Posted By Norman Gasbarro on January 19, 2013
The 44th Annual G.A.R. National Encampment was held in Atlantic City in September 1910. It was one of the largest attended G.A.R. encampments held in the 20th century. For many of the veterans, it would probably be their last encampment. Getting to Atlantic City was relatively easy for veterans from Pennsylvania – two railroads provided service to the city – and it was estimated that nearly one-third of all the attendees represented Pennsylvania G.A.R. Posts. One of those who attended from the Lykens Valley was Benjamin F. Smith, who was probably one of the shortest of all the men who served in the war. He represented the Kilpatrick Post of Millersburg, Dauphin County. One of the representatives from Reading, Berks County, was Mahlon Shaaber, who was the subject of a post here on this blog on 2 January of this year. He may have been the tallest. A photo was taken of Shaaber and Smith and captioned, “The Long and Short of It.”
On the 100th Anniversary of the Atlantic City encampment, a historical plaque was unveiled in Atlantic City recognizing the encampment:
44th NATIONAL ENCAMPMENT
GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
From 19 September to 24 September 1910, about 45 years after the last shot of the Civil War was fired, the 44th National Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Encampment (convention) was held in Atlantic City. The G.A.R., a Union (Northern) Civil War veteran’s organization, had in attendance over 18,000 of its 214,000 members arriving from across the nation, many still suffering from wounds inflicted decades before in the war Between the States. The days of the gathering were marked by parades, and meetings for the Encampment were held at Steel, Million Dollar, Steeplechase, and Young’s Ocean piers. Among the notable Civil War veterans in attendance were Major general Daniel E. Sickles, Lt. General Nelson A. Miles, and Johnny Clem, the famous “Drummer Boy of Chickamauga.” It was the only time in the 83-year history of the Grand Army of the Republic that a National Encampment was held in New Jersey.
Erected on 25 September 2010 to Commemorate the 100th Anniversary.
The Philadelphia Inquirer gave extensive coverage to the encampment when it occurred in 1910. A condensed version of the story, which appeared on 22 September 1910, is given below along with three of the five pictures from the article.
WITH UNSTEADY GAIT VETERANS PASS IN REVIEW
But With the Old Spirit That Won The Many a Vicotry
FIFTEEN THOUSAND IN GRAND PARADE
ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY — 21 September 1910 — Between columns formed by 100,000 on-lookers, who greeted the veterans with the wildest enthusiasm, 15,000 “Boys in Blue” of the Grand Army of the republic this morning proudly marched through the streets of the resort bearing aloft the battle standards carried by them during the strife of the 60s.
A hundred bands blared martial airs, cannon beckoned and the spectators paid tribute as the gray haired veterans with faltering step and halted gait hiked over a four mile route, including a part of the Boardwalk, in the annual review, the biggest event of the encampment.
Vice President Sherman, who arrived this morning and departed during the afternoon, reviewed the grizzled boys, some of them in line for the last time, with Commander-in-Chief VanSant and other notables of the organization. It was a stirring spectacle. The veterans tried to march with a sprightly step and their faces were wreathed in smiles. They realized that the hike would task their their physical resources, but march they would and did.
Dropped in the Ranks.
More than two score, the years of each ranging around the sixty mark, dropped exhausted in their tracks, while ears streamed down the cheeks of the onlookers. Others with the fatigue of the march plainly in evidence trudged along, some on crutches, others with empty sleeves, unwilling through dogged determination to drop out.
An equal number of onlookers were prostrated. A cool breeze from the ocean swept the resort, but there was a broiling sun, hottest at noon, when the review was at its height.
None of those prostrated is in a serious condition. The majority were discharged from the Atlantic City Hospital late in the afternoon.
Keystone Battle Flags.
Pennsylvania, headed by the Philadelphia posts, was third in line, and the boys from that state were accorded a continual ovation. At least 5000 Pennsylvanians were in the review. Pennsylvania also carried the greatest number of battle flags. And the sight of the flags, proudly borne by the veterans, never failed to bring cheers….
Leading the Pennsylvania veterans, behind the department officers, was the famous George G. Meade Post , No. 1, of Philadelphia….
A might host of visitors swarmed to Atlantic City for the review. Beginning early in the morning, the crowd scurried about the city for vantage points. There were comparatively few grandstands along the route. The principal one was at park Place, in front of which was the reviewing stand.
Getting in Line.
Meanwhile the crowds were forming in a solid line along the route. The veterans, headed by the bands and fife and drum corps, were gathering in line. Many of the posts came this morning and left tonight. These, withe miles of spectators almost swamped the railroad facilities.
Commander in Chief VanSant and General Towler, his Chief of Staff, who was Marshal, gave the order to move. Trumpets blared and the parade was on. Mr. Sherman had reached the resort only a short time before and was escorted to the reviewing post by the Morris Guards of this place….
Most of the staff and the post commanders rode in flag-bedecked barouches….
Samuel C. Cambridge… was one of the one-legged men who marched. In front of the reviewing stand , however, he tottered and almost fell….
The clatter of the wheels of four cannon mingled with the foot steps of the veterans…. More battle flags were shown….
“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” blared from the instruments of the Letter Carriers Band of Philadelphia….
The first post from the interior of the State for go by the reviewers was Post No. 19 of Lancaster. Post No. 21 introduced rolling chairs….
The veterans still clung to their historic fifes and drums and it was the music which first greeted the ears of the onlookers as the column neared them. They were members of the Civil War Musicians Association, the youngest of whom is 72 years.
Two grizzled veterans carried aloft the banners of the organizations, while four Atlantic City girls, dressed in white, marched beside them.
Illinois in the Lead.
Illinois, given the right of line, because of the seniority, was the first department to pass, and was followed by Wisconsin. Then came the Pennsylvanians. Behind the band of Orphans’ Industrial School came Mahlon Shaaber, of Reading, who lacks a fraction of three inches of being seven feet tall, carrying the department’s standard….
Twenty-six battle flags, wrapped around the staffs and held high in the air, proclaimed the George G. Meade Post. This post boasts of more battle flags than any in the country….
A striking figure was the presence of the Veteran Guard, headed by Lieutenant Frank Taylor and Adjutant Charles F. Kennedy, garbed in blue trousers, buckskin coats, and huge black shakos. They guarded twenty battle standards. With Post No. 2 was Theodore Hoff, who stands six feet-seven inches, while down the line marched B. F. Smith, of Millersburg, whose height is four feet ten inches….
The Western veterans carried several novel signs and emblems by which heir States are known. The plan for the Armies of the Blue and Gray to hold their annual gatherings on the battlefield of Gettysburg in 1913 at the time of the anniversary of the battle, is gaining strength. Colonel John W. Frazier, of Philadelphia, father of the scheme, says he believes the government will provide the veterans with shelter and rations.
The first business session will be held tomorrow morning and will be executive. The battlefield reunion project may be introduced then, also the placing of the statue of General Robert E. Lee in the Capitol, at Washington, will be discussed.
The matter of the veterans receiving a dollar a day pension is another business question to be presented….
There was reunion of maimed and one-limbed veterans this afternoon and was one of several such meetings, including that of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry.
Tonight there were camp fires at the Fraternal Eagles’ Home, the Steel Pier, and the Million Dollar Pier. The members of the Ladies of the G.A.R. and the Women’s Relief Corps also met tonight holding their first business session.
Many souvenir items exist from this encampment and are actively traded on eBay and other on-line trading sites. They include badges and buttons, posters, and programs from the event. There are also many picture postcards available including regular cards that were specially overprinted to recognize the G.A.R.‘s visit to the city. The picture of Shaaber and Smith (near top of this post) was sold as a post card at the time, and although Shaaber was not identified then, his identity is now known as a result of the information that appeared here on this blog on 2 January 2013. The other tall veteran who is identified in the Inquirer article (above), Theodore Hoff, was 6 foot 5 inches tall, according to his Pennsylvania Veterans’ Index Card, and certainly competed with Mahlon Shaaber in height, although the Inquirer article describes Shaaber as more than 5 foot 8 inches and Hoff as 6 feet 7 inches – clearly noting that Shaaber was taller.
The news article is from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia.