Old Soldiers, old times, Civil War reunions

At the turn of the 20th century there were still quite a few Civil War Vets in the Will County area.  Almost all of them belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans' organization for Civil War vets only.  
In Wilmington, the Bowen Post No. 17 of the G. A. R., had many proud members.  Lloyd Kahler was always on the list of officers, as was M. N. M. Stewart and Jacob Miller.
But their ranks were quickly dwindling.  Each week's paper held the obituary of another local veteran.  From the 100th Voluntary Infantry from 1904 to 1906 Dennis Smith, Judge Charles Garsey, General Thomas J. Wood, Patrick McHugh, Captain Lines, and Walter Benedict all passed away.  The numbers from the 39th Infantry, another Will county regiment was similar.  
Each of those regiments held annual reunions, getting smaller every year.  In 1906 it was Wilmington's turn to host the event for the 100th.  We read on Sept. 21, “The Old Hundredth - Gallant Remnant of the Brave Old Command meets here in annual gathering Thursday, where its first reunion was held Sept. 18 ,1885, the gallant Will County regiment, the One Hundredth Illinois, held its 22nd annual reunion in this city Thursday last.  
The day, though threatening rain during the forenoon,  turned out to be a fine one and many of the genial hearts, cemented together long ago in the field and camp met again to clasp hands and commune together over the glories of the mighty past, The Civil War which now seems but a dream.
The passing years had left their mark on them with stooped shoulders or grizzled hair and beard.  They were alike in one thing. Each lapel wore the little bronze button of the G. A. R.
What passing years have done to their ranks is seen when one glances at the list of companions that composed the regiment when it was mustered in 44 years ago, Sept. 1st, 1862.  There were 961 of them then.  They were almost 900 short of that number today.  
Captain M. N. M. Stewart president of the association directed the march of the association from the 10:27 a.m. train to Empire Hall where the business meeting was held.          After the business meeting the soldier boys and their ladies repaired to the Presbyterian Church where the banquet was served.  The tables were spread in the parlors of the church, and presented a very fine appearance.  The banquet was served by the Ladies' Guild of the church and that is equivalent to saying that it was a splendid spread.  
The whole affair was a grand success and every old soldier there in the 100th or out of it felt proud of the gathering.
In 1907 Joliet was in charge of the reunion.  They decided to include all regiments.  We read, “Joliet's resident soldiers of the 100th Illinois volunteer Infantry met Wednesday afternoon and made preliminary arrangements for the soldiers' reunion, which is to be held in connection with the annual reunion of the 100th infantry.  On the forty-fourth anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga, Sept. 19 and 20, Civil war veterans from all over Will county and vicinity will gather at Dellwood Park for a grand reunion.  Invitations will be extended to all Grand Army Posts in the county as well as to those at Aurora, Ottawa, Morris and Gardner.”
One prominent Wesley veteran, William Johnston, was out of the country at the time.  He was notified of the event and we read the results on Sept. 20, 1907, “William Johnston, of Wesley, arrived here from Scotland Thursday where he has spent the past four months visiting the scenes of his childhood.  Among those with whom he was brought up he found but three of his old chums alive.  Mr. Johnston who is one of the brave boys in blue states that he is more than pleased that he arrived home in time to attend the reunion of the old Hundredth Regiment in Lockport.”
Dellwood Park at that time was a full-fledged amusement park with carnival rides, dance pavilions, and romantic boat cruises on the lake.  Needless to say, the 1907 reunion was one of the largest attended.  
It was not attempted again as many of the men who organized the event were dead one year later, although William Johnston would live until 1922.