Military Monday: Jefferson Springsteen and the GAR Encampment

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Grand Army of the Potomac, Indianapolis, Indiana, circa 1910. Used with kind permission of the Indiana Historical Society, Digital Image Collection. http://images.indianahistory.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/dc013/id/937/rec/963
Grand Army of the Potomac, Indianapolis, Indiana, circa 1910. Used with kind permission of the Indiana Historical Society, Digital Image Collection. (Go to website to see a higher resolution picture that can be zoomed.) Abram was working in Washington, DC about this time so he may not be in the picture, though it would seem he likely would have returned to his home town for the reunion. Abram was 50 in 1910. http://images.indianahistory.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/dc013/id/937/rec/963

Helbling Family, Springsteen Family (Click for Family Tree)

“Extra Police Force for Next Week” was a headline 29 June 1882 in the Indianapolis Sentinel. The paper reported that the Indianapolis, Indiana Board of Police had determined that reinforcements were required for the upcoming Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Encampment to be held in July.

Interestingly, Jefferson Springsteen, who had served as Chief of Police back in the ’50s- that’s 1850s, you know- and was a detective in later years, was one of the men temporarily added to the force. Jeff, and the 24 others appointed were to be sworn in and receive their orders at the Central Police Station that afternoon.

1902 GAR Encampment, Meade Post of Philadelphia, PA, with their tattered battle flags that they still cherished. Glass negative, via Library of Congress, no restrictions.
1902 GAR Encampment, Meade Post of Philadelphia, PA, in Washington, D.C. with their tattered battle flags that they still cherished. Glass negative, via Library of Congress, no restrictions.

Would the patriots who made up the GAR be rabble-rousers? Since the Civil War had ended 37 years earlier, and most of the men were 18-20 or older when they enlisted, the average age was likely 40-50 years old. (No statistics to back that up, but it’s logical and don’t know if that data would exist.) So why extra police?

"Swopping Yarns." October, 1902 GAR Encampment, Washington, D.C. Glass negative, via Library of Congress, no restrictions.
“Swopping Yarns.” October, 1902 GAR Encampment, Washington, D.C. Glass negative, via Library of Congress, no restrictions.

This was not a National Encampment- that occurred in Baltimore, Maryland, that year. Each state had encampments for all the posts in the state, so the Indianapolis event would still draw large crowds.  The GAR had a women’s group too- the “Women’s Relief Corps” or W.R.C. These were mostly the wives of GAR members (or those who were widowed), and family members were allowed to join the reunion as well. So even though it was a state event, a lot of people would attend, especially folks from the smaller towns around.

Additionally, the city of Indianapolis was being shown off- the GAR encampments brought many people and a quite a lot of money into a city. The GAR was around the peak of their membership in the 1890s, thus they were ramping up membership in 1882, so there could be thousands attending. The extra police would help to keep things orderly, and show that Indianapolis was a safe and lovely city to visit. Large crowds always drew pickpockets and a bit of a criminal element, so 25 extra sets of eyes to protect the veterans and their families would be useful.

"The Big Guns." October, 1902 GAR Encampment, Washington, D.C. Glass negative, via Library of Congress, no restrictions.
“The Big Guns.” October, 1902 GAR Encampment, Washington, D.C. Glass negative, via Library of Congress, no restrictions.

Even though the soldiers would be in their 40s or 50s and theoretically stable family men and businessmen, Indiana had mustered a whole unit of Irish volunteers (the 35th, of which Abram was a part during his first enlistment) to serve in the Civil War. The Irish could sometimes use a bit of policing once they got to the pubs or if they BYOB’d, no matter the age. (Just saying’- I have Irish blood too so can say so.) Of course, soldiers were often known for drinking and carousing, but hopefully these folks had changed their ways once they were back in a more civilized world with their loved ones.

There are two great ironies to this story. First, ex-Marshall Jefferson Springsteen had defied Federal law and dragged home his ten-year old son in 1861 when the 35th Indiana Volunteers marched off to war. (Jeff had signed to allow Abram to join, thinking it was to be a Home Guard.) Jeff was smart enough to know that technically Abram was deserting even though he was likely dragged off kicking and screaming. Despite Abram being underage when he enlisted and mustered into the unit, the military did not care- he was officially absent without leave once he left- and in wartime, being AWOL is considered desertion. (See previous ‘Abram Springsteen and His Drum’ posts for more information.) So it was ironic that for the 1882 soldiers’ reunion, Jefferson Springsteen was to uphold the law, and for the military/ex-military, rather than break it.

During the Civil War, Jefferson Springsteen had been required to register for the “Old Man’s Draft” since he was over 40, but he was not called up. His little boy Abram, however, served to help protect the country and liberties enjoyed by the whole Springsteen family, along with the rest of our citizens. Now, the irony was that Jeff would get his opportunity to protect and serve, and this time, care for the veterans who had protected him. Nice turnaround.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Grand Army of the Potomac, Indianapolis, Indiana, circa 1910, photograph is taken in front of the Indianapolis War Memorial. The base housed a museum, which included a picture of Abram that listed him as the “youngest drummer boy of the Civil War.”
  2. “Extra police force for encampment,” Indianapolis Sentinel [Indiana], IN, 29 June 1882, Volume XXXI, Number 180, Page 8, GenealogyBank.com. Unfortunately the image is copyrighted so I cannot post it here.

 

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