Category Archives: Santa Barbara

Grand Army of the Republic – Busy in Santa Barbara

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Scholars do not generally say that much about the activities of the Grand Army of the Republic on the West Coast (I’m working on fixing that…). But I assure you, they were up to many of the same things as their GAR comrades around the rest of the country…but with a western style all their own. I recently stumbled across this shot of a GAR memorial service at a cemetery in Santa Barbara around 1880. More on these guys later. For now, just enjoy the shot.

With compliments,

Starr King Post #52, GAR – Santa Barbara’s Civil War Veterans

The Starr King Post pictured in 1922

I came across a rather interesting webpage concerning the founding and commemorative activities of Santa Barbara’s GAR post: the Starr King Post #52. Most of the information is typical – dates, names, places…what you might expect. And I particularly enjoyed descriptions of GAR Comrades parading down State Street to the beach. I am a little suspect on the analysis, however, and troubled by the sloppy research. King died in ’64 not ’66. But hey, why pick at the details? The author emphasizes the forgetfulness of the Union veterans suggesting that the former soldiers had long forgotten all war-time issues. Well, I do know that that the Post invited Confederate veterans in the area to participate in some Memorial Day commemorative activities – but it’s a bit of a leap to assume that the old soldiers had left the war behind. Reconciliation and forgetfulness are not the same thing – not at all.

Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong. But it’s worth it to have a look for myself, and a trip to Santa Barbara would be fine and dandy. I’ll be looking closely at any Memorial Day speeches, news articles, and post minutes that I can find. If our friends in Santa Barbara are anything at all like their comrades throughout the rest of the country, I doubt that they forgot much of anything.

With compliments,


Santa Barbara in the 1830s

Picture 5I’ve been reading through Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast (published in 1840), in an effort to understand what an easterner might have envisioned when thinking about the West Coast. Dana, as you remember from previous posts, sought adventure and a cure for an eye ailment as a young man, so he left his life as an 1830s budding Boston elite and headed to sea as a common sailor. He was well seasoned by the time he rounded the Cape and headed north up the Pacific Coast. The book – written using his journal accounts – was not an immediate success. But by the 1870s, it was one of a few books that helped form the definitive image of California before American conquest. It’s a fascinating tale, really. I recommend it for all.

His descriptions of going ashore are rich and detailed. I found his look at Santa Barbara of personal interest – I went to high School there (SMHS ROYALS ’85 WOOHOO!) and still have a number of friends living in the vicinity. So here you go – you SB folks might recognize a few things…



The bay, or, as it was commonly called, the canal of Santa Barbara, is very large, being formed by the main land on one side, (between Point Conception on the north and Point St. Buena Ventura on the south,) which here bends in like a crescent, and three large islands opposite to it and at the distance of twenty miles. This is just sufficient to give it the name of a bay, while at the same time it is so large and so much exposed to the south-east and north-west winds, that it is little better than an open roadstead; and the whole swell of the Pacific ocean rolls in here before a southeaster, and breaks with so heavy a surf in the shallow waters, that it is highly dangerous to lie near to the shore during south-easter season; that is, between the months of November and April.

The beach [where we put ashore] is nearly a mile in length…and of smooth sand. We had taken the only good landing place, which is in the middle; it being stony toward the ends. It is about twenty yards in width from high-water mark to a slight bank at which the soil begins, and so hard that it is a favorite place for running horses. It was growing dark, so that we could just distinguish the dim outlines of the two vessels in the offing; and the great seas were rolling in, in regular lines, growing larger and larger as they approached the shore, and hanging over the beach upon which they break, when their tops would curl over and turn white with foam, and , beginning at one extreme of the line, break rapidly to the other, as a long cardhouse falls when the children knock down the cards at one end.



I sort of fell like a road trip now.

With compliments,