Monthly Archives: February 2016

Meeting of March 29, 2016

Bob Burch on “Californian U.S. Volunteer Units, Part 2: Cavalry”

This is the second of a three-part presentation on the California Volunteers and the third in the California and the American Civil War series. The first presentation provided an overview of the mustering process used by Union states to generate new regiments with an emphasis on its application in California. This second presentation focused on California Volunteer cavalry regimental histories while the third will focus on the infantry regiments. Each unit history includes a historical summary, commander’s biography, and map detailing duty locations. Drawing from extensive original and secondary historical sources and photographs, this presentation provides the most exhaustive history of these regiments available.

California contributed two regiments and one battalion of cavalry to the Union War effort. These soldiers served across the entire Western United States from Idaho to Arizona Territories, and as far eastward as Wyoming Territory and Texas. They checked Secessionist activities in southern California, repelled a Confederate invasion of New Mexico, protected mail routes across the West, and conducted numerous campaigns against hostile Indians including the famous Battle of Apache Pass. They also suffered the highest losses of all the California regiments during the war.

Among the eleven regimental and battalion commanders were some of the most famous or colorful characters serving with the California Volunteers. These include detached Regular Army officers Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Franklin Davis of Alabama who commanded the 1st California Cavalry and died leading a Union brigade at Brandy Station, as well as Colonel Andrew Jackson Smith of the 2nd California Cavalry who later commanded a corps with distinction at Nashville and Mobile Bay. Most commanders were long forgotten Californians who served their country in time of crisis. They include Colonel Edward McGarry of the 1st Cavalry who gained fame during the Shoshone Indian Campaign. Colonel Clearance Bennett, also of the 1st Cavalry, was instrumental in preventing Secessionist capture of Southern California. Major Salvador Vallejo, Native California Cavalry (NCC) Battalion, whose troops fought Confederate Partisans near San Jose. And eccentric Major John Cremony who later led the NCC against hostile Indians in Arizona.

This presentation put to rest the notion that California only panned gold for four years to pay for the Union war effort. It highlights the exploits and contributions of the California Volunteer Cavalry.

Bob Burch is a native Californian, born and raised in Santa Clara County. He is also a lifetime student of the Civil War. He had the opportunity to visit many Civil War sites from Florida to Pennsylvania to New Mexico during his 30 year military career. Like many California CWRT members, he desires to understand his home state’s role in the war. He started collecting material for this presentation ten years ago and initiated a serious study 15 months ago. This series documents his research in great detail. Time allows only a few key points from each slide to be presented. Numerous period photographs and magazine drawings are included for visual effect with the intent of comprehending California’s role in the Civil War.

Meeting Minutes March 2016

Quiz for March 29, 2016

Civil War Quiz – War on the Frontier

Q#1 – What was the name of the famous American frontiersman who joined the Union Army and led the 1st New Mexico Volunteer Infantry against Confederate forces at Valverde, New Mexico, in February 1862?

Q#2 – What was the name of the Union officer who was in charge of the Department of New Mexico in 1861 and resigned his commission to join the Confederacy?

Q#3 – What was the name of the powerful Union ironclad that was involved in the April-May 1864 Red River Campaign?

Q#4 – During the Civil War for the Union effort, California raised 8 regiments of infantry, 2 of cavalry, and several smaller specialized units. What was the total number of volunteers that made up these units?

Q#5 – What was the main military purpose for Union troops raised in California?

Q#6 – In the region west of Rocky Mountains, what posed the biggest military threat to Federal troops?

Q#7 – What was the name of the Apache War Chief who engaged in many battles with Federal troops, most famous of which was in the area of Apache Pass?

Q#8 – Pro Southern Democrats dominated California politics prior to the Civil War. What was the nickname given to the governmental office building in San Francisco that was used during pre-war times by these politicians?

Q#9 – On November 29, 1864, a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia attacked and destroyed a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians inhabited in southeastern Colorado Territory. What was this event called?

Q#10 – In the Spring of 1864, after taking over command of all Union forces, US Grant assigned which general to deal with the Indian War problems in the West?

Q#11 – True or False: At the beginning of the Civil War, Confederate sympathizers threatened to separate Southern California from the rest of the state and declare if part of the Confederacy?

Q#12 – Which side won the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, the first major battle of the Trans-Mississippi Theater, which was fought on August 10, 1861, near Springfield, Missouri?

Q#13 – The 1st California Cavalry stationed at Fort McLane in far western New Mexico Territory brutally tortured and murdered a famous Apache chief. What was the chief’s name?

Q#14 – What is the name of the battle that took place in Texas on September 8, 1863, that has often been credited as the most one-sided Confederate victory during the war?

Q#15 – At the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 6–8, 1862, what was a major factor that influenced Confederate General Earl Van Dorn to abandon the battle and retreat from the field?