Saturday, September 8, 2012

A century ago: G.A.R. Encampment

Military veterans moving in to their "tent city" at Huntington Beach for the Eighteenth Annual G.A.R. Encampment.  (Los Angeles Herald, Sept. 11, 1905)

   A little over a century ago this week, local beaches were filled with military veterans arriving for the annual Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Encampment.  The beginning of a new 20th Century community at Huntington Beach, was linked to the then still-living history of 19th Century America.

   Sheltered at the 13-acre Tent City, the 1905 Encampment broke previous records of attendance, while also honoring the loss of seventy-four veterans.  Encampments typically lasted a week to ten days.

(Image, Los Angeles Herald, Sept. 11, 1905)

   In addition to enjoying the beach, holding campfire meetings and special events at the Tent City, veterans visited the Sawtelle Soldiers Home in west Los Angeles County.  Veterans and their families took picnic baskets with them on the Pacific Electric Railroad into Los Angeles and spent the day with disabled veterans living at Sawtelle.

   The Encampments were not always quiet.  The veterans' gatherings also saw heated exchanges among the various camps, discussions regarding legislation affecting veterans, and censures of those thought to exhibit "unpatriotic and unfraternal" behavior.  The Encampment enlisted representatives to present "harmony news" to local media.

   Huntington Beach--still unincorporated--rolled out the red carpet for the annual Encampment.  The 1905 Encampment proved a challenge, with hundreds more veterans than anticipated, but was quickly resolved with more tent accommodations.  Carriages were provided free of charge to veterans to transport them about town.

The 1905 Encampment would "eclipse any previous gathering." (Image, Los Angeles Herald, Sept. 8, 1905)

The Encampment programs featured a variety of activities, including live music, recitations, and veterans' shared memories.  In 1905, "an original poem on 'Snoring' captured the audience." (Image, Los Angeles Herald, Sept. 12, 1905)

The annual Encampments continued to prove popular for non veterans, as well.  The Pacific Electric Railway advertisements encouraged a trolley ride to "go and fraternize with the boys in blue." (Los Angeles Herald, Aug. 21 1910)

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