Decolonizing the GAR
THE CIVIL WAR WAS ALSO A SETTLER COLONIAL WAR
At G.A.R. Memorial Hall, Chicago Cultural Center
The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall joined the Chicago Public Library as a part of the original program for what became today's Chicago Cultural Center. In this Memorial Hall, soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War are remembered and honored. To memorialize the Civil War, however, is also to memorialize the Indian Wars that were initiated by and connected to the Civil War, each part of the westward advance of the United States empire and the colonization of the west.
The Civil War was not only a conflict over slavery; it was also a conflict over the way in which the United States empire would develop. The victorious Union did not only take dominion in the South, the domain of the former Confederacy; it also took dominion in the West, the domain of Native Americans both ancestrally and more recently, as "Indian Removal" displaced many Native Americans to spaces west of the Mississippi.
During the era of post-Civil War Reconstruction, many former Union soldiers, along with many former soldiers of the Confederacy, became shock troops redeployed to the frontier as the West was settled. And so, the Chicago Public Library and the G. A. R. Memorial Hall were not only two separate programs; they were also components of one and the same program, the program of the westward expansion of the United States empire accomplished by settler colonialism.