CALIFORNIA IN THE CIVIL WAR
Sean T. Malis State Park Interpreter I
California and the
rest of the Pacific and Southwest played
an important and largely ignored role
in securing the region for the Union
during the Civil War. When discussing
the War in the Pacific, I often encounter
the opinion that "nothing happened
in the Pacific States." I've even
been told, "The Civil War in California?!
California wasn't even a state!" Wrong!
Since statehood (September 9, 1850),
Californians had formed many a volunteer
and militia company, mostly in the
northern part of the State to combat
a perceived Indian threat. These militia
units, along with the Regular Army,
helped to form a sense of order and
authority in a new state with a rapidly
expanding citizenry resulting from
the "Gold Rush."
In Lincoln's initial
call for 75,000 volunteers to quell
the secessionist uprising in the South,
the State of California was not asked
to supply any troops. But by July 24,
1861, California was asked to provide
one regiment of infantry and five companies
of cavalry to guard the overland mail.
A second request for California volunteers
was sent on August 14, 1861. This request
was responsible for the 2nd through
5th Infantry, and the 2nd Cavalry Regiments.
In 1863, and again in 1864, further
calls produced three more infantry
regiments, and a battalion of native
(Californios) cavalry from the Santa
Barbara and Los Angeles areas. All
total, California provided 17,500 troops
for the Union, more troops per capita
than any other state.
Early in the war,
California Volunteers in Federal service
helped to take over responsibilities
from the Regular Army that was being
recalled to the East. Californians
served along the entire western coast
from Washington Territory to the Mexican
state of Sonora, and campaigned as
far east as Utah and Texas and throughout
New Mexico and Arizona Territories.
The Californians primary enemy was
the Indian and the environment. They
did meet and close with Confederate
troops in the Southwest as part of
the "California Column." The
California Volunteers served their
country from July, 1861 to January,
1867, when the last troops were mustered
out of service.
2ND INFANTRY REGIMENT
From the August, 1861 request
for troops, the 2nd California
Volunteer Infantry was formed.
Colonel Francis J. Lippitt was
appointed as commander of the regiment.
Lippitt had been a member of Stevenson's
1st New York Volunteers that came
to California in 1846 to help wrest
California away from Mexico in
the Mexican-American War.
The 2nd Regiment was first organized
at the Presidio in San Francisco.
After completing its organization,
five companies were sent to Northern
California, Oregon and Washington
Territory to relieve Regular troops,
while two companies were sent to
Santa Barbara. Most of the companies
were organized from San Francisco,
Cal. and Carson City, Nev., with
the earliest enlistments having
been made on September 2, 1861.
Company G was first organized on
September 21, 1861, at a meeting
held in the theater at Angels Camp,
Cal., by Captain William W. Stuart.
On October 9, 1861, the company
arrived in San Francisco where
more men joined, the company being
officially mustered into service
on November 29, 1861. Company G
spent the next month in camp at
Camp Sumner at the Presidio, moving
to Alcatraz Island on December
20, 1861. On March 8, 1862, Company
G set sail for Crescent City on
board the steamer Oregon. Upon
reaching Crescent City, the company
marched to Fort Ter-Waw and then
to Camp Lincoln where it would
remain until being ordered to report
to Benicia [near San Francisco]
on June 16, 1863.
At Benicia, Company G traded its
old M/1816 converted smoothbores
for new M1855/1861 Springfield
rifles. The company remained at
Benicia for two months until it
received orders to march southward
through the San Joaquin Valley
to Camp Babbitt in Visalia, on
August 12, 1863. On its march south,
the company passed through Camp
Stanford and Fort Miller, now under
Lake Millerton near Fresno.
Company G reached Camp Babbitt on
August 28, 1863, where it was garrisoned
for just over three months, and
then was ordered to Fort Tejon,
arriving there on January 16, 1864,
one day after Company B.
Company B was first mustered into
United States service on September
5, 1861 in San Francisco, Cal.
The company remained in San Francisco
only a short time before being
shipped to Washington Territory
on September 17, 1861. In Washington
Territory, the company concerned
itself with Indian trouble until
July 31, 1862 when it arrived back
in San Francisco. The company was
sent to Alcatraz Island for only
3 days before being sent to Fort
Humbolt in Northern California
on August 3, 1862.
Company B was engaged in chasing
after Indians in Klamath and Humbolt
counties for almost a year. Their
scouting missions took them through
the most rugged of terrain and the
company was employed in hacking out
a 15 mile road through this wilderness.
On June 15, 1863 the company sailed
on the steamer Panama for Benicia,
where the company was rearmed and
refitted before marching for Fort
Miller in route to Fort Tejon. The
company marched 60 miles from Fort
Miller to Camp Babbitt in only two
days, arriving at the latter on December
30, 1863. Company B finally arrived
at Fort Tejon on January 15, 1864
after marching 140 miles in six days.
Fort Tejon was founded in 1854
on Grapevine Creek, 17 miles from
its originally intended location
on Tejon Creek. Maj. Donaldson
of the 1st U.S. Dragoons selected
the site for the new Fort at its
present location because of the
ready availability of water, fuel
and forage. Originally called Camp
Canada de las Uvas for the wild
grapes in the area, it was officially
christened Fort Tejon, (Tejon meaning
Badger in Spanish), over the objection
of Brevet Lt. Col. Benjamin L.
Beall, 1st Dragoons, who suggested "Fort
Le Beck," after a trapper
who had been killed by a bear there.
The primary purpose of the garrison
at Fort Tejon was to protect and
control the Indians on the Sebastian
Indian Reservation, and to control
the major north-south road through
Grapevine Canyon. Fort Tejon was
garrisoned by various companies
of the 1st Dragoons, and briefly
from late 1857 to 1858 by a detachment
of the 3rd Artillery, serving as
infantry. In December, 1856, the
regimental headquarters of the
1st Dragoons was moved from Fort
Union, New Mexico Terr., to Fort
Tejon, where it remained until
the post was abandoned on June
15, 186 1.
The rapidly expanding war in the
eastern United States forced the
government to recall the Army to
the new seat of hostilities as
fast as possible. This need for
troops back in the East along with
a growing fear of prosecessionist
activities in the Los Angeles and
San Bernardino areas, ultimately
forced the closure of Fort Tejon.
|FORT TEJON AND THE
As discussed above, much of the
Californians' time was concerned
with battling the so-called Indian
menace. In 1863, it was deemed
necessary to reoccupy Fort Tejon.
On July 24, 1863, Fort Tejon was
regarrisoned by Companies D and
G of the 2nd California Cavalry
under the command of Capt. James
The 2nd Cavalry reactivated Fort
Tejon with approximately 300 Paiute
Indians camping near the Post.
When the Paiutes were forcibly
marched from the Owens Valley by
the 2nd Cav., they numbered 1000,
a third of them being sent to Fort
Tejon. The Indians were kept in
a camp down Grapevine Canyon from
the Fort called the "Pot Holes." After
the arrival of the 2nd Infantry,
the garrison provided the Paiutes
with a meager ration to keep them
in place and to keep them from
starving [which the Volunteers
were not supposed to do; Capt.
Schmidt satisfied headquarters
by deeming the rations for "Prisoners
The government Indian Bureau agents
refused to assume responsibility
for their care.
As the two Infantry companies settled
into their new home, their time
was occupied at repairing and maintaining
the Fort's buildings that had fallen
into disrepair during the two years
that the post had been abandoned.
There were frequent patrols mounted
from the Fort to keep track of
unruly whites and to maintain control
over the Paiutes encamped nearby.
There were always duties to perform
in the garrison relating to the
maintenance of the Fort. There
was wood to be hauled and cut,
rations to be prepared, inspections
and endless drills on the parade
ground. In short, Army life.
Life at Fort Tejon was dismal to
say the least. 1st. Sgt. Curtis
Greenleaf, Co. G, complained in
his journal that Fort Tejon was
worthless because the local town
was devoid of a whorehouse. Of
some intrigue, however, Pvt. James
Anderson of Co. B, was murdered
one evening while returning from
a night out in town. The investigation
turned up one James Conrad, Co.
G, as a suspect, but the subsequent
court martial could not confirm
Company G left Fort Tejon on June
4, 1864 for Drum Barracks in Wilmington.
Fort Tejon would finally be closed
when Company B left the post on
September 11, 1864, ending the
last period of military occupation
of the Post, lasting from 1854
After serving at Fort Tejon, Companies
B & G were ordered to Arizona
Territory, from August, 1865 until
March 31, 1866. The two companies
were mustered out at the Presidio,
San Francisco, May 10, 1866.
|UNIFORMS OF THE 2ND
When the War broke
out, the State of California had
no plan for providing its volunteers
with uniforming and equipment. In
fact, the State's adjutantgeneral
could not even account for the arms
and equipment that had been issued
to the pre-war militia organizations.
The Federal government had to open
up its Arsenal at Benicia to the
This evidence, along with photographs
of California Volunteers, would
suggest that the 2nd Infantry
wore the standard regulation
A letter from the quartermaster at
Camp Babbitt asking what to do
with surplus property of the 2nd
• Metallic Scales, mostly broken
o Knapsacks, M1858
• Tin canteens and cloth straps,
Some of these items would suggest
that the regiment had the full
dress uniform at Fort Tejon.
PERTINENT LEADERS IN 1864
John C. Schmidt (Co. B)
| Co. G
|| l st
Lieut. John E. Hill
F. Low (Repub.; `63- )
A. McDougall (Douglas Dem.;
|| John Conness (Union
Zoeth S., History of California,
Kibbe, William C., Adjutant-General.
Annual Report Of The Adjutant
General Of The State Of California.
Orton, Brig. Gen'l. Richard H., Records
Of California Men In The War Of
The Rebellion, 1861 To 1867., 1890.
Rodgers, Fred B. "Early Military
Posts of Del Norte County," California
Historical Society Quarterly, Vol.
Stammerjohan, George, Fort Tejon
State Historic Park, A Short Interpretive
Stammerjohan, George, State Historian
II. Numerous conversations and
readings of his monographs.