Over two and a half million men served in the Union Army during the long years of the Civil War. At the War’s end, the Army disbanded and the soldiers went their separate ways. The soldiers quickly discovered that they missed the companionship of their comrades-in-arms and veterans’ organizations grew up across the country. The largest of these was the Grand Army of the Republic, founded by Benjamin Stephenson in 1866.
Applicants for membership had to prove that they were honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Revenue Cutter Service (predecessor to the U.S. Coast Guard), who had served between April 1861 and April 1865.
In March 1880, a group of 38 local veterans met in Westminster for the purpose of forming a post. The new unit was officially designated No. 13 (the 13th post in the state of Maryland) and named after Second Lieutenant William H. Burns. Burns served with Company A, 6th Maryland Infantry, and was killed in September 1864 while carrying his regiment’s flag during the battle at Fisher’s Hill, Virginia. Carroll County had two other posts: Pickett Post No. 17 (Winfield) and
Thaddeus Stevens Post No. 40 (New Windsor).
From its inception, Burns Post was active in Westminster’s Decoration Day [now Memorial Day] commemoration, working with Mary Shellman to organize the parade and ceremonies. Eventually, the Post took over running the event.
The first official member of Burns Post was William McKellip who joined on March 27, 1880. The last man to join was Greenbury Bowers who became a member on November 14, 1914.