Grand Army of the Republic
Robert Sanford Foster, was bon at
During his business period he received his first instructions in the "School of the Soldier" as member of the "City Greys of Indianapolis", a military company that graduated many good soldiers who served with honor and distinction through the entire war of the rebellion.
At the outbreak of the war he was Lieutenant of
the City Greys and was one of the first to enlist in the service after the
He was married
First Baptism of Fire:
Captain Foster received his first baptism of fire
in a skirmish at
He remained with his regiment until the latter part of June, when he and other officers were ordered home on recruiting service.
Commissioned a Colonel:
General foster was the only officer complimented personally on the field of battle by President Lincoln. At the engagement at City Point Virginia, General foster led the Union forces. President Lincoln was present. After the action General Foster was highly complimented by the president, who took from his coat a flower and pinned it on General Foster's breast.
Difficult Flank Movement:
In crossing a large open field in front of a long stone wall fence, in which the enemy were entrenched, it was necessary to charge the position of the regiment at least six or eight times to protect the flank from the enfilading fire of the enemies artillery, his military maneuvering was consummated by Colonel Foster without the least excitement or difficulty, and with as much ease as though he had the regiment on battalion drill or dress parade. The command was given to charge with fixed bayonets, and the boys responded with a yell pouring forth a terrible volley, followed with a charge over the stone wall upon the swarming mass who broke and fled into the woods leaving the Thirteenth victors of the field. Four times the Thirteenth's colors went down in the bloody charge, but only for a moment to rise again more beautiful than ever, as the Old Guard christened by Governor Morton after the battle, gained the crest of the hill, in front of the stone fence.
General Sullivan's Letter:
General Sullivan in a letter several years ago
said: "it is an acknowledged fact, expressed on all sides, and from both
officers and enlisted men, that Foster and the Thirteenth Regiment were in the
thickest of the fight and had a good deal to do in routing the enemy form behind
the stone fence and finishing up one of the most important battles of the war.
If Shields division had not defeated Stonewall Jackson at that time or rather,
if Shield's division had been defeated and Stonewall Jackson had moved on to
Harper's Ferry and Washington. It is fair to believe that certain political
movements in agitation at that time might have resulted differently. I have
heard since the war that
He remained with the army of the
Raids into Enemies Lines:
His brigade was engaged with the enemy almost daily making frequent raids into the enemies lines. He was placed in command of a large body of troops, consisting of cavalry, artillery and infantry, and assigned to the difficult task of destroying the railroads between Petersburg and Suffolk; this he accomplished to the entire satisfaction of all of his superior officers, tearing up and removing to Norfolk Virginia over twenty miles of the Petersburg & Norfolk and Seaboard & Roanoke railroad.
It was while in command of a provisional brigade,
doing service between
His command was sent in advance to destroy the
railroads and burn some important railroad bridges, succeeding in tearing up a
large portion of rails between Richmond and Fredericksburg and all the bridges
except on across the South Ann river. After his return to
On the 28th if July he was ordered with
his command to
In June 1864, he was assigned the difficult and
dangerous duty of crossing the
Complimented By General Grant:
For the successful and daring work, so gallantly
done, General Grant officially complimented him. He held this position for
nearly two months against numerous attacks. He was next ordered to
He was assigned to duty as chief-of-staff of the
Tenth Army Corps during the battles of Drury's Bluff, Rude's Hill,
He was relieved of this command at this point and
ordered to Petersburg to take command of the Second Division of the Tenth Army
Corps, where he was engaged daily and nightly during the siege of Petersburg,
losing nearly one half of his whole effective force, crippling him to such an
extent that his division was relieved by Miles's division of Hancock's Corps
and his division was placed in reserve for a few weeks. When reorganization
took place, his corps, together with the eighteenth, were ordered to make
another attack on the defenses of
Two Forts Stormed:
On April 2nd during the general assault
on Lee's army at Petersburg, nearly all the outer line of works were carried by
noon, except two strong redoubts which occupied a commanding position, named
respectively Fort Gregg and Fort Whitworth. General Grant decided that three
should be stormed, and about
Foster's division of the Twenty-Fourth Corps swept down upon
The assault was made under the immediate eye of General Grant and for this great victory Foster was breveted Major General, his brigade commanders, brigadier generals, members of his staff were all breveted and his assaulting regiments were presented with bronze eagles to surmount their flagstaffs.
Had General Foster accepted the commission in the regular army that was offered to him as a result of this brilliant action, it is said that with the promotions that followed by reason of seniority he would have held at the present time the position now held by General Miles, that of Lieutenant General.
After the capture of
"General Foster," said General Grant, "you never made a mistake. You are a great general."
When Mr. Lincoln heard of the assault he
telegraphed to the country that the last stronghold around
In Pursuit of Lee:
During the remaining days of the struggle General Foster was in command of his old and reliable division in the pursuit of Lee to Appomattox Court House.
The important part General Foster took in the last
seven days of the war is vividly described by an old comrade who was prominent
It was the memorable night when
General Foster was the first to receive the dispatch and forwarded it to General Gibbon in command of the corps. "We will resume the march." Said Foster to his staff officers. The word was not long getting to the rank and file and they were soon plodding along with renewed energy in the hope of ending the struggle.
His division marched until , when orders were received to lie down and rest until and for the division commanders to resume the march at that hour without further orders.
Painful March Resumed:
General Foster was in front; in five minutes after
halting, the column was asleep. Foster and two of his staff did not sleep, but
remained awake preparing for the early morning struggle. At sharp the First Division of the twenty-fourth army corps
was in line and the painful march was resumed. When the other divisions awoke
it was , having been overcome with
sleep and trusted to staff officers to awaken them. The early dawn was just
peeping over the hills in the east when Foster found himself in the vicinity of
General Sheridan's headquarters. Riding ahead a half mile he with his staff
reined up in front of the dashing leader's headquarters and reported.
The first division was quickly put in position in the rear of Sheridan's cavalry long before the other divisions came up, the cavalry was attacked by Lee's infantry and driven in, leaving Foster's forces to withstand and attack by all that remained of Lee's army.
The most that Foster's forces could do was to hold
the enemy in check, which was splendidly done, until the remaining divisions of
the army of the James could be hastened to his support, but in holding the
ground his men had been roughly handled. When the long line of infantry was
developed by the withdrawal of
With Sheridan and the army of the James in his
front, and the army of the
The great problem will never be answered as in
what might have been the result has Foster slept and reported to Sherdian an
hour later after the cavalry had been driven in. In all probability the
surrender of Lee might not have been made at
It is a significant fact that during General
Foster's army service he never lost a battle of skirmish and was successful in
all his expeditions in front of
At the close of the war General Foster was ordered
Grand Army of the Republic:
As an important fact in the history of the
organization of the Grand Army of the Republic, General Foster must go on
record as the original organizer and first to give the great order a permanent
existence, while Major B. F. Stephenson of
Foster was the first to put the theories into practical shape, which was done after first receiving the initiation and full instructions from the author of the organization. Foster was in fact, the first to perform the duties of commander-in-chief and the first department commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, as the following will show from a true statement of facts, that are fully authenticated.
During the summer of 1866 and immediately after
the close of the war and the mustering out of the vast army of volunteer
soldiers of the union army a number of comrades met in the city of Indianapolis
to devise ways and means for the organizing the ex-soldiers of the union army
residing in Indiana into a society or union for mutual protection and to give
aid and assistance to their comrades who were in need and worthy of attention.
They had been in correspondence with parties in
He found in Major Stephenson, a grand and enthusiastic friend of ex-soldiers who had devised a form or organization, which while simple had enough mysterious and ritualistic ceremonies to make it attractive. He was extremely in earnest in his description of his favorite plan for the organizing all the ex-soldiers of the union army into one grand brotherhood for the mutual protection and benefit. He communicated to General Foster the work in all its details, and administered to him the obligation taken by all who enter the grand army, and General Foster became a full fledged member of the G.A.R., but he was a veritable member at large, without a department and without a post. He gave General Foster copies of all the rituals, blanks, etc., that he had printed or written, with full authority to organize the order at any place he though proper, saying "I am very glad to have someone take hold of this plan and work it up, as they do not manifest much interest in the order here in Illinois."
General Foster returned to
First National Encampment:
The first national encampment of the G.A.R. was
The department of
Claim of Doctor Stephenson:
This is the history in brief of the beginning of
the Grand Army of the Republic in Indiana in 1866, and there is but one
conclusion that upon the evidence herein set forth and on file at department of
Indiana headquarters, the organization of what today is known as the Grand Army
of the Republic was born to the soldiers and on its way to a national existence
form the moment General Foster left the presence of Major B. F. Stephenson, August
1866 with the draft of the first ritual and constitution in his possession. It
is also made plain that the Grand Army of the Republic, as a national body, was
first organized in the city of
Loyal Legion Commander:
He had also been commander of the Loyal Legion of
Indian, and was a member of General George H Thomas Post No. 17, Grand Army of
the Republic, of the Society of the Army of the
He had also served as an alderman; as city treasurer; president of the Board of Trade for several years; as United States Marshall under Presidents Garfield and Arthur for the district of Indiana; as a director of the Northern Prison, and as Quartermaster-General of Indiana.
Governor's Proclamation: Announcing the Death of General Robert S. Foster, Quartermaster General.
The following proclamation has been issued by Governor Durbin:
The melancholy duty devolves upon me of
announcing the death of General Robert S. Foster, Quartermaster-General of
General Foster was one of the most
conspicuous survivors of the civil war. He was closely identified with Grant,
Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas and others who achieved immortal fame as victorious
leaders of the mighty legions of the North marshaled under the flag of the
Position of Public Trust.
In civil life General Foster occupied many positions of public trust. He had an unusually high sense of honor, his integrity was never questioned and he was generally beloved. He as a stranger to intrigue and although his courage had been tested and proven on may fields of carnage, his great nature was marked by unvarying kindness and gentleness.
He was a native of Indiana and thoroughly loyal to its every interest. He achieved distinction by the force of merit, but secure in all the honors he had so worthily won, he was so modest that he rarely made reference to the distinguished services he had rendered his country during the period of the Nations' direst necessities.
As a soldier and as a citizen he was a model type of sturdy American manhood, and the people of Indiana, I am sure, will mourn with those of us who knew him best in doing honor to his precious memory.
I, therefore, recommend that during the time his body lies in state at the Capitol that public business be suspended, so far as practicable in order that proper respect may be paid to one who has served his county with patriotic fidelity in the discharge of every responsibility imposed upon him.
Winfield T. Durban
Daniel E Storms
Secretary of State
Under Military Auspices: Body of General Foster to Lie in State in Rotunda of Capitol.
The funeral of General Foster will be under military auspices, becoming his rank as brigadier-general and quartermaster-general of the National Guard of Indiana.
The body will lie in state under the rotunda of the Capitol from 11:30 AM Friday until 1:45 PM of that day, draped in the American colors.
Brigadier-General McKee has issued an order calling out the Second Regiment of the Indiana National Guard and a platoon of Light Artillery. The regiment consists of four Indianapolis companies and companies from Franklin, Lebanon, Greenfield, Danville, Winchester, Union City and Martinsville.
On Friday morning the home battalion under the command of Major H.T. Conde will escort the body from the family home, 704 North New Jersey Street to the State House. This battalion and Battery A to which will be added the other companies of the Second Regiment will escort the body at 2:30 PM from the State House to the residence, where a service will be conducted by the Reverend M.L. Haines.
Fire Minute Guns:
From the house to the cemetery the same troops will serve as escort. The artillery will fire minute guns as the funeral cortege enters the cemetery. When the body has been placed in the grave a volley will be fired. The ceremony will end with the sounding of taps. Four close friends of General Foster will form a part of the escort from the house to the State House and return. These are David Wallace, Rufus K. Syfers, Jefferson Claypool and A.P. Hendrickson. There will also be a detail of the Governor's staff in carriages.
General Foster was member of the Scottish Rite Masons, but the body will not turn out, as the funeral is to be purely a military one.
At a meeting of George H, Thomas Post G.A.R. held last night, General George F. McGinnis, John M. Paver and B. A. Richardson were chosen to prepare a memorial on the death of General Foster.
State to Pay Expenses:
A bill introduced by Representative Sherman to appropriate $600.00 for the expenses of the funeral of General Foster was passed in both Houses of the Legislature today, under suspension of the rules.
Submitted December 27 2000 by:
Stephen Bruce Bauer
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