Robert Burns Beath

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Robert Burns Beath
Robert Burns Beath.jpg
Born(1839-01-25)January 25, 1839
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedNovember 25, 1914(1914-11-25) (aged 75)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Place of burial
Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Union Army
Years of service1861–1865
RankUnion Army LTC rank insignia.png Lieutenant Colonel
UnitCompany G, 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry (3-month regiment)
Company D, 88th Pennsylvania Infantry
Company A, 8th United States Colored Infantry
F&S, 8th United States Colored Infantry
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
Other work12th Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic

Robert Burns Beath (January 25, 1839 – November 25, 1914) was an American soldier who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War and as the 12th Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, 1883-1884.

Early life and military career[edit]

Beath was born January 25, 1839 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to David and Rabena (Wilson) Beath.

He first enlisted April 21, 1861 as a corporal in Company G, 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry (a 3-month regiment) and mustered out July 31, 1861 at Philadelphia. He reenlisted September 5, 1861 as a sergeant in Company D, 88th Pennsylvania Infantry and was promoted June 1, 1862 to 1st sergeant and promoted December 1, 1862 to 2nd lieutenant. Beath was wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run. He was subsequently promoted to captain on August 29, 1863 and mustered out on the same day to accept a transfer to command Company A, 8th United States Colored Infantry. He was seriously wounded in action at the Battle of Chaffin's Farm, resulting in the amputation of his right leg. On June 1, 1865 Beath was promoted to lieutenant colonel and mustered out of the service on September 20, 1865.

Post-war service[edit]

Almost immediately after the Civil War, Beath became active in establishing a veterans' organization. He was a charter member and first commander of the first G.A.R. post established in Pennsylvania (October 1866). The following year, Beath became Junior Vice-Commander, Department of Pennsylvania, was assistant adjutant general (1867-1869), and served as Commander of the Department of Pennsylvania in 1873.

He was elected 12th Commander-in-Chief of the G.A.R. and remained very active with the organization until his death. Beath is credited with writing the first history of the organization (1888), establishing its rules and regulations, and was a member of the board of trustees for the permanent fund.

He was also a veteran companion of the Pennsylvania Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

Beath died November 25, 1914 at his home in Philadelphia and is buried in Woodlands Cemetery.

See also[edit]


  • Grand Army of the Republic. Final Journal of the Grand Army of the Republic, 1866-1956 (Washington, DC: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.), 1957.
Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Vandervoort
Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic
1883 – 1884
Succeeded by
John S. Kountz