A Fiery Fourth

The first celebration of the Fourth of July in town occurred in 1853. Still, an event in 1855, perhaps carries the deepest significance in festivities.

On June 24 of that year, a fire destroyed the Steamship America and stranded 132 soldiers of the 21st U.S. Infantry. After delivering mail to the city and unloading a few passengers,  America, a side-wheel steamship began burning while the vessel was anchored.

Smoke bellowed from the ship. Every attempt was made to stop the fire, and the boat was run into shallow water about 150 yards offshore. Residents used buckets, ropes, and ladders to fight the fire, but the America burned.

While in transit to San Francisco for rebuilding, the hulk of the ‘America’ broke loose and sank mid-ocean. Fittingly, ”America’s’ cannon were salvaged from the wreck and moved to Battery Point.

The 1855 festivities began with the firing of the cannons on Battery Point followed by a parade. At the park, a salute of 13 guns was fired at sunrise under the direction of Capt. Thos. R. Lawson.  The 13 guns also were fired at sunset.

A lantern was fixed on a pole at Battery Point in place of the lighthouse. A procession including the stranded soldiers marched through the city under the command of Maj. Henry Prince, accompanies by the Crescent Hook and Ladder Co. and local military companies. It traveled down E Street to Front Street, down Front Street, through J Street, up the beach to Battery Point, and to the Ball Park.

W.A. Hamilton was grand marshal and J.J. Arrington and F.E. Weston were the assistants. The Declaration of Independence was read by J.B. Roseborough and the invocation was delivered by Jno. J. Hayness.

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