Tracking-down the history of Winchester’s G.A.R. post

Posted on March 7, 2013 by


As part of the effort to find those elusive Southern Unionists, it shouldn’t be surprising that I would look to the activities of the Grand Army of the Republic in the hopes of finding some of the local boys in blue. Indeed, there were a couple of posts in the Shenandoah Valley, and one of those was in Winchester… actually, that post was the southernmost in the Valley. Records of the camp (Mulligan Post #30) are hard to come by, and when I do find something new, it’s something to get excited about.

Named for Col. James Adelburt Mulligan, it’s unclear when the post was actually chartered. There is evidence to suggest that, by the mid 1880s, it had folded. Yet, there is other evidence to show that it was revived, at least by 1888. The following is a timeline for the data found so far…

3rd Massachusetts Cavalry monument, after the dedication.

3rd Massachusetts Cavalry monument, after the dedication.

1888 (September) – Post offers support for the dedication of the 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry monument, Winchester National Cemetery.

1897 – Represented at the 27th Annual Reunion, Society of the Army of the Cumberland, Columbus, Ohio.

1902 (June) – Post officers provide a statement in support of the pension efforts of Serenus Kilbourne.

1904 (August 15-20) – Represented at the 38th Annual National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic, Boston, Massachusetts.

1905 (October) – Believed to have rendered full military honors at the burial of Pvt. John Richard Gill, in Winchester National Cemetery.

1909 (May 30) – Participated in Memorial Day event, Winchester National Cemetery.

1919 (May 30) – Participated in Memorial Day event, Winchester National Cemetery.

1919 (Sept. 7-13) – Represented at the 53rd Annual Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic, Columbus, Ohio.

1920 (May 30) – Participated in Memorial Day event, Winchester National Cemetery.

1923 (May 30) – Participated in Memorial Day event, Winchester National Cemetery.

Incidentally, one source (ca. 1890) states that the post met (at least for a period of time) in the “Red Men’s Hall, Friday before the fourth Sunday”. I can’t say for certain if this is where the post met throughout the history of its existence.

Regretfully, not as much detailed information is available as I’d like (*I suspect the post also participated in most, if not all, of the various monument dedications in Winchester National Cemetery). Still, from these few resources, I’m able to start putting together a better picture of those who were members of the post. Also, as my first priority is to find Unionists, I’m not disappointed.

Among the names that I’m able to identify with the post, there is one Joseph Fawsett Bean.

Bean was a local man, having been born at Taylor’s Furnace, in Frederick County, in January 1841. In 1902, he appears as adjutant of the Mulligan Post. He’s easily found in census records for Frederick County, both before and after the war. Likewise, his record of service is tied to the 87th Ohio Infantry.

Bean's Pension Index Card.

Bean’s Pension Index Card.

When it comes to the Bean family, however, there’s more to the story. Joseph’s uncle Mordecai is identified as a member of the Hopewell Friends… Quakers. In Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and their Descendants, Thomas Kemp Cartmell expands on Mordecai’s story, in that he was…

an ardent Unionist at the outbreak of the Civil War. He committed some overt act; and was so pronounced in his enmity to the Confederate government that he was arrested and carried to some Southern prison, where he died. He was offered his freedom to return to his home when the Lower Valley was abandoned by the Confederates; but the stiff-necked old man refused all offers.

Mordecai Bean did in fact die in either July 1862 or 1863, in Salisbury Prison, Rowan County, North Carolina… as a civilian prisoner.

Though I haven’t yet been able to prove it, the secretary of the post in 1902 may also be a local. Jesse William Sours/Sowers served in Co. A, 3rd New York Prov. Cavalry, and Co. G, 16th New York Cavalry, but “Sours” is a local name, usually seen in nearby Page County…

Sours' Pension Index Card

Sours’ Pension Index Card

In addition to using these resources to find Unionists, they are also good to grab postwar snapshots of life for Union veterans in the lower Shenandoah. In fact, it appears that camp members… whether local Southern Unionists, or from the Northern states… enjoyed harmonious relationships with locals… and yes, local Confederate veterans are among that lot. In reading through clippings about Memorial Day events in Winchester National Cemetery, it’s not unusual to see cross-participation of Confederate veterans. Furthermore, this sort of behavior was not restricted to functions between veterans of opposing sides, but was also seen among individuals, outside veteran activities. Take the example of Joseph A. Potts, who, at the time (1890) of the publishing of History of the Lower Shenandoah Valley Counties of Frederick, Berkeley, Jefferson and Clarke, was the secretary of the post.

Passing by Gore, we feel justified in taking a moment to interview one of the residents who first appeared there subsequent to the Civil War. This is Joseph Potts, a Union veteran, who has spent nearly forty years among the people of that section and claims that he has no known enemy. He was the wagon-maker of the section until recently; is now postmaster, and retired from active business. Mr. Potts has the distinction of being the only Republican voter who voted against Samuel J. Tilden. Since then, he has gained some strength for his party. He has a large family. His sons are in business in Winchester and Washington.

Potts' Pension Index Card

Potts’ Pension Index Card

So, for now… that’s a glimpse into the history of the Mulligan Post. Perhaps more will surface in time.

Others identified to the Mulligan Post, so far, include Edmund Miller Houston, commander; Dr. James Brown, quartermaster; and a “Chaplain Barney”.