The last man to join the G.A.R. in Seattle
By August 1942, Seattle’s Grand Army of the Republic membership was down to just 2 men. Daniel Reams and Hiram Gale were all that remained locally of the Union Army Civil War veterans organization. The ranks of the Union veterans had steadily diminished over the decades and now it seemed the proverbial flame was just about to go out, some 81 years after the outbreak of the war. How then did Seattle’s Grand Army membership INCREASE in 1942?
Curiously, the Seattle G.A.R. gained a new member that month, August of 1942, in the person of William “Del” Freeman. At the age of 98, just days after his birthday, Del Freeman decided to join the ranks of Seattle’s Grand Army men, swelling their ranks from 2 members to 3! Gale and Reams had gotten wind of the fact that Freeman had been a veteran of the Union army and asked Freeman if he would join them in the G.A.R. Del Freeman had at one time decades earlier belonged to the G.A.R. in Nebraska but had long since been inactive. According to his daughters, even before his relocation to Seattle he had lost interest in being a part of the organization. He isn’t recorded as saying why exactly he had this change of heart, but likely the comradeship of the last 2 other remaining Union veterans in the area seemed appealing to him. Freeman had served with the 134th Illinois Infantry as a 17 year old near the close of the war.
Hiram Gale read the Grand Army initiation to him with the help of a magnifying glass and that was followed up by the handful of Womans Relief Corps ladies present pinning the G.A.R. button on his lapel as Hiram Gale soberly announced “I have the honor and pleasure of presenting you with this button.” Freeman pledged to attend the G.A.R. meetings if he was able. Del Freeman was asked if he was glad to be a part of the G.A.R. with his comrades Gale and Reams, to which he replied “Oh, it’s all right.”
William “Del” Freeman passed away in May of 1943 and is buried in Forest Lawn cemetery in West Seattle. Daniel Reams, who was unable to attend the August 1942 meeting due to his health, died in October 1943 and is buried in Seattle’s G.A.R. cemetery. Hiram Gale survived until the age of 104 and died in 1951 as Seattle’s last surviving Civil War veteran. He is buried beneath a monument in his memory in Seattle’s Evergreen Washelli cemetery.
Sources: Seattle Post-Intelligencer August 16, 1942 p. 7 Seattle Daily Times August 16, 1942 p. 22
Hiram Gale (left) initiates "Del" Freeman (right) into Seattle's Grand Army of the Republic in August 1942. source: Seattle PI
William "Del" Freeman circa 1942 source: findagrave.com
Hiram Gale Source: Washington State Historical Society (1922.214.171.124)