Did the Grand Army of the Republic Kill the Easter Bunny?

Disturbing things can be found in archives. Like this photograph on Library of Congress’s online photo collection of “Rabbit Drive, No. 4” during the Grand Army of the Republic encampment at Fresno, California.

(Library of Congress)

Well, here’s the history…

In the late 19th Century, jackrabbits ran wild through the agricultural regions of the American West, especially in California. Around the Central Valley community of Fresno, Californians decided to deal with the pests that were decreasing the profits of their orchards and vineyards. A fence was erected pointing toward some sort of “rabbit proof” corral. Then, the participants in the rabbit drive lined up across the open ends of the angled fencing and advanced (sometimes several miles), driving the numerous rodents toward the point of the V. Once trapped, the rabbits were clubbed to death. Firearms were prohibited since the people ended up at close quarters, too. To give an idea of the rabbit problem in California, it was recorded that in just nine years (1888-1897), 217 rabbit drives were held and approximately 500,000 rabbits were killed.

The rabbit drives were often hosted at celebrations or other community gatherings and were seen as a way to rid the farmlands of the destructive pests. According to The Strand Magazine, the Grand Army of the Republic’s Department of California and Pacific Reunion of 1892 hosted “the greatest drive on record” as part of the closing events of the encampment; the participants at the GAR rabbit drive killed 25,000 rodents. The local farmers probably greatly appreciated the veterans’ efforts!?

However, I believe it can be safely reported 130 years later… “No, Virginia, the GAR did not kill the Easter Bunny.”

Sources:

Library of Congress photograph: https://www.loc.gov/item/2012647027/

The Strand Magazine via Victorian Voices: www.victorianvoices.net/ ARTICLES/STRAND/1897B-Pests.pdf

University of California: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/kt1v19q1gj/

Sons of Union Veterans Department of California and Pacific, Encampments: https://www.suvpac.org/history/encampmentlist.html

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, author, speaker, and researcher. Past and present, everyone has a story. What will we discover and discuss?
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1 Response to Did the Grand Army of the Republic Kill the Easter Bunny?

  1. Lyle Smith says:

    As a kid in Louisiana I went swamp rabbit (a variety of cottontail rabbit) hunting a couple of times. Saw my dad’s best ever shot one time… the rabbit was flying along the ground and he got him/her. Super quick shot. The swamp rabbits are hard to see on the ground, they’re a bit camouflaged with the dirt and leaves and disappear in the grass.

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