The Civil War? In Alameda?

Both courtesy California Military Museum

The Civil War? In Alameda?

Historians often hear the mistaken idea that California played no role in the Civil War.

In fact, during the Civil War California furnished the Union army some 17,000 volunteers — a number that could make up just under two divisions of soldiers.

In addition the state raised about $360,000 for the Sanitary Commission, an organization similar to today’s Red Cross. That amounts to $9.73 million in today’s money.

Some $180 million of California gold and Nevada silver — discovered in 1859 — helped finance the Union. This calculates to $4.86 billion in today’s money.

These numbers reflect resources that the Union had, but the Confederacy did not, thanks to California.

The Civil War came to Alameda in October 1863, when the state of California chose the peninsula as a place to stage military training for the state’s Second Brigade. The brigade’s Alameda camp is pictured above right— its likely location somewhere between Walnut and Paru Streets. The street pictured at the bottom of the painting is likely today’s Buena Vista Avenue.

Exercises began on Oct. 6, 1863, and lasted until Oct. 16. Brigadier General John Ellis named Camp Allen in honor of Major General Lucius Allen, who commanded the state militia.

The highlight of the camp was a “sham battle” at the adjacent Kennedy family farm (below right) Oakland’s Kennedy Street near the Park Street Bridge pinpoints the farm’s location.

The Second Brigade’s infantry “battled” against its cavalry. Note the use of Napoleonic-era, “regimental squares.”

Ellis organized his Second Brigade into the First, Second (“Irish”) and Third regiments of infantry, a cavalry battalion and a single artillery battery.

Both courtesy California Military Museum