. H. D. Blake (1905), .33 cu. ft., one box
This series contains five bound volumes of William H. D. Blake's Civil War memoirs written in 1905. Blake covers the war from the time of his enlistment in January 1864 to his discharge in November 1865. The first three bound books contain Blake's handwritten memoirs broken up into five sections (or volumes) and the last two bound books are copies of his memoirs written in another hand. Pages are numbered in all books and in some of the volumes the dates are underlined and the location is stamped at the top of the pages.

Series 7: Pamphlets (1865-1923), .5 cu. ft., one box
This series contains items pertaining to GAR meetings and events, such as manuals, music, rosters and directories. Other items include a book about the Battle of Port Hudson (1863); a copy of "The Book of the Royal Blue" (1900), a magazine featuring the Battle of Antietam; catalogues such as "Crag's Anti-Dial Combo Locks" and a flag order book; a pamphlet requesting support for a memorial to the 10th Legion 56th Regiment (1923); muster roll clipping; a copy of "The New York Herald" (1898); and an advertisement for a book entitled "The Boys in Blue" by Al Leonard.

Series 8: Oversized Materials (1865-1913), .5 cu. ft., one box
Items in this series include one poster entitled "Soldiers Memorial: NYS 56th Volunteers" that lists names of soldiers and officers, engagement dates, etc.; a printed poem with photo entitled "Lookout Mountain" by Lon A Warner; a printed painting of McClelland at Antitem by the War Memorial Association (1912); photo of the survivors of the "Old 20 th Regiment" taken at Kingston, NY (1911); four Muster Rolls, all in readable condition but one of which is missing the top half of the roll; two certificates of GAR commission to Aide de Camp, one for Linus Anderson and the other for William Van Kuren; and one briefcase.

Note: There also is one oversized map of the Gettysburg 50th Reunion Encampment that is located in the oversize box.

Box and Folder List

Box 1
Series 1: Minutes (1880-1920)

Five volumes

Box 2
Series 2: Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers (1880-1920)

Bound Letter Book (1908-1919)
Correspondence (1890-1916) - three folders
GAR Blank Forms (1890s-1920)
Legal and Financial Papers (1880-1915)
Miscellaneous Correspondence and Papers (1884-1918)

Box 3
Series 3: Financial Records (1883-1920)

Dues (1883-1920)
Financial Records (1884-1920) - two folders
Financial Records (1905-1920)
Relief Fund (1899-1920)

Box 4
Series 4: Membership Records (1884-1920)

Membership Book (ca. 1884-1920)
Membership Records (ca. 1884-1920) - two folders

Box 5
Series 5: Regimental History (1905)

Regimental History (ca. 1905)
Appendix A (ca. 1905)
Appendix B (ca. 1905)

Box 6
Series 6: Civil War Memoirs of W. H. D. Blake (1905)

Five volumes

Box 7
Series 7: Pamphlets (1865-1923)

"The Banner" Newspaper (1904)
Directories (1888-1920)
Manuals and Rosters (ca. 1900)
Miscellaneous Pamphlets (1889-1923)
Music and Hymns (ca.1865-1904)
Programs (1900-1905)

Box 8
Series 8: Oversized Items (1865-1913)

Certificates "Aide de Camp" (1894, 1902)
Map of Gettysburg Encampment (1913)
Muster Rolls (1865)
Photographs (1911-1912)
Poster: "Soldier's Memorial" (ca. 1880s)
Printed Poem "Lookout Mountain"


[1] The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2003. Retrieved on 16 May 2005 from