The Mast-Head: A Fourth in Wartime

“To Americans the day came with a new significance and impressiveness . . . "

One hundred years ago this week, The Star reported, East Hampton observed Independence Day with the biggest and grandest celebration ever held.  More than 600 members of the New York State Guard marched in the July 4 parade, and the context made it page-one, above-the-fold news:

“To Americans the day came with a new significance and impressiveness and to our allies in the Great War it brought a new understanding of the principles which have now become theirs.”

At 10:30 that morning, the Sixth Separate Battalion, under the command of Major L.D. Dyer, assembled on the Harriet F. Herrick Playground on Newtown Lane. Seven of the eight Long Island companies taking part motored to East Hampton, the reporter observed, with the exception of Greenport’s, which came by boat.

Unlike today’s Main Street parades, this one began at Hook Mill and headed toward the Village Green. A reviewing stand was set up at the Osborne house near Dayton Lane, from which Supervisor N.N. Tiffany, Brig. Gen. James Robb of the State Guard, and other officials watched.

At the Village Green, the Sixth Battalion formed an open square around a raised platform; those who wanted to listen to the speeches filled in the empty space at center. The actor John Drew, for whom Guild Hall’s theater would be named, made the introductions. Speakers extolled East Hampton’s beauty and described the devastation in France and Belgium by the Germans. 

One of the speakers, Gen. Howard Duffield of the 9th Coast Artillery, warned of enemy agents here on the home front “playing the German game,” while pretending to be loyal citizens. John V. Bouvier Jr., the grandfather of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, spoke of a son, then at war in France, and told the women in the crowd to save their clothes so they would not have to spend money on new ones. The war could not be won without women, he said.

All this was followed by a baseball game pitting a team from Fort Jay on Governor’s Island against a squad from Camp Upton. Fort Jay took it 8 to 3. That evening, a military ball was held at Clinton Hall, with nearly 150 couples on the dance floor. Troops from the Montauk Army camp, who had not been able to take part earlier in the day, made up for it at the ball.

Twenty years later, as the war in Europe was over and the next one was only then getting underway for America, East Hampton marked the Fourth of July with fireworks at Main Beach, a concert by the town band, and John Bouvier, by then 72, was back at the speaker’s podium to extoll the day’s praises.