War Papers

Colonel Charles D. Kerr, Sixteenth Illinois Infantry, USV
Minnesota Commandery
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
First Read June 10, 1890

Transcribed by Douglas R. Niermeyer, Commander-in-Chief
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
(August 2005)


The Military Order of the Loyal Legion had its suggestion in the Society of the Cincinnati, and its inspiration in the mingled sentiments of gratitude and grief that marked the close of the war and the death of our martyr President.

Both societies were military in their origin, each following upon the close of a bloody and protracted war, and each composed of officers whose honorable service in that war was undisputed. The requisites of membership are the same in both: honorable military service in the past and honorable standing among men at the present.

The primary object of both orders was the same: to keep alive the memories of the war, and by social intercourse to cement the friendships which common danger and toil and suffering had created.

The Society of the Cincinnati, with Washington its first president, Gates its vice-president, and Knox its secretary, together with the long line of illustrious patriots that composed its membership, has passed away; it served well, but it served only the purposes of its origin. It never advanced beyond the joy of comradeship and the delights of reminiscence. The Loyal Legion, which still lives, has widened the scope and broadened the purpose of its origin, and presents today some points in pleasing contrast to its great prototype.

It was meant that the members of the Cincinnati should exult, for they triumphed over a foreign foe; the fraternal character of our strife forbids us to boast.

Their motto was the personal vaunt, "Omnia relinquit servare rempublicam;" ours, as you will see upon the emblem we wear tonight, is the impersonal sentiment, "Lex regit arma tuentur." Their badge was the eagle; ours is the cross. Theirs was the glory of a nation created; ours, of a country preserved. And yet not alone preserved; the deeper lessons of our struggle are that this nation, under God, should have a new birth of freedom, and, as Theodore Parker expresses it, more beautifully even than Lincoln, that a government of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people, should not perish from the earth. The War of the Rebellion established and imposed on us the duty of inculcating truths which our forefathers realized only partially, if at all:

That this nation shall be an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States; that the flag shall be preserved as we made it possible to preserve it, with a star for every State and a State for every star. And one thing more: that while we cultivate a spirit of friendship and forbearance towards our Southern brethren, as the Loyal Legion has always done, we still hold one truth imperishable - that our cause, was eternally right, and theirs eternally wrong.

The Loyal Legion lives today to impress upon the age these lessons of patriotism, and to hand these principles down to our children. It may be asked why this cannot as well be done by the Grand Army of the Republic. No one shall outstrip me in affection and regard for the Grand Army; we love its gatherings, and we honor its purposes. The benevolent work that it has done for the widows and orphans of the dead - and is doing for the poor and disabled of the living - beyond all praise; but there is room enough in this wide land for us both, and reasons enough why both should act in harmony.

The Loyal Legion is cultivating one field, at least, untouched by any other organization; two volumes have already been published, of original papers, by members of this Commandery, giving "glimpses of the nation's struggle." Other commanderies are doing the same, and a library of these books will prove an invaluable acquisition to the student and the patriot who seek a true insight into the vexed problems of the war.

In conclusion, the very name of our order contains an epitome of the history of the war. In the words of another, "We are well called the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States; for out of the military came order, and because a legion was loyal, we have these United States."


Kerr, C.D. 1893. THE LOYAL LEGION, Glimpses of the Nation's Struggle. A Series of Papers Read before the Minnesota Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1889-1892. Published by the Commandery. D.D. Merril Company, St Paul, Minnesota. Volume 3, p.132-134.
Transcriber Note: The Society of the Cincinnati does exist today with a national homepage at

Copyright © 2005 Douglas Niermeyer, Missouri Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

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