Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Huntington Beach Historical Society's Civil War Days September 5 - 6

A gathering of Civil War veterans at the Methodist Campground in Huntington Beach, circa 1913. (Photograph courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives)

   Did you know the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)---Civil War veterans from the North and South---camped at Huntington Beach beginning in 1887? 

   This was an annual multi-day reunion held at the end of August / start of September at the beach and Methodist campground near Acacia and Orange streets (where the century-old and recently restored Corner Market is today). Hundreds and sometimes thousands attended.

LEFT: The GAR encampment included military ceremonies, beach camp fires, musical entertainment and, at times, lively political debate. (Image, Los Angeles Herald, September 7 1905)

    This weekend, 128 years later, the Huntington Beach Historical Society holds its annual Civil War Days with historical reenactment in Central Park.  Representing a volatile period in America, historical reenactment of the Civil War provides an educational opportunity and a reminder of Huntington Beach's GAR history.

    In the early 1900s, the Huntington Beach News reported on activities, flag drills, musical entertainment, plays, beach camp fires, ceremonies and trips via the Red Car into the Sawtelle Veterans Home in Los Angeles County (established in 1887). 

LEFT: Cannons, bugles, flags and military attire filled the streets and beaches of Huntington Beach when the GAR came to town. (Photograph courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives)

    Except for an outbreak of ptomaine poisoning among 200 veterans after a big dinner in August 1910, they generally had a good time. There are some reports of arguments regarding the North and the South, which they resolved or agreed to disagree. As we know in 2015, this history remains a living part of the fabric of America.

LEFT: By 1910, the GAR encampment at Huntington Beach was in its 23 year (despite the typo in the newspaper headline). An outline of the week's activities includes a speech by the mayor of Huntington Beach and a formal goodbye handshake at the close. (Image, Los Angeles Herald, July 4, 1910)

    This is a free event to the public in Huntington Beach's beautiful Central Park.  More information can be found on the Huntington Beach Historical Society's website for this event at

ABOVE: The Malvern Camp Hill Post at Huntington Beach, circa 1900.  A news article of the time notes the veterans preferred their tents to other accommodations. The history of "tent cities" in Huntington Beach relates to the GAR, the oil boom (when housing could not keep pace), and to religious revivals. (Photograph courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives)

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