Boise’s Union veterans of the Civil War organized Patrick Collins Post of the Grand Army of the Republic on March 20, 1884. It had been 19 years since Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant, ending the bloodiest war in American history.
Collins was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, on St. Patrick’s Day in 1833, and died in Boise City on Nov. 11, 1879. He is buried at Fort Boise Military Cemetery. His military record and service in Boise made him a natural choice to have the city’s G.A.R. chapter named for him.
That Idaho was largely settled by Civil War veterans is amply illustrated by the number of G.A.R posts organized in the state in the years after its Department of Idaho was created. Bellevue had a Garfield Post; Lewiston, Rutherford B. Hayes; Salmon City, McPherson; Moscow, Major Anderson; Hailey, E.D. Baker; Eagle Rock, Joe Hooker; Shoshone, U.S. Grant; Blackfoot, G. H. Thomas; Wallac,: Montpelier; Murray, Canby; Albion, Nat Lyon; Salubria, John A. Logan; Pocatello, George A. Custer; Challis, Lincoln; Rathdrum, Manson; Grangeville, Col. Ellsworth; Post Falls, George Wright; Coeur d’Alene, S.A. McReynolds; Kendrick, W.T. Sherman; Caldwell, Hugh Wilson; Wallace, Tecumseh; Emmett, General Fremont; Genesee, Lyon; Van Wyck, S.A. Hurlburt; Weiser, McConville; Nampa, G.A. Hobart; Grangeville, General Hancock; Rathdrum, General Lawton; Shelley, McKinley; Payette, W.T. Sherman; and Sandpoint, U.S. Grant.
As Memorial Day approached in 1884, it was decided that the G.A.R. would be in charge of its observance with “appropriate and becoming ceremonies. No pains will be spared to make the day one long to be remembered in Boise City. Invitations will be extended to the ministers of the different churches, the military at Fort Boise, Mayor and Council, and other city officials, Federal, Territorial and county officials, the organized civic societies, Fire Department, public schools and the citizens generally of the city and county, to participate in the parade and exercises. A special invitation is extended to all veterans of the late war within reach of Boise City on that day, who are not members of the G.A.R. to report at G.A.R. headquarters and march with the Post. Colonel Stone of Boise Barracks will act as Chief Marshal of the Day, which insures order in the detail of all the arrangements.
“It is hoped that everybody will take an interest in the observance of this day and join in the arrangements to be made by the G.A.R., so it may be said of the citizens of Boise City and Ada County that they have not forgotten the heroism of the brave boys in blue who freely gave up their lives on their country’s altar that the nation might be preserved from dissolution.”
In 1889, the G.A.R. took on the task of raising money to build a permanent meeting place. Those veterans of the Civil War are long gone, but the hall they built still stands behind Idaho’s Capitol.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email email@example.com.