The Civil War in Missouri was full of chaos and disorder, especially around the counties bordering Kansas. As Barton County fits this description, it was not immune to skirmishes and many of its men taking up arms. Missouri did not secede from the Union, meaning it was legally recognized as part of the North even though it was a slave state. However, loyalties to both sides were practically an even split amongst the state’s residents.
This war really was a battle of brother against brother in Missouri. A Union-supporting town could sit next to a Confederate-supporting town. A family could have its male members fighting for each side. And because of this lack of borders between the two, Union and Confederate forces regularly attacked each other around the state. Union soldiers would burn down the homes of Southern-sympathizers, and vice versa.
When the Civil War ended, the lack of unity in the state was more than likely confusing for its residents. Even though the battle had come to a close, the tensions did not easily disappear. In order to regain their sense of community, veterans would create societies, or social clubs, in which they could get together with their fellow comrades.
One such organization was the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). This society was created in April 1866 by Major Benjamin F. Stephenson, who served as a surgeon in the 124th Illinois Infantry. Stephenson founded the GAR for the purpose of connecting veterans of the Union together in a way that would honor their service while allowing them to have good company. This kind of organization was extremely successful, and within 24 years of its founding, the GAR had over 450,000 members and 7,500 posts across the country.
Lamar had its own GAR post, known as McCook Post Number 34. This meeting place was named after Union General Alexander McDowell McCook, who led several battles. Here at the McCook Post, men from around the town and Barton County could meet and share war stories, food, and laughter. It was a great way to bring back the community to a war-torn state.
In 1910, the Lamar GAR group erected a memorial for their fellow soldiers of the Civil War. It was placed next to the Barton County Courthouse in the downtown square. What is so unique about this monument, however, is that it displays a real cannon used during the war. This cannon was taken from the Gunboat Benton, a ship that sailed the Mississippi throughout the entirety of the war. The monument was rededicated in 1985 to all American soldiers of every fight the country has been involved in up to that point.