Monday, December 23, 2019

The Great Eggnog Riot of 1826

Also known as the Great Grog Mutiny, the riot at the U.S. Army's Military Academy in West Point, New York, began on Christmas Eve in 1826. What was it over, you ask? Well, eggnog and whiskey!

Because of the large number of small dairy farms in America at the time, there was a steady supply of milk, cream, and eggnog during Christmas. It's said that eggnog was a particular favorite of early Americans, as it is today. Of course, spiked eggnog is also a favorite of many people today, just as it was back in the day. One well-known eggnog fan, who was also known to add copious amounts of rum, sherry, brandy, and whiskey, was none other than George Washington.

As for the Great Eggnog Riot of 1826, it really was an actual riot. Yes, among Army cadets. 

It resulted from a large amount of whiskey being smuggled into the academy a couple of days earlier. It was supposedly used to spike the eggnog of a Christmas party in the North Barracks of the academy. What happened was something that happened in so many other colleges all over the nation, students got drunk.

As for the riot, what happened at West Point was enormous. The scale of the riot was actually incredible. It's said that the riot involved more than a third of all of the cadets by the time it was brought under control on Christmas Day. Imagine that a third of all cadets were involved in the drunken riot. Yes, all because the cadets got drunk on many eggnogs made with smuggled whiskey.

One of the big differences between what took place at West Point and that of other colleges was the actual court-martialing of twenty cadets and the discharge of one active-duty enlisted man. And as for those rioters, a few would become famous in their own right. One was cadet Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, who would become the President of the Confederate States of America. 

Though not court-martialed, it's said that Davis used his family's political influence to sidestep disciplinary actions. Jefferson Davis' disciplinary problems were well known at the academy. Most believe he would have been expelled if his family were not politically connected. Davis would graduate 23rd in a class of 33 in 1828. In the same class at West Point with Davis was future Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston of Kentucky. In the class behind Davis and Johnston were future Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston, Virginia.

By 1826, West Point academy had a faculty and staff of 36 men teaching mathematics, engineering, physics, chemistry, life sciences, and military tactics. There were 260 cadets there, and its superintendent was Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, who took command of the United States Military Academy in 1817.

As for the possession of alcohol there, that was strictly prohibited. Things have always been strict there. Tobacco use and gambling could lead to demerits or even the loss of basic privileges. As for drinking, drunkenness and intoxication were both grounds for expulsion.

The school is said to have had a drinking problem by that time. In fact, according to reports, by 1826, drinking was seen as out of hand. So now, imagine how they took it when the administration told them that their Christmas eggnog would be alcohol-free. That didn't sit well at all with many there. And yes, that's what prompted a few to smuggle whiskey into the school.

It all started on the night of December 22nd, cadets William R. Burnley and Samuel Alexander Roberts, both from Alabama, and Alexander J. Center from New York were at Martin's Tavern. The three had planned to purchase a gallon or more of any kind of booze that they could lay their hands on. They wanted to use it as a base for the eggnog at the Christmas party just two nights later in the North Barracks. They decided to settle on a half-gallon of whiskey if they had to.

In the process of finding whatever they could smuggle into the academy, those three cadets are said to have gotten into a fight with the proprietors of at least one other tavern while at Martin's Tavern. The owner of that other tavern knew the U.S. Army would shutdown his place if they found out he was involved with smuggling any sort of booze into the school.

Earlier that night, Army private James Dougan was on guard duty. He allowed the three cadets to take a boat across the Hudson to smuggle whiskey. As for the duty cadet guard of the day, he was Phillip St. George of Virginia.

When cadets Burnley, Roberts and Center, returned, they successfully found two gallons of whiskey which they snuck into the North Barracks room No. 33. At about the same time, cadet T. M. Lewis of Kentucky showed up with a gallon of rum from Benny's Tavern. He snuck the rum into North Barracks room No. 5.

At the North Barracks, cadets planned their party. Besides their smuggled booze, they gathered stolen food from the mess hall. At the South Barracks, cadets there found out about the Christmas party at the North Barracks.

The Christmas party started with only nine cadets in room No. 28 in the North Barracks. The word swept the academy very soon, and other cadets showed up. Then the party spread to room No. 5. Soon after that, several cadets showed up with another gallon of whiskey.

By 2:00 a.m., there was a large commotion coming from singing and carrying on in the North Barracks. By 3:00 a.m., things had gotten out of hand. At 4:00 a.m, the duty officer, Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock, was awoken by the loud partying a few floors above him.

Hitchcock went to investigate and found cadets drunk on eggnog. He ordered them to their rooms. Then as he went to leave, he heard a second party going on in the room next door. When he went to investigate, he found several drunk cadets. James W.M. "Weems" Berrien of  Georgia, one particular cadet, used his hat to conceal his face.

Hitchcock ordered Berrien to remove the hat, but Berrien refused. When Hitchcock demanded that Berrien show himself, they started arguing. Then when Hitchcock left the room at 4:15 a.m., things got so tense that cadets were heard calling out, "Get your dirks and bayonets! And pistols if you have them. Before this night is over, Hitchcock will be dead!"

In fact, Berrien incited such a rage toward Hitchcock that Berrien's companion cadet William D.C. "Billy" Murdock of the District of Columbia started getting others together to kill Hitchcock. And with their efforts to attack Hitchcock, the Great Eggnog Riot was on!

It's said that anywhere from 80 to 90 cadets took part. And while no one was killed that night, the riot and total chaos resulted in Hitchcock and another officer being assaulted, windows being shattered, doors being demolished, and even banisters being ripped away from stairways. By daylight on Christmas morning, the North Barracks was completely wrecked.

How did Berrien and Murdock influence so many to wreck the North Barracks? Well, it is said that when Captain Hitchcock ordered another officer to fetch the superintendent, some of the drunk cadets thought Hitchcock called for regular troops with their heavy weapons to quell the riot. This made several cadets, many of whom were not drunk, take up arms to defend the North Barracks.

Superintendent Thayer was awoken at 5:00 a.m. by the sound of drums. He immediately ordered his aide to get his second in command. Meanwhile, Captain Hitchcock continued to restore order in the North Barracks while the main rioters were attempting to recruit other rioters with no success.

Captain Hitchcock met with Col. Thayer to report what transpired during the early morning. By this time, Thayer had summoned regular Army troops to assist in getting things under control. When reveille sounded at 6:05 a.m. that morning, U.S. Army troops from the Second Artillery arrived at the North Barracks.

The troops took up positions while hearing the sound of gunfire, windows breaking, and listening to future officers swearing a blue streak while some of the injured cadets screamed in pain. The troops stayed while many rioting cadets kept up their threats to academy officials. Then things started to quiet down, especially as those cadets who were not drunk from the eggnog simply laid down their arms.

Col. Thayer decided not to indict the third of the academy's 260 students involved in the riot. Instead, he chose to target only the worst offenders. With that, 20 cadets were tried and expelled, Army Private Dougan was discharged for dereliction of duty, and the buildings that served as the riot site were completely demolished. In fact, it's said that when new barracks were reconstructed at West Point in the 1840s, the academy actually took special precautions to make any future riot a lot more difficult.

Imagine that. All as a result of making a little too merry at Christmas!

Update: My reader, Bill Schroeder, sent me a recipe for George Washington's Eggnog. He states it makes "a jug of some Riotously good Grog Nog." The gentleman in the picture is Bill Schroeder's great-great-great-great-grandfather, Weems Berrien. 

I've posted it here because it's linked to history, and I love eggnog. And frankly, my friends, after looking at the recipe and directions to make it, I can't wait to give it a try this Christmas.

Tom Correa

Friday, December 20, 2019

One of the Greatest Surprises at Christmas

On December 24th, 1818, the Christmas carol "Silent Night," which was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, was sung for the very first time at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria.

The story goes that a young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the previous year. He wrote the lyrics of the song "Stille Nacht" ("Silent Night") in 1816. It is unknown what inspired Mohr to write the lyrics.

Franz Xaver Gruber was a schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the Christmas Eve mass. The reason for the guitar is that a river flooded and damaged their church organ. The collaboration took place, and the rest is history.

Over the years, because the original manuscript had been lost, Father Mohr's name was lost to time. And while Gruber was known to be the composer, many people assumed that some great composer such as Mozart, or Beethoven came up with the melody. That all changed in 1995 when a manuscript was discovered in Father Mohr's own handwriting. It was dated and states that Mohr wrote the words in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria. That manuscript also shows that the music was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber in 1818. The manuscript is believed to be the only such work in Father Mohr's own handwriting.

By 1859, an Episcopalian priest John Freeman Young who was serving at the Trinity Church, New York City, wrote and published the English translation to the famous song. That translation is what we still sing today.

In 1914, roughly 100,000 British and German troops were involved in an unofficial truce during World War I along the Western Front. Thought British and German troops were dug into their established lines in the region of Ypres, Belgium, and such a truce was not permitted by senior officers, it did take place on Christmas Eve 1914.

The truce began on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1914, when German troops began decorating their trenches for Christmas. Soon, they were noticed placing candles on a tree, then another and another. Then they were heard singing Christmas carols. Most notably, the German troops started singing "Stille Nacht" ("Silent Night"). Imagine being nearly knee-deep in mud in northern France and sing Silent Night.

Well, soon the British troops in trenches across from them, across "No Man's Land," started singing the English version of "Silent Night." After that, troops started shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Then calls came out for troops to cross "No Man's Land" and meet.

That was a dangerous place. As dangerous a place as could have been found in the history of warfare. Snipers regularly tried to take out targets of opportunity. So imagine if you would the bravery it took for the first troops to climb up out of the trenches and make the effort to greet their enemy at Christmas. Such bravery resulted in the men exchanging small gifts such as buttons and coins, food and even clothing.

Soon, the unofficial truce expanded and it allowed the troops to retrieve those recently killed. The dead were returned to back behind their lines by burial parties. And believe it or not, last respects and funerals took place as soldiers from both sides mourned those killed. They did do together. During one such funeral in the middle of "No Man's Land," both German and British troops gathered, read a passage from Psalm 23, and paid respects to those of equal courage.

I read where they had a soccer game or two, but I couldn't find out what they used for a soccer ball since soccer balls weren't in the trenches in World War I. And while the story of the soccer games are widely known, I can't find out how it was done. Because of that, it makes me wonder if it might be more myth than fact.

As I stated before, the truce was not sanctioned by the higher ups. It actually worried the high-ranking officials on both sides. Some were afraid that their men might lose their will to fight. It is said that a German corporal saw the truce as a surrender of sorts. He is known to have said, "Such a thing should not happen in wartime. Have you no German sense of honor left?" That German corporal was Adolf Hitler.

It is said that when the sun set on Christmas Day, that all of the troops returned to their respective trenches. While a few unofficial truces actually lasted until New Year’s Day, in most places on the front the war resumed on December 26th. One report on the resumption stated:

At 8:30 a.m. in Houplines, Captain Charles Stockwell of the 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers fired three shots into the air and raised a flag that read “Merry Christmas.” His German counterpart raised a flag that read “Thank you.” The two men then mounted the parapets, saluted each other and returned to their sodden trenches. Stockwell wrote that his counterpart then “fired two shots in the air—and the war was on again.”

The events of what took place was not reported in newspapers at first. In fact, it was a week later before the public heard about it. The first to report it was The New York Times which published the story on December 31st. Remember, the United States was still neutral at the time. British papers picked it up and immediately printed a number of versions of what took place, many were first-hand accounts from soldiers in the field. Some accounts were from letters sent home to their families.

During the Christmas of 1915, there was no truce -- official or otherwise. In fact, it's said that British Expeditionary Force commander John French issued orders stating that such an unofficial ceasefire should never happen again. As for their resumption of fighting? It would become even more brutal than before, especially with the introduction of mustard gas in 1915. They say that's why the event was not repeated in 1915.

And while the guns of World War I did not finally fall silent again until the signing of the armistice on November 11th, 1918, "The Christmas Truce," as it became known, did in fact provide proof that such a thing was possible. Seen as a sort of Christmas miracle in itself, the guns being extinguished for that brief moment in time gave many a flicker of hope that peace was something that wasn't completely out of reach. Too bad the moment wasn't seized upon, as millions of lives could have been saved.

Tom Correa

Saturday, December 7, 2019

About Darby, Music, Movies, And More

Classic Film Rear Window (1954)

During dinner while celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday a few days ago, my family met a wonderful young woman by the name of Darby. As usual, my curiosity got to me and I asked what motivated her folks to name her Darby. Frankly, whether it's parents naming their children after favorite vacation spots, hotels, movies stars, or made-up ethnic names, I'm always surprised at the way parents name their kids.

I thought it may have been a family name passed down, but that wasn't the case. She said her parents liked the name Darby from a Disney movie. We had a laugh about that. But really, it fits her. Her pleasant disposition and genuine friendliness somehow goes along with her name. And of course, after asking her about that Disney movie, we somehow stumbled over the fact that she loves classic movies and older music. She said her favorite movie stars are Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman. I immediately suggested that she watch Rear Window and Casablanca. She said she owns both on DVD.

My conversation with her started me thinking about some of the questions that I get from readers. Many want to know where I received my degrees from, what are they in, what sort of work was I in before retiring, was I an investigator, did I retired from the Marine Corps, or if I've ever considered running for political office. Some have written to ask about how long I've been writing before starting this blog, if I did it for a living, and was there any real money in writing for others.

I'm real surprised at how many readers have contacted me to ask the exact number of firearms, and types of guns, that I own. That's always sort of surprised me, as if I'd tell folks such a thing. Or really, if that's anyone's business but mine. And while that surprised me at first, I got used to being asked strange questions like that. For example, I've had a couple of people write to ask what sorts of precautions have I taken when "the next revolution starts." Imagine that!

As for my education, what I've done for work, my time in the Corps, the absurdity of running for office, or some of the firearms that I own, I've pretty much answered a lot of those questions here and there since starting my blog in 2010.

Though not as much as I have in the past, I still write about horses, firearms, and conservative politics. Of course, as most on here know, or at least those who have read my blog for a while now, I've concentrated on writing about my interest in Old West History more than anything else. And since I've always found American History so interesting, especially what took place during the Old West and the Great Depression, I have sort of focused on that lately.

Darby did get me thinking about the readers who have taken the time to ask about what sorts of movies and music that I may like. Maybe it's because I'm a very old fashion sort of guy, but my taste in music and movies runs to the old stuff. In fact, from old Western television series like Lawman starring John Russell and Peter Brown to the music of Bob Wills and Glenn Miller, I love of the old stuff.

Since I grew up in the 1950's and 60's, I still enjoy listening to Dean Martin. Yes, especially his singing My Rifle, My Pony and Me. Whether it's Eddy Arnold doing Cattle Call, Johnny Horton singing North to Alaska, Ray Price singing Soft Rain, Merle Haggard singing San Antonio Rose or The Fightin' Side of Me, Ricky Nelson doing Mary Lou or Travelin' Man, or the great Marty Robbins singing El Paso, I like songs and singers who I can understand what they're saying. Because of that, besides Dean Martin, I love Elvis, Nat King Cole, Jim Reeves, Perry Como, Frankie Laine, Rex Allen, Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hall, and Ray Price. I love listening to Doris Day. Laugh if you want, but there are few sounds that top Doris Day singing Sentimental Journey.

I'm sure someone will write to ask about my taste in "modern" music. Well, I've never been a Garth Brooks fan. Frankly, after seeing him in concert many years ago, I really think he's about the most over-rated singer out there. For me, I'm a big fan of George Strait, Alan Jackson, Emmylou Harris, Suzy Bogguss, Kathy Mattea, Asleep At The Wheel, and the Sons of the San Joaquin. 

Kathy Mattea did a song called Where've You Been? in 1989. Like Tom T Hall's Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine, and Kenny Rogers' The Gambler, I find that I'm really thinking more about their messages as I've gotten older.

As for those songs that stick in you head, I remember being at the Marine Corps Recruit Deport going through Boot Camp in 1973 when I heard Marie Osmond's Paper Roses coming from a jukebox inside the Enlistedmen's Club on base. I remember standing in a chow-line and just about the whole platoon leaned to hear it better. I remember working the door at a honky-tonk bar in 1979 when I first heard Waylon Jennings singing Amanda. And I happened to be working the door in that same joint in 1981, when the song You're The Reason God Made Oklahoma by David Frizzell and Shelly West came out.

Because I like singers with great voices who I can maybe sing along with if I have a mind to, I also enjoy most '50's rock and roll, Jimmy Dean's Big Bad John, and Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. And really, how can anyone not like Don Gibson's Sea of Heartbreak, Ben E. King performing Stand By Me, Sam Cooke's Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World, or Gene Pitney's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Since I mentioned the song The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the 1962 movie of the same name starring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and Lee Marvin is about as good as any classic Western can get. OK, maybe with the exception of Shane (1953) starring Alan Ladd -- which is probably the best Western ever made.

Besides Shane and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, my favorite westerns are Last Train from Gun Hill (1959) starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn, Big Jake (1971) and Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973) which featured John Wayne, Rough Night in Jericho (1967) with Dean Martin, George Peppard, and Jean Simmons, Hang 'Em High (1968) which starred Clint Eastwood, and Bite the Bullet (1975) starring Gene Hackman and James Coburn. Those are a few of my very favorites.

My taste in westerns may surprise some folks. In fact, some people have probably never heard of some of the other westerns that I like. For example, there's West of the Pecos (1945) starring Robert Mitchum and Barbara Hale, Blood on the Moon (1948) starring Robert Mitchum and Robert Preston, Cattle Drive (1951) with Joel McCrea, Man with the Gun (1955) with Robert Mitchum as a "town tamer," The Proud Ones (1956) with Robert Ryan, The Oklahoman (1957) starring Joel McCrea and Barbara Hale, Gold of the Seven Saints (1961) with Clint Walker and Roger Moore, The Night of the Grizzly (1966) starring Clint Walker. Of course, let's not forget the Hopalong Cassidy films starring William Boyd, or any of the Tim Holt westerns like Under the Tonto Rim (1947).

I can see the email now, "How about Django Unchained, and other great new Westerns? What are you, a racist?" Well, I really don't think Hollywood makes too many good movies anymore. With all of the films that they put out, most are really bad. By the previews that I saw, Django Unchained looked like a horrible film and I wasn't going to waste my time watching it.

I have friends who support any and all westerns being made. It doesn't matter to them if they are pathetic remakes like the sad job they did remaking 3:10 to Yuma. I watched a few minutes of the remake and it was terrible. As for political pieces like Dances with Wolves (1990) starring Kevin Costner which demonized Americans while making the Old West look nothing like it was, I hated it.

For the record, I do think Quigley Down Under (1990) starring Tom Selleck and Laura San Giacomo, Tombstone (1993) starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, and Sam Elliott, Last Stand at Saber River (1997) featured Tom Selleck, Suzy Amis, Keith Carradine, David Carradine, Harry Carey Jr., Crossfire Trail (2001) with Tom Selleck, Virginia Madsen, and Wilford Brimley, and the really well-done remake of Monte Walsh in 2003 starring Tom Selleck, Isabella Rossellini, and Keith Carradine are all excellent movies. They are all great entertainment. 

Most Hollywood films a not historically correct. But that shouldn't matter if they are entertaining and not boring. For me, I believe that westerns don't have to be historically correct. But they should be entertaining. Sadly, Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves, just like his film Wyatt Earp, are lousy films because they were not historically correct or in any way entertaining. In Wyatt Earp, Costner makes the movie about Kevin Costner and is actually pretty boring. As for Dances with Wolves, it sets out to make a political point which is to make "whites" appear evil, all while attempting to rewrite history. I remember thinking how this film wasn't worth my time.

After posting this, a friend wrote to say the only thing good about Dances with Wolves is the movie's soundtrack. I agree a hundred percent with that. The soundtrack to that movie is excellent. Another friend wrote to tell me that I forgot to mention Lonesome Dove. I didn't mention Lonesome Dove because I was listing movies. While I think Lonesome Dove, as great as it is, would've made a great feature film, fact is it's a mini-series. And frankly, it needed to be a mini-series to get everything in. For the record, I am a big fan of just about anything Robert Duvall's done, including Open Range and Secondhand Lions

While I've always loved westerns, my favorite non-western movies are Casablanca (1942) starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) which starred Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, Rear Window (1954) starring Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart, It Happened One Night (1934) starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, Adventure (1945) with Clark Gable and Greer Garson, Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) which combines a western with film noir while starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin, and Ernest Borgnine, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr, and then there's one of my favorite comedy's Teacher's Pet (1958) with Clark Gable and Doris Day.

During this time of year, I've always loved It's a Wonderful Life (1946) starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, and of course there's the original Miracle on 34th Street (1947) film starring Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, and a very young Natalie Wood. But my favorite Christmas movie is The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) starring Ingrid Bergman and Bing Crosby. Although, after saying that, I have to admit that around this time of year I've always enjoyed a fairly unknown movie We're No Angels (1955) starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Ray. It's a great Christmas comedy that does a great job of poking fun at Humphrey Bogart's tough guy on screen persona. 

My short conversation with Darby was good for a few reasons. But mostly, it's because she really got me thinking about how there may be more people than I suspect who don't like what Hollywood and the music industry is doing today. She was a pleasant surprise. It was great to hear her talk about how she loved classic films and didn't like today's music. Frankly, I don't hear that very often at all.

And since she likes classic movies, I'm hoping that those that I mention above leads her to enjoying more of what came out of that era. As for being so very polite, respectful, friendly, Darby has more class and bearing than most young people that I meet today. That in itself speaks volumes about her good character, it also speaks to the fact that her parents did a great job of raising her.

I can only hope Darby has a very Merry Christmas.

Tom Correa

Monday, December 2, 2019

The California Column 1861- 1865

The following was written by Lieutenant George H. Pettis, Commander, Company K, 1st Regiment of Infantry, California Volunteers, 1861 to 1865:

Immediately after the first battle of Bull Run on July 24, 1861, Governor John G. Downey received from the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, a communication which said: "The War Department accepts, for three years, one regiment of infantry and five companies of cavalry to guard the Overland Mail Route from Carson Valley to Salt Lake City and Fort Laramie."

This was the first official action towards organizing troops in California, and it required but a short time to raise the required number of men, and as fast as the companies were mustered in at the Presidio, near San Francisco they were transported across the bay to Camp Downey in present day Oakland.

The First California Volunteer Infantry and five companies of the First Cavalry were being well drilled and disciplined at Camp Downey when the news was received at Department Headquarters that Secessionists in the southern part of the state were becoming turbulent and more outspoken, and on September 17th General Sumner ordered Colonel Carleton's command to Southern California.

The First Infantry, under Colonel James H. Carleton since July 26, 1861, and the First Cavalry, under Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin F. Davis, arrived at San Pedro and marched some eighteen miles north to lay out a camp for fifteen companies near a small creek, Ballona Creek in present-day Culver City. They named it "Camp Latham" in honor of one of the California senators. When the order came for regular Army troops to transfer to the East Coast, Major Edwin A. Riggs of the First California Infantry was sent with several companies to replace those leaving Fort Yuma. Other regulars from Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego were soon assembled at San Pedro for shipment to New York.

On the 20th of October, 1861, General Sumner was replaced as commander of the Department of California by Colonel George Wright of the Twelfth U.S. Infantry. Colonel Sumner, shortly thereafter, was drowned on his way to take command of the Department of Oregon when the steamer "Brother Jonathan" sank off the mouth of the Columbia River.

On November 20th, Colonel Carleton was called to San Francisco to take command of California troops heading east by the overland route through Salt Lake City. But these orders were superseded when news was received of the successful invasion of New Mexico and Arizona by a force of Texans under Confederate General H.H. Sibley. Within a few days, Wright and Carleton developed a plan to proceed with a command through Arizona and attack Sibley on his flank and rear. General Wright submitted this plan to the War Department on December 9, 1861, and received immediate approval from General McClellan.

It was decided that Fort Yuma, on the California side of the Colorado River, should be the jumping off point for the expedition, and advance units were sent with all promptitude to prepare for the increased activity which would take place in a few months, and to strengthen its defenses in case Confederates arrived there before the main force of California Volunteers.

A small camp at Warner's Ranch (near present Warner's Springs), named Camp Wright, was enlarged to serve as an intermediate supply and staging point halfway between Wilmington and Fort Yuma. Supplies started moving forward, both by Phineas Banning's teams across the desert and by steamship to the head of the Gulf of California and then up the Colorado by river steamboats of the Colorado River Navigation Company.

The "California Column" originally consisted of ten companies of the First California Infantry, five companies of the First California Cavalry, one company of the Second California Cavalry and Light Battery A of the Third U.S. Artillery. This command contained 1500 men, well drilled, well disciplined, and eager to show what stuff they were made of. Later on, Lieutenant Colonel George W. Bowie's Fifth California was added, bringing the total strength to 2350 rank and file. 

It should be pointed out here that never did the entire column move as one unit. Advance parties, some quite large, were sent ahead to scout, to strengthen fortifications at camping points, and to collect what food and forage was available for the large groups to follow. Another reason for breaking the column into smaller units was to conserve the water supply at springs and water holes, many of which only had enough water for a few hundred men with their mounts and mule teams at one time.

Before these advance movements and training of the California troops were being made, Union forces in New Mexico under the command of General Canby had not fared well. Confederate Colonel John R. Baylor had arrived in New Mexico, proclaimed him self Provisional Governor of New Mexico and Arizona, and started up the Rio Grande on July 1, 1861.

On July 25th, Major Isaac Lynde, 7th U.S. Infantry, in command of Fort Fillmore, about three miles east of Mesilla, proceeded to attack Baylor's "Second Texas Rifles", a partial regiment of less than 300 poorly armed men. After a weak assault with his more than 500 well equipped and armed troops headed by capable officers, Lynde ordered a retreat to the adobe walls of Fort Fillmore with three men killed and four wounded.

On the 27th, Lynde attempted to start a march to Fort Stanton, some one hundred miles to the northeast to escape the "superior" Rebel army. He was overtaken by the Texans before he had gone fifteen miles and surrendered without firing a shot. Further Union setbacks followed Lynde's surrender.

A major battle at Valverde on February 21, 1862, between General Canby's 2500 New Mexico volunteers and a force of 3000 Confederates under General H.H. Sibley, who had replaced Colonel Baylor, resulted in a victory for the Texans. After the Union troops retreated behind the thick adobe walls of Fort Craig, Sibley continued his march north. Albuquerque and Santa Fe surrendered with little resistance, marking the high water mark of Confederate operations.

A Union force made up of Colorado volunteers under Colonel J.P. Slough, with some regular U.S. troops from Fort Lyon and Fort Union won a major victory at Apache Canyon and Glorieta, a few miles east of Santa Fe. In three days of fighting, the Union forces had 25 killed, 64 wounded and 30 missing; Confederate losses were 82 killed, 155 hounded and 96 taken prisoner. This fight, from March 25th to 28th, was the last major combat in New Mexico.

Sibley started his long retreat back to Texas, aware that any delay would find him trapped between the Colorado troops to the north, General Canby with a still effective force at Fort Craig and the Californians approaching from the west. Sibley reached Fort Bliss at Franklin, now El Paso, late in April.

About this time, General Sibley ordered a Confederate company under Captain Sherod Hunter to proceed west through Tucson and then along the Gila River as far as Yuma if possible, the same route which would be used by the California Column on their way to the Rio Grande. At White's Mills, near the Pima Villages,about twenty miles south of present Phoenix, Captain Hunter met and captured a scouting party under Captain William McCleave and nine men of his A Company. 

When this news got back to Fort Yuma, a larger party under Captain William Calloway was dispatched along the same route with orders to find and free Captain McCleave and his men. Calloway reached the Pima Villages, the main supply point between Fort Yuma and Tucson, with no sign of the rebels other than a number of burned haystacks, and after a short rest , set out for Tucson. 

As they approached Picacho Pass, Indian scouts brought in information that Confederate pickets were just ahead. Lieutenant James Barrett and a small group of his Company A, First Infantry were ordered to make a wide detour to strike them on the flank, while Calloway would make a frontal attack with the main party. After traveling several miles, Calloway heard firing on his front and soon came upon a bloody scene. Barrett had found and attacked the rebel pickets, and in the short encounter, had been killed along with Privates George Johnson and William Leonard. 

Two other Union soldiers were wounded. One Confederate was killed, four were wounded, three were taken prisoner and one of the nine pickets escaped. This "battle" between fewer than a dozen troops on each side was the only time that members of the "California Column" engaged Confederate troops in combat. The graves of Lieutenant Barrett and his men may be seen within twenty feet of the tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad as it goes through Picacho Pass.

Captain Calloway returned to Pima Villages and started work on a permanent camp, throwing up earth works around the flour mill of Ammi White, who had been taken away by the rebels a few weeks before. This earth work was named "Fort Barrett" in honor of their comrade. It required several weeks for the main elements of the "Column" to get to Pima Villages, as only detachments of less than four companies could move over the desert routes within twenty four hours of each other because of the scarcity of water. 

On the 15th of May, Colonel West and his advance detachment moved out of the Pima Villages for Tucson, going through the "Casa Grandes" and Rattlesnake Springs to old Fort Breckenridge (later named Fort Grant), where the American flag was run up again on the flagstaff of the fort amid the hurrahs of the men and the field music playing "The Star Spangled Banner".

The command camped that night in the "Canon de Oro". The next day, May 19th, a short march of fifteen miles was made, and the party encamped within ten miles of Tucson. An early reveille on the morning of the 20th, and the command moved forward with a light step. When it had arrived within two miles of the town, Captain Emil Fritz, Company B, 1st Cavalry, was ordered take his first platoon to make a detour and come in on the east side of the town; the second platoon, under Juan Francisco Guirado, was to charge in on the north side, while the four companies

of infantry were to come in on the road from the west. The three parties arrived at the plaza at the same moment, the cavalry at the charge and the infantry at the double quick, but found no enemy. The rebels, before they left, had publicly announced that the "Abs" (abolitionists ?) would soon take the fair city, which would then be given over to the ravages of a brutal soldiery, and the population, mostly Mexican, had started southward for the Sonora line.

Good quarters were found for the troops, who would be in Tucson for the next two months, until July 20th, while the "Column" was being assembled here, with food and forage enough to start on the final leg to the Rio Grande, still almost 250 miles away. Everything, except for a small quantity of wheat which was purchased from the Pima Indians,was brought by Banning's teams from Southern California. Military equipment and supplies came from the Wilmington Depot after arriving there by ship. No forage or food could be had in or about Tucson, and the hearty appetites of the thousands of young Californians consumed the rations nearly as fast as the wagon trains arrived.

No news had been received from the Rio Grande since the column had commenced its march from California. Several express parties had been sent forward to open communications with General Canby, but none had ever returned. On June 15, 1862, Sergeant William Wheeling of Company F of the 1st Infantry, expressman John Jones, and a Mexican guide named Chaves left Tucson with dispatches for General Canby. 

It was afterwards learned that this party was attacked by Apache Indians at Apache Pass, about seventy five miles east of Tucson, on June 18th. Chaves was killed by the first exchange of shots and Sergeant Wheeling was seriously wounded, falling off his horse and being dispatched. 

Both bodies were found badly mutilated later. Jones escaped by a miracle, and after a ride of over 200 miles, he reached the Rio Grande at a point five miles above Mesilla. He was taken prisoner by the rebels, who still held Mesilla. He was taken before Colonel Steele, the Confederate commander, who questioned him, took his dispatches, and threw him in jail. But he managed to get word to General Canby that he was there, and that the "California Column" was really coming. How he did it is still not clear.

On the 21st of June, a strong reconnoitering party of cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel Eyre left Tucson. After a hard march, they arrived at Fort Thorn on the Rio Grande about seventy miles above present El Paso, on July 4th. It had been abandoned by the rebels. Eyre was reinforced by a squadron of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry, and would have attacked the rebels at Mesilla, but was forced to forego that pleasure by peremptory orders from Colonel Chivington of the 1st Colorado Volunteers at Fort Craig, who under General Canby's orders was in command of the southern military district of New Mexico. 

Meanwhile, Colonel Steele greatly feared he would be overtaken by the California troops, and in his hurried retreat burned a number of his wagons and destroyed a large amount of ammunition. The rebel forces were so disheartened by their defeats upriver and weakened by loss of supplies that had they been attacked by even a small force, they would have surrendered at once.

On July 9th Captain Thomas L. Roberts with his Company E of the 1st Infantry and Captain Cremoney's Company B of the 2nd Cavalry and with two mountain howitzers under the command of Lieutenant William A. Thompson,left Tucson for the Rio de Sauze (probably today's San Simeon River), where they were to establish a camp, having rations and forage for Colonel Eyre's command in case they were forced back by the Texans. 

When this command reached Apache Pass (now Fort Bowie), they were attacked by a large force of Apache warriors under the leadership of "Cochise". After a stubborn contest, the Indians were forced to retire with a loss of nine killed, while the troops suffered a loss of two killed and two wounded.

On July 20th, Colonel West left Tucson for the Rio Grande with five companies of infantry. On the 21st, Captain Edward P. Willis left with two companies of infantry and Battery A of the 3rd U.S. Artillery. On the 23rd, Lieutenant Colonel Edwin A. Rigg, with a third command consisting of five companies of the 1st Infantry followed. Each of these detachments had subsistence for thirty days, with a full supply of entrenching tools. 

Up to the time of arrival of the troops at Tucson, the infantry had carried their full fifty pound packs the entire march, a notable achievement considering the nature of the country through which they had marched in woolen uniforms, and the fearful heat and thirst they had encountered.

General Orders, No. 10, Headquarters of the Column from California, dated Tucson, July 17th, 1862, contained the following paragraph: 

That every soldier may move forward with a light, free step, now that we approach the enemy; he will no longer be required to carry his knapsack. 

General Carleton, with headquarters of the "California Column" arrived at Fort Thorn on August 7th, 1862, and immediately communicated with General Canby. The balance of the column arrived on the Rio Grande in detachments as they had left Tucson, one day apart, and by the 15th, Mesilla was made the headquarters of the district of Arizona. The Southern Overland Mail Route had been opened and the and the United States military posts in Arizona, New Mexico and Northwestern Texas had been reoccupied by troops composing the "California Column".

On the 18th of September, 1862, General Carleton assumed command of the Department of New Mexico, General Canby having been ordered east by the War Department. The "Column" was soon distributed throughout the Department, and active operations commenced against the hostile Indians, the Apaches and the Navajos. Three days after his appointment, Carleton issued the following order:

Headquarters of the Department of New Mexico,
Santa Fe, N.M., Sept. 21st, 1862

Gen. Orders No. 85

In entering upon the duties that remove him from immediate association with the troops constituting the "Column from California", the Commanding General desires to express his grateful acknowledgement of the conduct and services of the officers and men of that command. Traversing a desert country that had heretofore been regarded as impracticable for the operations of large bodies of troops, they have reached their destination and accomplished the object assigned them, not only with out loss of any kind, but improved in discipline, in morale, and in every other element of efficiency. That patient and cheerful endurance of hardships, the zeal and alacrity which they have grappled with, and overcome obstacles that would have been insurmountable to any but troops of the highest physical and moral energy, the complete abregation of self and subordination of every personal consideration to the great object of our hopes and efforts give the most absolute assurance of success in any field or against any enemy. California has reason to be proud of the sons she has sent across the continent to assist in the great struggle in which our country is now engaged. The Commanding General is requested by the officer who preceded him in the command of this department, to express for him the gratification felt by every officer and soldier of his command at the fact that troops from the Atlantic and Pacific slope, from the mountains of California and Colorado, acting in the same cause, inspired by the same duties, and animated by the same hopes, have met and shaken hands in the center of this great continent.

Brigadier General U.S. Volunteers, 

-- end of article by Lieutenant George H. Pettis.

So what can I add to this? 

Well, first let's not confuse the California Column which went South and pushed the Confederates out of Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas with the "California Hundred" who was officially designated as Company A Second Massachusetts Cavalry. The California Hundred were made up of Easterners who arrived in California during the Gold Rush but returned East to fight for the Union. They fought in a number of battles in the East during the war.

And now, let's talk about Camp Downey. In July of 1861, the War Department requested that California's Governor Downey immediately raise a force of volunteers for infantry and cavalry. Their primary mission was to protect the overland stage and mail route between the Sierras and the Rockies; to repel Confederate incursions by land and sea; and to safeguard gold shipments coming out of the California gold country. What some might not realize is that California's gold was a key factor in bankrolling the Union's war effort.

By 1859, Fort Alcatraz was already established by the U.S. Army as a coastal fortification on Alcatraz Island near the mouth of San Francisco Bay. It was part of the Third System of fixed fortifications. But since it was an island, it was very different from most other Third System works such as Fort Pulaski which also belonged to the Third System of coastal fortifications. Third System coastal fortifications were characterized by greater structural durability. Since Alcatraz is an island, it was that without needing the robust earth works used in other Third System forts. 

After it's completion in 1859, besides acting as a coastal battery, Fort Alcatraz was also used for mustering and training recruits -- including in 1861 during the start of the Civil War. It was also used later as a long-term military prison, but we can talk about that on another day. 

At the outbreak of the Civil War, recruits wanting to sign up for the Union were plentiful in Northern California. While Fort Alcatraz was initially used for new enlistees, it saw a reduction in recruit training because two other training camps were established in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both of the other two were located in Oakland, in the east side of San Francisco Bay. The first was established in 1861. It was for infantry training and designated as Camp Downey. The second was used for cavalry training in 1863. It was designated Camp Merchant.

Camp Downey overlooked Lake Merritt in the present day city of Oakland. And though Camp Downey was established on August 31st, 1861, by September 15th, 1st Infantry Regiment, California Volunteers, Companies A, B, C, E, G, and H left there and marched to Southern California. I really believe the 1st Infantry Regiment, California Volunteers, marched the more than 350 miles to Los Angeles because of the secession crisis in that area.

While Northern California was definitely in the hands of the Union, Southern California had an extremely vocal group of Southerners who wanted to spit the state and join the Confederacy. All were Southern transplants who came West during the California Gold Rush, but still had loyalties to the South and subsequently the Confederacy. Imagine what would have happened if those Southern Californians actually split the state of California and did in fact secede from the Union?

My belief is that the war would not have been primarily fought in the East, and it's not too outlandish to say the war's Pacific Coast Theater would have seen extended fighting. Keep in mind that major operations in the Pacific Coast Theater included the Pacific Ocean and in the States and Territories west of the Continental Divide. Because the secessionist movement in Southern California was seen as a wildfire that needed extinguishing immediately, I believe that was the reason that 1st Infantry Regiment, California Volunteers, marched south to Los Angeles as quickly as it did after forming. 

In Southern California, there were a number of pro-Confederacy groups including the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles and various chapters of the Knights of the Golden Circle. If we look at the history and agenda of the Knights of the Golden Circle, it's not hard to see which side they preferred. That group dedicated itself to annexing parts of Mexico so they could increase the number of slave states in the United States.

As for Lieutenant George H. Pettis who wrote the article, he was 73 years old when he did so. The year was 1907, and by then he was close to retiring after a career as a state inspector of weights and measures in Rhode Island. His age may have been the reason for his mistake regarding who drowned as a result of the wreck of the steamer Brother Jonathan off the California coast.

Contrary to what Lt. Pettis stated, it was in fact Brigadier General George Wright who drowned. In fact, as a result of the Brother Jonathan's wreck, General Wright and his wife both died at sea while they were en route to San Francisco to assume his new command.

After years of service, in 1861, the ship's third owner started the steamer Brother Jonathan on the northward route from San Francisco to Vancouver via Portland. This allowed miners and prospectors to work the Salmon River Gold Rush and get their gold to the mint in San Francisco. It is interesting to note that that the Brother Jonathan had a reputation as being one of the finest and fastest steamers on the Pacific Coast. It was known to make the run from San Francisco to Vancouver via Portland in sixty-nine hours. That's each way which is a feat when considering the currents work against ships going north. 

On July 30th, 1865, the paddle steamer Brother Jonathan struck an uncharted reef near Point St George right off the coast of Crescent City, California. According to sources, the steamer was carrying passengers, crew, and a large shipment of gold coins. Of the 244 passengers and crew, only 19 survived. Because 225 people are believed to have died, the wreck of the Brother Jonathan was one of the worse shipwrecks of that time on the Pacific Coast of the United States. 

General Wright's body was recovered six weeks later. He is interred in the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery. Later, Fort George Wright, located near Spokane, was named in his honor.

From 1862 to 1864, the California Column fought the Confederacy and later took on the Apaches. It was tough duty and skirmishes were hard going. Among the problems they faced was simply not knowing the terrain as well as the Apache. That's especially true when it came to the location of water. Though that was the case, they endured and prevailed against an enemy more adapt to the conditions of the land. It should be noted that the California Column fought both Apaches and Navajos, as well as escorted settler wagon trains all the way to Fort Dodge, Kansas, where they maintained the peace for at least three years.

Why only three years? The nine companies of the 1st California Volunteer Infantry and the five original companies of the 1st California Volunteer Cavalry were discharged in August and September of 1864, because that was their EAS, the end of their obligated enlistment. As is the case today when troops get to the end of their enlistment, not all go back to where they came from. Things were no different back in the day. Many who were members of the California Column returned to their homes in California, but many remained in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Kansas after their enlistment was up.

As for Lieutenant George H. Pettis, he mustered out while stationed at the unit's headquarters in Santa Fe, New Mexico when the California Column was deactivated. That was February 15th, 1865. The official date of deactivation for the California Column.

Tom Correa