California in the Civil War

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California in the American Civil War

California and the Civil War (1861-1865)

California (1861-1865), part 2

The fruits of so much devotion to the cause of secession and in-
triguing for its promotion are manifested in the securing of
certain timid and ease-loving classes, hailing from free states,
styling themselves Union men, but opposed to the war. Thus
is secession consummated. Another class, by no means small,
powerful through its wealth, has affiliated with the disunionists
to avoid and oppose paying a pittance towards maintaining the
integrity of the government in its hour of trial. The native Span-
ish race have been persuaded that all real estate complications
will meet prompt adjustment at the hands of another organiza-
tion ; and the unwarranted doubts, difficulties and delays that
have characterized the administrative branch of the government
in the final adjustment of titles under Mexican grants furnish
an argument to ignorant men that human ingenuity cannot an-
swer. * * * The special object of this extraordinary ef-
fort is to carry the state election, which takes place one week from
to-day, Sept. 4. In this campaign the Union voters are unfor-
tunately divided, and the best devised plans have failed to unite
them. The secessionists, the Douglas party, and the Republi-
cans have each a full ticket in the field, and we are overwhelmed
with apprehensions lest the enemies of our country may triumph.
Should such be the case, civil strife would be forced upon our
loyal population, and the most prosperous state in the Union
would be desolated and destroyed. * * * We need not re-
mind you of the vast importance of preserving California to the
Union. Its great geographical extent, its mineral and agricul-
tural wealth, the fact that it is our chief seat of empire upon the
Pacific, and that its political action will exercise a powerful, if
not controlling influence upon its neighbors at the North, im-
peratively demand that no precaution should be neglected to in-
sure its fidelity. We need only appeal to the examples furnished
"by Missouri, and even Virginia, to show that the efforts of a
comparatively small number of audacious and unscrupulous men
are sufficient to precipitate an unwilling population into disunion,
or at least to inaugurate civil war. If, unfortunately, from the
causes we have mentioned, the secession minority in this state
should obtain control, you will at once perceive with what power
for mischief it would be armed, and how imminent is our danger.
To retain a state in its allegiance is a thousandfold more easy
than to overcome disloyalty affecting to act under state authority.
Nothing will more certainly check treasonable attempts than a
conviction of their hopelessness. To deprive us of the military
support of the government at this time is to hold out a direct
encouragement to traitors. We beg most earnestly to remind
you that in our case an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of
This letter had the desired effect, and the expedition against
Texas was abandoned. Conditions in California were doubtless
somewhat exaggerated in the above appeal, but there was a good
deal of basis for much that was contained in the letter. The re-
flection on the governor's loyalty, however, was quite uncalled
for, as Gov. Downey seems to have done his full duty and gave
no evidence of sympathy with the southern cause. The officers
appointed and commissioned by him in the volunteer service of
the state were loyal to the government and remained faithful in
every position in which they were placed.
After the abandonment of the Texas expedition, Sumner,
much to the regret of all loyal men, was ordered east, being suc-
ceeded by Brig.-Gen. George Wright, colonel of the 9th U. S.
infantry. The California troops were distributed at various
points over the state. The regulars, with the exception of the
9th infantry and four companies of the 3d artillery, were ordered
east. After the conquest of New Mexico in 1861 by the enemy
under Gen. H. H. Sibley, the California column, so called, con-
sisting of the 1st cavalry (five cos.), 1st infantry, 5th infantry,
and a light battery of the 3d artillery, all under command of
Brig-Gen. James H. Carleton, was formed to reinforce the Union
troops in New Mexico. The region now known as Arizona was
included at that time in New Mexico, and the California author-
ities feared that if the enemy became permanently established
there they would use the region as a base from which to organ-
ize an expedition for the invasion of California. Consequently
the California column assembled at Fort Yuma in April, 1862,
and marched across the desert as far as the Rio Grande, the
enemy fleeing before its advance into Texas. Carleton's column
reopened the southern overland mail route and reoccupied the
military posts in Arizona, southern New Mexico and northwest-
ern Texas. On June 8, 1862, in conformity with the action of
Congress, Carleton issued a proclamation organizing the Terri-
tory of Arizona from a portion of New Mexico.
During the early months of the war there was much discus-
sion in the public prints concerning the propriety of maintain-
ing a coast guard and training artillerymen. It was urged that
the fortifications at Alcatraz and Fort Point were inadequate
to defend the harbor of San Francisco, that one of the enemy's
privateers might easily pass them and work irreparable damage
to the city. Temporary water batteries and fortifications were
suggested to the legislature, but nothing came of the discussion.
The presence of an occasional armed vessel of the United States
in the Pacific afforded some protection. Later the government
sent out two cruisers for the protection of the coast and also
despatched to San Francisco an iron monitor in sections, to be
put together by a local firm, but such a long delay ensued before
the monitor was put in commission she was never of any service
to the state or to the coast. During the progress of the war
several plots to fit out armed cruisers, such as the Chapman af-
fair in 1863, were frustrated by discovery, as were various
schemes to surprise and capture the arsenal at Benicia, the forts
at Fort Point and Alcatraz, and the Mare island navy-yard.
Leland Stanford, one of the founders of the Republican party
in California, was elected governor in Sept., 1861, by a plurality
of 23,285, over his opponents, John Conness, the nominee of the
Union Democrats, John R. McConnell, the candidate of the
Breckenridge Democrats, and a full Republican state ticket was
chosen at the same time. Union Democrats rallied to the sup-
port of the Republican ticket, as the people wanted to make sure
of a Union governor and prevent any attempts at revolution in
the state. In 1862 the Republican party came out as the Union
party and invited all loyal men to join its ranks. The Con-
gressmen elected by the Republicans in 1861 were Aaron A.
Sargent, Timothy G. Phelps and Frederick F. Low, the first
named being one of the founders of Republicanism in California.
Said Gov. Stanford in his inaugural message: "California has
nobly and wisely pronounced in favor of the cause of the people.
Let her prove her devotion to the Union and to civil liberty by
doing all in her power to maintain both. Let her part of the
national tax be cheerfully assumed and provision be made for its
payment out of the state treasury. Every one of us should feel
that we are but guardians, holding our lives and our fortunes
in trust for the protection of the government, around which
cluster the anxious hopes and fears of millions who have grown
with its growth and strengthened with its strength. The citizens
of California are, by birth, the representatives of all parts of the
Union, and are naturally imbued with more or less of local sym-
pathies. Let us be as tolerant and charitable of opinion as pos-
sible, but none should ever forget that California is one of the
United States ; that she is loyal to the Union; that her citizens
have quite unmistakably declared their devotion to our national
unity, their recognition of the supremacy of the national gov-
ernment, and their determination to maintain both inviolate.
Every citizen of California must remember his duty, and, re-
membering, discharge it faithfully. His fellow-citizens are now
in the field, armed against traitors and treason, and for the pres-
ervation of the Union and the national government. The whole
power of the state should, if necessary, be wielded to encourage,
support, and sustain these patriotic citizens and their compatriots.
Let treason meet a just and speedy punishment, and may we
soon, as I doubt not we shall, see peace restored to our beloved
Union, our institutions more firmly implanted than ever, and sus-
tained by a national sentiment that shall pervade every section of
our country. The new administration enters upon the discharge
of its duties at a momentous period of our nation's history. I
confidently trust there will be concert of action in all the de-
partments of our state government to strengthen the arm of the
Federal power, and also in whatever will tend to advance the in-
terests of our state."
The legislative session of 1861-62 was a long one. Among the
concurrent resolutions passed was one renewing California's
pledge of loyalty, and another authorizing the governor to notify
by telegraph the secretary of the United States treasury of the
state's intention to pay at once the direct tax of $254,538, ap-
portioned to the state by Congress, as her share of the interest
on the public debt. It further authorized the payment out of
the state treasury of large sums to meet the cost of recruiting,
maintaining and equipping the state's volunteers. Party lines
were practically abolished in 1862, Republicans and loyal Dem-
ocrats uniting under the name of Unionists. In the legislature
chosen this year the supporters of the government had an over-
whelming majority. Constitutional amendments were also adopt-
ed by the people, increasing the governor's term of office to four
years, making the legislative sessions biennial, and changing the
state's judicial system, all of which were confirmed by the legis-
lature of 1863. In his message to the legislature Jan. 5, 1863,
Gov. Stanford reviewed the financial condition of the state; rec-
ommended the organization, arming and equipment of an ef-
ficient militia force; and the adoption of a provision allowing
volunteers in the field to vote. In conformity to the last recom-
mendation the legislature passed an act requiring the adjutant-
general of the state to make out a list of the names of volunteers
in the U. S. service, from which separate lists should be sent to
the commander of each regiment in camp, with ballot-boxes, to
enable the soldiers to vote in the elections of 1863. The law
was reviewed by the courts and declared unconstitutional, but
the legislature renewed the act in 1864, and it was not again
questioned. Among the military measures enacted by the legis-
lature of 1863 were the following: Appropriating $24,260, saved
to the state treasury by paying the federal tax in legal tender
notes instead of the gold collected, to aid in filling the volunteer
regiments with recruits; appropriating $5,000 out of the general
fund for the relief of Col. Roderick Matheson, killed at Cramp-
ton's gap in the fall of 1862; appropriating $100,000 to provide
more efficient coast defenses; setting aside a fund of $600,000,
to be known as the Soldiers' Relief Fund, to be used as an addi-
tional compensation to volunteers in the U. S. service over and
above their regular pay; a law to permit soldiers in the field to
vote, already mentioned; an act declaring secession flags and
insignia a nuisance, to be abated by the sheriff and destroyed;
making the arming and equipping of vessels for piratical pur-
poses a felony; excluding secessionists and alien enemies from
courts of justice; requiring attorneys to take an oath to support
the constitution of the United States and the state of California,
and making denunciation of the government or wishing evil, to it
a criminal abuse of the freedom of speech. Resolutions were also
passed thanking Col. Connor and the volunteers of the 2nd Cal.
cavalry for their gallant action at Bear river, Utah. It renewed
its pledge of loyalty once more; expressed regret at the death of
Sumner, "by whose prompt and decisive action the state was
saved from anarchy, and the horrors of civil war;" and finally,
it approved the emancipation proclamation of President Lincoln
and pledged the state in its support. In only one thing was the
state recalcitrant, and that was in its refusal to accept U. S. legal
tender as money. In common with the states of Oregon and Ne-
vada, it passed specific-contract laws, which were finally upheld
by the Federal courts, and the rule of law was laid down that a
contract to pay in any kind of legal tender was valid, whether
written or not. The people of the state also took exception to
the tax upon the products of the mines, despite the fact that the
mineral lands belonged to the government, asserting that the
state furnished the gold to sustain the nation's credit and that
the tax must necessarily prove embarrassing. Nevertheless, they
promptly paid the tax of one-half of one per cent, upon gold and
silver bullion levied in 1864, out of motives of loyalty.
The patriotism of the people was displayed in various ways.
For instance when a member of the legislature introduced a
bill to exclude colored persons from the state by constitutional
amendment, the chairman of the committee to which it was re-
ferred reported it back with an amendment excluding traitors,
the report stating, "It is self-evident that if it is necessary or
proper to exclude any class of people from the state, it is, first
and above all, those entirely overlooked in the bill, but described
in the amendment — those of bloody hands and black hearts, and
therefore your committee recommends its passage as amended."
The legislature of 1863 elected John Conness, Union Democrat,
to the United States senate to succeed Latham, who was charged
with failure to support the administration and no longer truly
represented his state. Under the provisions of the amended
constitution the state election of 1863 was regarded as highly
important. The governor was to be chosen for four years, an
entire corps of state officers, a new bench of supreme justices
to hold office for ten years, and a legislature were to be elected.
The sessions of the new legislature were to be biennial, the term
of the senators elect to be four years, of the assemblymen two
years, and the legislature was to meet in December of the odd
years, 1863, 1865, etc. It was certain that those opposed to the
vigorous prosecution of the war, called by their more loyal op-
ponents "copperheads," would make a strong effort to carry the
state election. In view of the length of the war, the necessity for
a draft, the Union reverses, and the tremendous strain on the re-
sources of the country resulting from the gigantic military op-
erations, there was much to justify the fear of the administration
element in the state that the lukewarm element might control the
situation, which would give them an advantage the following
year in the presidential campaign, with the momentous issues
involved. Fortunately these fears were not realized and were
really never justified, as the copperhead faction in California
never attained to the strength it displayed in many of the older
states. Frederick F. Low, Union candidate for governor, re-
ceived a majority of 19,831 over John G. Downey, his Demo-
cratic opponent, and the rest of the Union state ticket received
majorities of about 20,000. The legislature chosen at the same
time had a Union majority on joint ballot of 94. The state elec-
tion occurred Sept. 3, and on Oct. 25, the special election of the
judiciary took place, resulting in another overwhelming victory
for the Union candidates. All the public servants of the state
were now of recognized loyal tendencies and could be relied upon
to support the national government in every emergency. Gov.
Low was a native of Maine, an ex-Congressman, and when elect-
ed was holding the position of collector of the port of San Fran-

When the legislature met Dec. 7, 1863, it passed a number
of important military measures. An investigation was held to
ascertain the cause of the destruction by fire of the carriages of
7 guns furnished the state by the Federal authorities, and an ap-
propriation of $3,000 was made to remount the guns. Increased
defenses were asked of the Federal government for the harbor
of Monterey. It remitted the poll-tax of $2 each to volunteers,
granted a bounty of $160 to all who enlisted thereafter for three
years or during the war, and an additional sum of $140 to re-
enlisted veterans. State bonds to the amount of $2,000,000 were
authorized to meet these obligations and provision was made for
their redemption by a tax of 12 cents levied on each $100 of val-
uation of real and personal property in the state, estimated at
$174,000,000. The generosity of the people at this time will be
recognized in view of the fact that the state was then paying
two per cent, monthly on a large part of its current expenditures.
In a message on the finances of the state, Gov. Low estimated the
total debt of the state on Jan. i, 1864, at $5,365,640.71. This
included the soldiers' bounty bonds, but did not embrace the debt
on the Indian war bonds and the donation to the Pacific railroad.
Adding these, the whole debt was $6,084,509.25.
During the latter part of the war, when the government freely
resorted to the draft in order to secure the necessary quotas for
the Union armies, there was much bitter opposition and harsh
criticism of the dominant party's conduct of the war. The cop-
perheads gained strength in politics rapidly in the Eastern states,
and even in California, where there was no draft, as the state's
volunteers were in excess of all demands, the peace-on-any-terms
party was much in evidence. The presidential campaign devel-
oped into one of considerable bitterness and the disloyal ele-
ments in the state were never more outspoken than in 1864. They
were encouraged by the disloyal, anti-administration represent-
atives of the press, such as the Democratic Press of San Fran-
cisco, conducted by Beriah Brown, a Vermonter, the Marysville
Express, Stockton Beacon, Merced Democrat, Napa Pacific
Echo, Tulare Post, Equal Rights Expositor, and several other
papers secretly engaged in aiding the Confederate cause. In the
southern counties of the state the copperheads completely con-
trolled the primaries and resorted to numerous unfair devices to
elect their delegates. Another important factor, especially in the
rural districts, was the Methodist church, south. This church,
while nominally a religious organization pure and simple, was
almost completely made up of those opposed to the war and the
administration, and was strong in its pro-slavery leanings. When
one of its prominent officials. Bishop Kavanaugh of Georgia, en-
tered California armed with a pass from the Confederate au-
thorities, he was arrested on suspicion, but was soon released on
his assertion that he came only on church business and would
gladly take the oath of loyalty.
The Union party held its convention in March, 1864, and chose
as delegates to the national Republican convention at Baltimore,
Thompson Campbell, M. C. Briggs, John Bidwell and Phineas
Banning, as delegates at large; Robert Gardiner, Nathan Coombs,
William Ritter, O. H. Bradbury, James Otis, and William S.
McMurty, as district delegates. The delegation was instructed
to cast its vote for Abraham Lincoln. The Democratic conven-
tion met in May and elected as delegates at large to the conven-
tion at Chicago four ex-governors — John B. Weller, John G.
Downey, John McDougall and H. W. Bigler. McDougall de-
clined and Thomas Hayes was substituted. The district delegates
were C. L. Weller, William J. Whipple, J. B. Stevens, Clayton
Wetherill, J. J. Berry and C. D. Semple. The news that Lincoln
was nominated awakened great enthusiasm, and when, after a
memorable campaign, the people learned of his great majority
in the state over McClellan, followed by the news of a sweeping
Republican victory throughout the Union, there was widespread
rejoicing. In the city of San Francisco a great procession of
4,000 citizens moved through the principal streets, singing patri-
otic songs, while windows and balconies were filled with women,
waving flags and handkerchiefs. Similar scenes were enacted
elsewhere in the state. California elected three members of Con-
gress at this time — Donald C. McRuer, William Higby and John
Bidwell — all Union Republicans.
After the close of the war a part of the California troops re-
mained in the service performing garrison duty at various posts
and guarding routes of travel until Jan. 4, 1867, when the last
of the volunteer troops were mustered out. With the exception
of those enlisted for Massachusetts, none of the California forces
were able to participate in any of the great battles of the war,
though it may be truly said that they rendered services equal in
importance to those rendered by the soldiers from the other states.
They had been engaged in numerous fights with Indians and
small forces of Confederate troops on the frontiers, in Texas and
Mexico, and they were uniformly victorious, A grateful people
will ever hold their citizen soldiers in cherished remembrance.
When the volunteers in the service of the United States were
mustered out, some eighty odd militia companies formed to serve
in their localities as required, or to respond to a call from the
governor, were disbanded. In 1866 the legislature designated
all the organized uniformed troops in the state as the national
guard of the state of California.
That rebellion never gained a sure, foothold in California, and
that civil war was never inaugurated within its limits, was due
in great measure to the generals in command of the Department
of the Pacific — Sumner, Wright and McDowell. When in the
early months of the war the government was withdrawing from
the Pacific coast regiment after regiment of regular troops, Sum-
ner and Wright raised up others from the people, inspired them
with the training and discipline of the regular forces they dis-
placed, and intrusted them with the protection of half the public
domain, together with its inhabitants. From the volunteer ranks
in California a number of appointments were made to the regu-
lar army, notably Stephen G. Whipple, Thomas F. Wright, Rob-
ert Pollock, Ambrose E. Hooker, Samuel Smith, A. Starr, and
several others. Gen. Irwin McDowell superseded Gen. Wright
in June, 1864, and displayed the same admirable tact and soldierly
qualities as his predecessors. All seditious uprisings and utter-
ances were repressed by him with a stern hand, while his voice
was also raised in reproof and warning to check the righteous
and natural, but disorderly and illegal acts of the people, when
the news of Lincoln's assassination was received.
The city of San Francisco was rejoicing in common with all
loyal people over the Union victories on that memorable 15th of
April, 1865, when the intelligence of Lincoln's assassination was
received. From a city of joy and gladness it was suddenly trans-
formed into one of gloom and unutterable sadness. The nation's
chief had been stricken down by traitor hands in the hour of
victory. Says Bancroft: "But soon hot blood began to stir. Ter-
rible denunciations and threats of retribution passed from quiv-
ering lip to lip. Nothing more fitting could be thought of than
that those newspapers which had encouraged treason should be
destroyed, and to this work the people lent themselves with a
will. Four years of patient tolerance of too great freedom of
speech was revenged by demolishing a number of newspaper
offices. It was a spontaneous expression which was not checked
until the Democratic Press, owned by Beriah Brown; the Occi-
dental, owned by Zachariah Montgomery; the Monitor, a disloyal,
Catholic journal, owned by T. A. Brady; the Franco- Americaine,
and the News Letter, were destroyed. The Echo du Pacifique
would have received the same treatment but for the fact of its
press being in the Alta building, which would have shared in the
loss. As soon as possible the military were called out to assist
the police in suppressing the riot, but only a few arrests were
made. Public feeling would not condemn the demonstration,
although to prevent bloodshed it was necessary to check the pro-
ceedings. Addresses were made by McDowell and others, and
5,000 men were placed under arms to patrol the streets. By the
next morning quiet was restored. But public confidence was
much shaken. It was feared that the war would be reopened in
the east, where it was confidently expected the loyal troops would
avenge the president's death by the slaughter of Confederates.
Greenback currency, the national barometer, went down to thirty-
three. Before the 20th, however, when the obsequies of the
president were to be celebrated, the people had been brought
back from their implicit reliance on one man to realize that the
government was not of men, but of laws, and that irreparable
as was their loss, the nation remained, and the laws would be
executed. Then they paid their last sad tribute of respect and
love in a grand funeral pageant, in which the whole city partici-
pated amid the tolling of bells, the booming of guns, the measured
beating of muffled drums, and the music of bands playing solemn
marches. Fourteen thousand people were said to have been in
the procession which followed the catafalque to the Mechanics'
pavilion, where the literary services were conducted. Among
these were the reading of Lincoln's second inaugural address,
the devotional tenor of which made it peculiarly appropriate to
the time and scene; Horatio Stebbins, Starr King's successor in
the Unitarian pulpit, delivered the address; Frank Soule read
an original poem; the Bianchi opera troupe rendered an anthem ;
but the most thrilling effect was produced when all the thousands
present sang in chorus the Battle Cry of Freedom, as it had not
been sung since that night in November when it celebrated the
triumph of the nation's chief at the polls. It was a happy augury
then; it was the revival of hope now."
The splendid work undertaken by the United States sanitary
commission received cordial recognition and liberal financial sup-
port from the people of California throughout the war. The
total sum of their contributions from first to last amounted to
$1,234,257. The first steps taken in aid of the commission were
in 1862, when a few persons in San Francisco subscribed $6,600
in one evening, and arrangements were made to systematize the
work of collecting funds. The board of supervisors took hold
of the matter and at a public meeting held on Sept. 10, 1862, a
committee of 5 citizens, M. C. Blake, Eugene Casserly, R. G.
Sneath, D. C. McRuer, and S. G. Washburn, was appointed. This
committee was later enlarged to 13. By the middle of the month
it had collected and remitted in one bill of exchange the sum of
$160,000. By the end of the month another $100,000 was sent,
and this sum was duplicated before the close of the year. The
liberal spirit displayed by the people on the Pacific coast gave a
great impetus to the work of the commission, which soon de-
veloped into a great institution, whose labors were of the utmost
assistance to the government in the prosecution of the war. The
generosity of California, thus early displayed, continued during
the war and was exceeded by no other state in the Union. When
the president of the commission, W. Bellows, visited San Fran-
cisco in 1864 and addressed the people the great sum of $200,000
was subscribed and paid to him.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 4


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