California in the American Civil War

California in the American Civil War

California's involvement in the American Civil War included sending gold east, recruiting or funding a limited number of combat units, maintaining numerous fortifications, and sending troops east, some of whom became famous.

Republican supporters of Lincoln took control of the state in 1861, minimizing the influence of the large southern population. Their great success was in obtaining a Pacific railroad land grant and authorization to build the Central Pacific as the western half of the transcontinental railroad.

California was settled primarily by Midwestern and Southern farmers, miners and businessmen. Though the southerners tended to favor the Confederacy, the state did not have slavery, and they were generally powerless during the war itself. California was home for powerful businessmen who played a significant role in Californian politics through their control of mines, shipping, and finance, and the Republican Party. The possibility of splitting off Southern California as a territory (not a state) was rejected by the national government, and the idea was dead by 1861 when a fervor of patriotism swept California after the attack on Fort Sumter.

From Statehood to the Civil War

When California was admitted as a state in 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. However, some people in lightly populated, rural Southern California wanted territorial status, or at least separation from Northern California.

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.Johannsen, Robert W. . "Lincoln, the South, and Slavery: The Political Dimension", Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991).] [ Popular vote in 1860] ]

Eighty-eight violent incidents of various sizes were fought in California, many of them against outlaws trying to capture gold for their own benefit. (No captured gold was sent to the Confederacy.) Most of the fights were guerrilla battles, or in the terminology of the day, battles with "partisan rangers." Indeed, a few men left the guerrillas under the command of the ruthless school teacher, William Quantrill, in Missouri, and came to California to train supporters there. One partisan warrior, Dan Showalter, once robbed a stagecoach of all its gold, leaving a receipt behind with the driver to keep him out of trouble with his bosses. The westernmost attack related to the Civil War occurred just outside downtown San Jose. A bronze historical plaque marking the site identifies it as a battle with "outlaws," rather than a battle of the American Civil War.

Civil War Era forts

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.

New forts were founded to protect ports, defend against the Indians, and to hold Confederate soldiers and sympathizers, such as the Drum Barracks, in San Pedro Bay [ [ Historic California Posts: Fort MacArthur - Military Museum] ] and at Two Harbors on Catalina Island.

The coastal fortifications of San Pedro, and the San Diego and San Francisco Bays were also important. San Pedro was protected by the Drum Barracks. In San Francisco, Fort Point was built at the edge of the Presidio, as well as Fort Baker on the Marin Headlands. 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 Fort McDowell on Angel Island.

Fort Tejon had been the headquarters of the First U.S. Dragoons until those regular army troops were transferred to the East in July 1861 upon the outbreak of war. Fort Tejon lies in the Grapevine Canyon ("La Cañada de las Uvas"), protecting the San Joaquin Valley from the south and east. The fort was re-occupied by California volunteer troops in 1863 and then was abandoned for good on September 11, 1864. Fort Tejon is now the site of Civil War reenactments presented by the Fort Tejon Historical Association. [Fort Tejon State Historic Park pamphlet, State of California, Department of Parks & Recreation, Sacramento, California, 1991.]

There was Fort Miller in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Fresno County; Los Angeles had Fort Moore; San Diego County had Camp Wright; Fort Yuma was on the Colorado River, Fort Bragg was on the Mendocino County coast and Camp Babbitt outside the town of Visalia, in Tulare County.

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. Fort Humboldt, established to assist maintain peace between the Native Americans and new settlers was briefly commanded by Ulysses S. Grant prior to the 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. A number of state militias disbanded and went east. Therefore, the state dispensed with the usual military practice of mustering militia companies into regiments. Volunteers maintained military posts vacated by the regular army units that were ordered east. Several companies did offer their services and were accepted by the Union Army.

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 on 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, 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.

The units recruited for service inside California included two full regiments and one battalion of cavalry, eight full regiments of infantry, and one battalion of infantry called mountaineers. The California Troops, known as the California Column, were under the command of General James H. Carleton and were composed of the 1st Regiment of Cavalry, 1st Battalion of Native Cavalry, and the 1st, 5th and 7th Infantry Regiments, which served in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

The 2nd Regiment of California Cavalry and the 3rd Regiment of California Infantry under P. Edward Connor kept the overland route to California open. As a matter of Connor's proactive style, he led these troops to attack and massacre Shoshoni Indians at the Bear River Massacre Site in what is now Idaho, on January 29, 1863.
* [ "The J.P. Gillis Flag, or the 'Biderman' Flag of California"] article from the August 27, 2002 issue of "The Vidette", the newsletter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, California Division.

ee also

* History of California to 1899
*California State Military Museum

External links

* [ California Military Museum]
* [ Snakes in the Grass: Copperheads in Contra Costa?]
* [ San Diego in the Civil War]
* [ Copperheads, Secesh Men, and Confederate Guerillas]
* [ San Francisco in the Civil War]


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