|California in the American Civil War from Wikipedia
California's involvement in the American Civil War included
sending gold east, recruiting volunteer combat units to replace Regular
forces in territories of the Western United States, maintaining and building
numerous camps and fortifications, suppressing secessionist activity and
securing the New Mexico Territory against the Confederacy. The State of
California did not send its units east, but many citizens traveled east
and joined the Union Army there, some of whom became famous. California's
Volunteers also conducted many operations against the native peoples within
the state and in the other Western territories of the Departments of the
Pacific and New Mexico.
Following the Gold Rush California was settled primarily
by Midwestern and Southern farmers, miners and businessmen. Democrats dominated
the state from its foundation. Southern Democrats sympathetic to secession,
although a minority in the state, were a majority in Southern California
and Tulare County, and were in large numbers in San Joaquin, Santa Clara,
Monterey, and San Francisco counties. California was home for powerful
businessmen who played a significant role in Californian politics through
their control of mines, shipping, finance, and the Republican Party but
were a minority party until the secession crisis.
In the beginning of 1861, as the secession crisis began,
the secessionists in San Francisco made an attempt to separate the state
and Oregon from the union which failed. Southern California with a majority
of discontented Californios and southern secessionists, had already voted
for a separate Territorial government, formed militia units but were kept
from secession after Fort Sumter by Federal troops drawn from the frontier
forts of the District of Oregon, and California, (primarily Fort Tejon
and Fort Mojave).
Patriotic fervor swept California after the attack on
Fort Sumter providing the manpower for Volunteer Regiments recruited mainly
from the pro-Union counties in the north of the State. When the Democratic
party split over the war Republican supporters of Lincoln took control
of the state in the September elections. Volunteer Regiments were sent
to occupy pro-secessionist Southern California and Tulare County leaving
them generally powerless during the war itself. However some Southerners
traveled east to join the Confederate Army evading Union patrols and hostile
Apache. Others remaining in the state, attempted to outfit a privateer
to prey on coastal shipping and late in the war two groups of partisan
rangers were formed but none were successful.
From statehood to the Civil War
|When California was admitted as a state under the Compromise
of 1850, Californians had already decided it was to be a free state—the
constitutional convention of 1849 unanimously abolished slavery. As a result,
Southerners in Congress voted against admission in 1850 while Northerners
pushed it through, pointing to its population of 93,000 and its vast wealth
in gold. Northern California, which was dominated by mining, shipping,
and commercial elites of San Francisco, favored becoming a state.
Southern California's attempts at secession from California
Following California's admission to the Union, Californios
(dissatisfied with inequitable taxes and land laws) and pro-slavery Southerners
in lightly populated, rural Southern California attempted three times in
the 1850s to achieve a separate statehood or territorial status separate
from Northern California. The last attempt, the Pico Act of 1859, was passed
by the California State Legislature, signed by the State governor John
B. Weller, approved overwhelmingly by voters in the proposed Territory
of Colorado and sent to Washington, D.C. with a strong advocate in Senator
Milton Latham. However the secession crisis following the election of Lincoln
in 1860 led to the proposal never coming to a vote.
In 1860 California gave a small plurality of 38,733 votes
to Abraham Lincoln, whose 32% of the total vote was enough to win all its
electoral votes; 68% voted for the other three candidates.
|1860 Presidential Candidate
|Stephen A. Douglas
|John C. Breckinridge
Secession Crisis in California
During the secession crisis following Lincoln's election,
Federal troops were under the command of Colonel (Brevet Brigadier General)
Albert Sidney Johnston, in Benicia, headquarters of the Department of the
Pacific. General Johnston strongly believed that the South represented
the cause of freedom, and traditional American democracy of popular sovereignty.
A group of Southern sympathizers in the state made plans to secede with
Oregon to form a "Pacific Republic". Their plans rested on the cooperation
of General Johnston. Johnston understood this, and met with the men, but
he declined saying he had sworn an oath to defend the Union, and although
he believed that Lincoln had violated and destroyed the Constitution holding
the Union together, he would not go against his word. Thus the plans for
California and Oregon to secede from the United States never came to fruition.
Brig. Gen. Edwin Vose Sumner was sent west to replace Johnston in March
1861. Johnston soon resigned his commission April 9, and after Sumner arrived
April 25, moved to Los Angeles.
As the secession crisis developed in early 1861, several
Volunteer Companies of the California Militia had disbanded because of
divided loyalties and new ones were sworn in across the state under the
supervision of County sheriffs and judges. Many of these units saw no action
but some were to form the companies of the earliest California Volunteer
regiments. Others like the Petaluma Guard and Emmet Rifles in Sonoma County
suppressed a secessionist disturbance in Healdsburg, in 1862. Union commanders
relied on the San Bernardino Mounted Rifles and their Captain Clarence
E. Bennett for intelligence and help to hold the pro southern San Bernardino
County for the Union in late 1861 as Federal troops were being withdrawn
and replaced by California Volunteers.
Notable as the only pro-Southern militia unit, the Los
Angeles Mounted Rifles was organized on March 7, 1861, in Los Angeles County.
It included more than a few Californios in its leadership and its ranks
including the County Sheriff, one of his Undersheriffs and several of his
deputies. A. J. King another Undersheriff of Los Angeles County (and former
member of the earlier "Monte Rangers" and other influetial men in El Monte,
formed another secessionist militia the Monte Mounted Rifles on March 23,
1861. However A. J. King, soon ran afoul of Federal authorities. According
to the Sacramento Union of April 30, 1861 King was brought before Colonel
Carleton and was made to take an oath of allegiance to the Union and was
then released. On April 26, 1861, the Monte Mounted Rifles had asked Governor
Downey for arms. The governor sent the arms, but army officers at San Pedro
held them up preventing the activation of the Monte Mounted Rifles.
On March 28, 1861, the newly formed Arizona Territory
voted to separate from New Mexico Territory and join the Confederacy. This
had increased Union officials' fears of a secessionist design to separate
Southern California from the state and join the Confederacy. This fear
was based on the demonstrated desire for separation in the vote for the
Pico Act, the strength of secessionists in the area and their declared
intentions and activities especially in forming militia companies.
Outbreak of the Civil War
Santa Barbara Counties, on August 14, 1861, Major William
Scott Ketchum steamed from San Francisco to San Pedro and made a rapid
march to encamp near San Bernardino on August 26 and with Companies D and
G of the 4th Infantry Regiment later reinforced at the beginning of September
by a detachment of ninety First U.S. Dragoons and a howitzer. Except for
frequent sniping at his camp, Ketchum's garrison stifled any secessionist
uprising from Belleville and a show of force by the Dragoons in the streets
at the end of election day quelled a secessionist political demonstration
during the September gubernatorial elections in San Bernardino County.
|At the outbreak of the Civil War, Southern California
secession seemed possible; the populace was largely in favor of it, militias
with secessionist sympathies had been formed, Bear Flags, the banner of
the Bear Flag Revolt, had been flown for several months by secessionists
in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. After word of the Battle of
Fort Sumter reached California, there were public demonstrations by secessionists.
However secession quickly became impossible when three companies of Federal
cavalry were moved from Fort Mojave and Fort Tejon into Los Angeles in
May and June 1861. Suspected by local union authorities, General Johnston
evaded arrest and joined the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles as a private, leaving
Warner's Ranch May 27 in their trek across the southwestern deserts to
Texas, crossing the Colorado River into the Confederate Territory of Arizona,
on July 4, 1861. The Los Angeles Mounted Rifles disbanded and members joined
the Confederate Army when they reached the Arizona Territorial capital
of Mesilla (now in New Mexico). Like other pro-Confederates leaving California
for the Confederacy, the volunteers joined up principally with Texas regiments.
General Johnston joined the fight in the east as a general with the Confederacy
and was later killed leading their army at the Battle of Shiloh.
The only Confederate flag captured in California during
the Civil War took place on July 4, 1861, in Sacramento. During Independence
Day celebrations, secessionist Major J. P. Gillis celebrated the independence
of the United States from Britain as well as the southern states from the
Union. He unfurled a Confederate flag of his own design and proceeded to
march down the street to both the applause and jeers of onlookers. Jack
Biderman and Curtis Clark, enraged by Gillis' actions, accosted him and
"captured" the flag. The flag itself is based on the first Confederate
flag, the Stars and Bars. However, the canton contains seventeen stars
rather than the Confederate's seven. Because the flag was captured by Jack
Biderman, it is often also referred to as the "Biderman Flag".
As he was recalling Federal troops to the east, on July
24, 1861, the Secretary of War called on the Governor John G. Downey, to
furnish one regiment of infantry and five companies of cavalry to guard
the overland mail route from Carson City to Salt Lake City. Three weeks
later four more regiments of infantry and a regiment of cavalry were requested.
All of these were volunteers units recruited and organized in the northern
part of the state, around the San Francisco Bay region and the mining camps,
few recruits came from Southern California. These volunteers replaced the
regular troops transferred to the east before the end of 1861.
Charged with all the supervision of Los Angeles, San
Bernardino, San Diego, and
Bear Flag flown by
Southern California secessionists
The J. P. Gillis Flag
Digital reproduction of the Gillis Flag
Thereafter, with the Democrats split over the war, the
first Republican governor of California was elected, Leland Stanford, a
powerful tycoon from the Northeast, on September 4, 1861.
|1861 Gubernatorial Candidate
|John R. McConnell
Following the elections on September 7, there was a gunfight
resulting from a robbery of travelers to Holcomb Valley and Bear Valley
on the pack trail in the Upper Santa Ana Canyon where the Santa Ana River
runs out of the San Bernardino Mountains. It was suspected that secessionists
had been the culprits, doing the robbery as part of a larger plan of robberies
in the valleys of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. However, no
such plan materialized.
Civil War Conflicts within California
Securing Southern California
As the California Volunteer regiments formed some were
sent south with Colonel George Wright, commanding officer of the District
of Southern California. He was to replace the Federal troops in Los Angeles,
gathered there to prevent a rising by the numerous secessionist sympathizers
in Southern California. In October 1861, Wright was promoted to Brigadier
General of Volunteers and placed in command of the Department of the Pacific,
replacing Sumner who had recommended Wright as his replacement. Colonel
James Henry Carleton of the 1st California Volunteer Infantry Regiment
replaced Wright as commander in the south. Detachments were soon sent out
by Carleton to San Bernardino and San Diego Counties to secure them for
the Union and prevent the movement of men and weapons eastward to the Confederacy.
One of the earliest conflicts related to the Civil War
in California occurred on November 29, 1861, at Minter Ranch, in the hills
just south and west of the San Jose Valley, where Warner's Ranch and the
military post of Camp Wright was located. Dan Showalter's party of secessionists
like some others were attempting to avoid the post and make their way across
the desert to join the Confederate Army in Texas. They were pursued from
Temecula by a Volunteer Cavalry patrol from the Camp, intercepted and captured
without shots being fired. Later after being imprisoned at Fort Yuma, Showalter
and the others were released after swearing loyalty to the Union, but they
made their way to the Confederacy later.
During and after the 1862 Confederate New Mexico Campaign,
no rising against Union control occurred in the state. However in the following
years some attempts were made by the Confederate navy to seize gold and
silver for the Confederacy. In 1863, Asbury Harpending after traveling
secretly to Richmond to obtain a letter of marque joined with other California
members of the Knights of the Golden Circle in San Francisco to outfit
the schooner J. M. Chapman, as a Confederate privateer in San Francisco
Bay. Their object was to raid commerce on the Pacific coast carrying gold
and silver shipments, to capture and carry it back to support the Confederacy.
Their attempt was detected and they were seized on the March 15, during
the night of their intended departure by the USS Cyane, revenue officers
and San Francisco police.
In spring of 1864, the Confederate navy, ordered Captain
Thomas Egenton Hogg and his command to take passage on board a coastal
steamer in Panama City, seize her on the high seas, arm her and attack
the Pacific Mail steamers and the whalers in the North Pacific. In Havana,
the American consul, Thomas Savage, learned about this conspiracy, and
notified Rear Admiral George F. Pearson at Panama City. The Admiral had
the passengers boarding the steamers at Panama City watched and when the
Hogg's command was found aboard the SS San Salvador, a force from the USS
Lancaster arrested them and brought them to San Francisco. Tried by a military
commission, they were sentenced to be hanged, but General Irvin McDowell
commuted their sentences. To prevent any further attempts to seize Pacific
coast shipping, General McDowell ordered each passenger on board American
merchant steamers to surrender all weapons when boading the ship and every
passenger and his baggage was searched. All officers were armed for the
protection of their ships.
Partisan Rangers in California
Local secessionists in California made attempts to seize
gold and silver for the Confederacy. In early 1864, Rufus Henry Ingram
formerly with Quantrill's Raiders arrived in Santa Clara County and with
Tom Poole, organized local Knights of the Golden Circle and commanded them
in what became known as Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers. In one incident
they robbed two stagecoaches near Placerville of their silver and gold,
leaving a letter explaining they were not bandits but carrying out a military
operation to raise funds for the Confederacy.
Also in early 1864, secessionist Judge George Gordon Belt
a rancher and former alcalde in Stockton organized a group of partisan
rangers including John Mason and "Jim Henry" and sent them out to recruit
more men and pillage the property of Union men in the countryside. For
the next two years the Mason Henry Gang, as they became known, posed as
Confederate partisan rangers but acted as outlaws, committing robberies,
thefts and murders in the southern San Joaquin Valley, Santa Cruz County,
Monterey County, Santa Clara County, and in counties of Southern California.
However, despite all these efforts no captured gold was sent to the Confederacy.
In July 1864, with many Douglas Democrats deserting their
party over the war, the remaining Democrats formed a fusion party behind
the former governor John G. Downey, opposed to continuation of the war,
emancipation, the arrest of civilians by the militia, the suppression of
free speech and of the press and the attempt make the Negro equal to the
white man. The result in the September election was a second Republican
governor of California, Frederick F. Low.
|1864 Gubernatorial Canidate
|Fredrick F. Low
|John G. Downey
Lincoln won the 1864 election with almost 59% in California
|1864 Presidential Candidate
|George B. McClellan
Civil War Era forts and camps in California
At this time, the U.S. had a number of military forts
to defend against the Indian threat, and to solidify the U.S. claim to
the state. As the conflict began, new forts and camps were founded to protect
ports and communications, carry out operations against the Indians, to
hold off Confederate soldiers and suppress their sympathizers.
Of the ports, San Francisco Bay was the most important,
coastal fortifications at Fort Point and Camp Sumner were built at the
edge of the Presidio, as well as at Fort Baker on the Marin Headlands.
One Civil War-era fort, Post of Alcatraz Island or Fort Alcatraz, on a
rocky island just inside the Golden Gate, later became an infamous Federal
penitentiary, Alcatraz. The San Francisco Bay was also protected by the
Navy at Mare Island, the Benicia Arsenal, Fort Mason with the posts at
San Francisco's Point San Jose, and Camp Reynolds on Angel Island. San
Pedro was protected from January 1862 by Camp Drum later the Drum Barracks
and later a post was established at Two Harbors on Catalina Island. San
Diego was only defended by a small garrison at the New San Diego Depot
occupied in 1860.
In the northwest of the state were several forts, Fort
Bragg on the Mendocino County coast supporting Fort Wright. Further north
on the coast of Humboldt County was Fort Humboldt, established to maintain
peace between the Native Americans and new settlers and Headquarters of
the Humboldt Military District supporting other forts in the area. Ulysses
S. Grant was briefly stationed here prior to the war. Fort Humboldt supported
Camp Curtis, Fort Gaston, Camp Lyon, Fort Baker, Fort Iaqua, Fort Anderson,
Camp Lincoln and Fort Seward which were the base of operations for the
soldiers in the Bald Hills War.
In the Northeast, were Fort Crook in Shasta County and
in Modoc County, Fort Bidwell was established in 1863.
To the south there was Fort Miller in the foothills of
the southern Sierra Nevada in Fresno County, and Camp Babbitt outside the
town of Visalia, in Tulare County. Fort Tejon in the Grapevine Canyon (La
Cañada de las Uvas), had protected the southern San Joaquin Valley
and Southern California. It had been the headquarters of the First U.S.
Dragoons until those regular army troops were transferred in July 1861
upon the outbreak of war. Fort Tejon was re-occupied by California volunteer
troops in 1863 to guard Paiute Indians from the Owens Valley at the nearby
Sebastian Indian Reservation and then it was abandoned for good on September
11, 1864. Camp Independence was established on Oak Creek nearby modern
Independence, California on July 4, 1862, during the Owens Valley Indian
At the beginning of the war Union authorities were worried
that the large number of secessionist sympathizers in Southern California
might rise in an attempt to join the Confederacy. In June 1861 troops withdrawn
from Fort Tejon and Fort Mojave established Camp Fitzgerald outside Los
Angeles in various locations as each proved unsuitable.
In late September 1861, troops from Northern California
landed in San Pedro and marched to establish a new camp at a more suitable
location at Camp Latham in modern Culver City. From this post Ketchum's
regular soldiers were relieved on October 20, by three companies of 1st
California Cavalry sent out to San Bernardino County. and establish Camp
Carleton and later Camp Morris. Volunteer troops were also sent to Camp
Wright in San Diego County to watch the southern overland approach to California
across the Colorado Desert from Fort Yuma, located on the west bank of
the Colorado River.
In March 1862, all the troops that were drilling at Camp
Latham were transferred to Camp Drum, leaving a company of soldiers to
observe the Los Angeles area. Following flooding at Camp Carleton, the
garrison moved to New Camp Carleton, built near the secessionist hotbed
of El Monte in 1862.
Civil War Military units associated with California
Due to its location, the state's local militia companies
remained under state status because of the great number of Southern sympathizers,
the Indian threat, and possible foreign attack. The state followed the
usual military practice of mustering militia companies into regiments.
These Volunteers maintained military posts vacated by the regular army
units that were ordered east. However number of state militias disbanded
and went east. Several of these companies offered their services and were
accepted by the Union Army.
as planned, was composed of artillery and cavalry. These
troops were soon detached. After Baker was killed in the Battle of Ball's
Bluff, Pennsylvania claimed these four infantry regiments as a part
of its quota, and they became known as the "Philadelphia Brigade" of Pennsylvania
Volunteers. They were initially commanded by Brig. Gen. William W. Burns
and first served in John Sedgwick's Division of the II Corps, Army of the
Potomac. They had a distinguished service career, highlighted by their
actions at the Battle of Antietam and their prominent position in the defense
against Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.
||In 1862, five companies of the 2nd Massachusetts
Cavalry (also known as The California 100 and the California Cavalry Battalion)
were enrolled and mustered into service, and sent to Massachusetts They
left San Francisco by sea for service in the east. The California Battalion
consisted of Companies A, C, F, L, and M. They participated in 51 battles,
campaigns, and skirmishes.
Oregon U.S. Senator Edward D. Baker raised a regiment
of men on the East Coast. These units and others were generally known as
the "California Regiment", but later designated the 71st Pennsylvania Infantry.
Col. Roderick N. Matheson was the leader of the 32nd New York Infantry,
also known as the 1st California Regiment.
In October 1861, Colonel Baker was authorized to increase
his command to a brigade. The additional regiments were commanded by Colonels
Joshua T. Owen, Dewitt Clinton Baxter, and Turner G. Morehead, all from
Philadelphia, respectively designated the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th California
Regiments. The 4th California Regiment,
Military units associated with California included:
* Los Angeles Mounted Rifles (Confederate)
* 2nd Regiment of Cavalry, Massachusetts
Volunteers Company A, E, F, L, and M (the later four called the "California
* 32nd Regiment of New York Volunteers
* "Philadelphia Brigade" of Pennsylvania
o 1st California Infantry - 71st Pennsylvania Infantry
o 2nd California Infantry - 69th Pennsylvania Infantry
o 3rd California Infantry - 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry
o 5th California Infantry - 106th Pennsylvania Infantry
Regiments of the California Volunteers in Federal Service
The California Volunteer units recruited 15,725 volunteers
for Federal service inside California and in the Department of the Pacific.
These units included two full regiments and one battalion of Native Cavalry,
eight full regiments of infantry, and one battalion of infantry called
mountaineers that specialized in fighting in the mountanous Redwood forests
of Northwestern California.
List of California Civil War units
The California Volunteers most directly in action against
the Confederacy were known as the California Column. They were under the
command of General James H. Carleton. At various times the following units
served with the Column: 1st Regiment California Volunteer Cavalry, 1st
Battalion of Native Cavalry, and the 1st, 5th and 7th Regiment California
Volunteer Infantry. This force served in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas,
driving out the Confederate force in Arizona and defending New Mexico Territory
and the southern overland route to California and operating against the
Apache, Navajo, Comanche and other tribes.
The command composed of 2nd Regiment California Volunteer
Cavalry and the 3rd Regiment California Volunteer Infantry under P. Edward
Connor kept the Central Overland Route to California open. As a matter
of Connor's proactive style, he led these troops to attack Shoshoni Indians
at the Bear River Massacre near what is now the present-day city of Preston,
Idaho, on January 29, 1863.
Detachments from the 2nd Regiment California Volunteer
Cavalry from Camp Latham under Lieutenant Colonel George S. Evans, fought
in the Owens Valley Indian War, and established Camp Independence in 1862.
The 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th Regiment California Volunteer
Infantry and the 1st Battalion California Volunteer Mountaineers provided
internal security in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington Territory.
2nd and 6th Volunteer Infantry Regiments and the 1st Battalion California
Volunteer Mountaineers served in the Bald Hills War and some other companies
in the Snake War.
Also the 1st Regiment Washington Territory Volunteer Infantry,
had eight companies that were recruited in California during 1862, for
service in Washington Territory. They were mustered out at Fort Vancouver