Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – California

Working in reverse alphabetical order through the C’s, as that’s how the clerks at the Ordnance Department recorded things, we come to California. Formally speaking, no batteries from California mustered into Federal service. But as we’ve detailed in previous quarters, infantry and cavalry regiments from California received artillery to support their duties at frontier posts. And those are reflected in the summaries. Furthermore, there were a handful of militia batteries, not mustered into Federal service, but for whom we have very solid documentation to discuss. That said, here’s the California section for the fourth quarter of 1863, ending in December of that year (note that all three lines indicate receipt dates in February 1864.. prompt considering the distances involved):

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  • Company H, 3rd California Infantry: Reporting at Camp Connor, Idaho with one 12-pdr mountain howitzer. This entry line is a re-appearance of a cannon first reported in the second quarter of 1863 (being left out in the third quarter returns). I would suggest that mountain howitzer was with the company through the summer and fall. The lacking paperwork aside, Captain David Black commanded Company H. Looking through returns and CSRs, we find an annotation that “1 Mountain Howitzer turned over to Capt. Black, 3d Infy. C.V. en route to Soda Springs” in May 1863. And on May 23 of that year, Black established Camp Connor there at Soda Springs, Idaho. The larger context here is that Black’s command was part of Brigadier-General Patrick Edward Connor’s operations aimed to secure the Idaho Territory against any potential Confederate incursions. But in retrospect, was more so aimed at suppressing Indian tribes in that territory.
  • Company B, 1st Battalion California Mountaineers: At Fort Gaston, California, but with no cannon reported. Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen G. Whipple commanded this battalion, which served in the Humbolt District, in Northern California, protecting settlements from several hostile tribes in the “Two-Years War” phase of the Bald Hills Wars. This return should list at least one mountain howitzer, as one such appears in a report of action at the close of December that year. An expedition out of Fort Gaston came upon a fortified and armed group of Indians, about twenty-five miles from the post, on December 25, 1863. Whipple dispatched Captain George W. Ousley, of Company B, with a detachment and a mountain howitzer. “After the arrival of Captain Ousley [on December 26] a fire of shell was kept up as long as the ammunition lasted, doing some damage to the rancherias, but not dislodging the Indians, who had covered ways through which they passed from house to house.” While not effective in action, we can thus confirm the presence of a cannon with the battalion at that post.
  • Company C, 5th California Infantry: No location given, but with four 12-pdr mountain howitzers. Colonel George W. Bowie commanded this regiment, which served detached to several posts in the Department of New Mexico, mostly in the District of Arizona, at this time of the war. Company C, under Captain John S. Thayer, served at Mesilla, in the New Mexico Territory (though is sometimes listed as Las Cruces on some reports), protecting the approaches to El Paso. Specifically regarding the howitzers, Special Orders No. 44 from the District of Arizona Headquarters detailed, “Company C, Fifth Infantry California Volunteers, will take post at Mesilla upon the arrival at Las Cruces of Company E, same regiment. Capt. John S. Thayer, commanding Company C, will take charge of and receipt for the howitzer battery now in the hands of the acting ordnance officer, and have that company ready for efficient service with the same as soon as practicable.”

Perhaps more than I normally provide for the administrative details. But given the obscurity of service for these details, it is important to recall the context of their service.

Moving to the ammunition reported, we have smoothbore rounds to account for:

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  • Company H, 3rd California: 36 shell and 36 case for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.
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  • Company H, 3rd California: 24 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

I’ve posted all the other pages to Flickr for review. But the only sheet with any more tallies is page 7:

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  • Company H, 3rd California: 25 pounds of cannon powder.
  • Company C, 5th California Infantry: 50 pounds of cannon powder and 250 friction primers.

Before closing the book on California, we should consider the militia batteries from the state. Normally I don’t bring them up in relation to the Ordnance Summaries, as these were not active duty batteries and thus fall outside the scope of study here. But in the case of California, I find the militia service fairly well documented… and … well… interesting to a degree.

Two California militia batteries were in existence at the end of December 1863. The Washington Light Artillery of Napa, Napa County was organized on July 31, 1863, with Captain Nathan McCoombs in command. However, not until February of 1864 would Napa’s Washington Light Artillery receive arms and equipment (financed by bond). 

The National Light Artillery also formed in July 1863, but in Santa Clara County.  S. C. Houghton was named Captain after a continuous election. And rumors persisted about Confederate sentiments among the ranks. Yet, the battery was mustered into state service on October 1. This battery would not receive much support, but had a record of regular drill. I cannot determine what, if any, ordnance was issued to the battery.

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Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – California Artillery Sections

The next set of lines in the summary for the third quarter, 1863 are for California.  And that’s what we look at in this week’s installment. Rather serendipitous, the Civil War Trust is featuring California’s Civil War history in a series of Facebook Live events later this week.  So let’s call it California Civil War week!

It’s the handful of cannons reported by California which interest us here.  In the previous quarter’s entries, California had a line hidden under Connecticut’s entries and another pair of lines under a “Miscellaneous” heading.   None of these were for an artillery battery, but rather for detachments or sections detailed from infantry or cavalry regiments.  And we like this, as it demonstrates that the state did indeed have some sort of artillery – limited in number – in use.  Furthermore, these entries in the summary help shed light on what is otherwise an overlooked and obscure element of artillery history.

Consolidate, those three lines were:

  • A section from what was probably the 2nd California Cavalry with one 12-pdr mountain howitzer.
  • Company H, 3rd California Infantry had a section armed with a 12-pdr mountain howitzer.
  • A section with a 6-pdr field gun reported as assigned to the 3rd California Infantry.

For the third quarter, California got its due heading:

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And all three lines are in one place this time.  But these are not clean matches to the records from three months earlier.  Some artillery has moved around, organizationally and geographically:

  • 1st California Cavalry:  At Camp Union, near Sacramento, California with artillery stores and a 6-pdr field gun.
  • 2nd California Cavalry (?): At Fort Lyon, California with a 12-pdr mountain howitzer.  I put a question here, as the entry uses dittos, which I read as “cavalry”, but there are issues with the identification of the 2nd Cavalry for this location.
  • Company F, 2nd California Infantry: At Fort Wright with a 12-pdr mountain howitzer.

These three cannon were supplied with ammunition, of course:

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  • 1st Cavalry: 91 shot, 61 case, and 66 canister for 6-pdr field gun.
  • 2nd Cavalry(?): 24 shell, 24 case, and 24 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzer.
  • Company F, 2nd Infantry: 33 shell, 36 case, and 12 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzer.

Of course, with no rifles on hand there are no other projectiles to report.  I have posted those pages (here, here, and here) along with the empty page for small arms.  We must assume the small arms were reported on the appropriate cavalry or infantry stores report.

Those are the numbers.  But I’d be remiss to simply throw those out there without at least an attempt to reconcile the differences between this and the previous quarter.

Three companies of the 1st California Cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Oscar M. Brown, appear at Camp Union on the organization report for the Department of the Pacific, for the fall of 1863.  On face, perhaps the 3rd California Infantry left behind a 6-pdr field gun, reported there in the previous quarter, when the regiment marched out to Camp Douglas in Utah Territory.   But I write that without clear documentation – only suggestions.

The second line is more problematic. Fort, or Camp, Lyon was one in a series of posts established as part of ongoing operations against native tribes of northern California.  These operations, from 1858 through 1864, were collectively called the Bald Hills War.  Camp Lyon (as it appears on most records I’ve seen) was on a branch of the Mad River, southeast of Arcata.  However, I am at a loss to link service at that post, at that time in the war(s) to the 2nd California Cavalry.  What I most think is the case is the dittos in the summary are in error.   On the other hand, the 2nd California Infantry had two companies (A and K) at Camp Lyon as late as June 1863.  And it appears that when those companies left, the post was abandoned.  Thus we sort of get onto loose ground with this entry.

The third line is a bit easier to confirm.  Indeed, Company F, 2nd California Infantry was stationed at Fort Wright.  This was another northern California post, near modern day Covelo.  The post was sometimes cited as Camp Wright or even Fort Right.   Captain Charles D. Douglas commanded.

While matching in number to the previous three lines, the changes of organization and location leave a lot of open questions.  In the previous quarter, the 3rd California reported one 12-pdr mountain howitzer at Camp Connor, Idaho Territory and a 6-pdr field gun at Camp Union (mentioned above).  As the Camp Connor howitzer will re-appear on the summaries in December 1863, we can assume it’s omission here was due to a missing report.

But the 3rd California was also associated with at least a couple of 6-pdr field guns and a pair of 12-pdr mountain howitzers reported in the Utah Territories in the first quarter of 1863.  Based on passing mention in some correspondence, it is likely at least one 6-pdr, if not both, remained at Camp Douglas at this time.  But those guns are not mentioned in summaries.  Likewise, while likely one of the mountain howitzers was moved to Camp Connor, the other remains unaccounted for.  All this said, clearly California had more cannon than are represented here in the summaries.

Lastly, for complete coverage of California, allow me to again mention some militia batteries.  The Washington Light Artillery of Napa, Napa County was organized on July 31, 1863, with Captain Nathan McCoombs in command. However, not until February of the next year would Napa’s Washington Light Artillery receive arms and equipment (financed by bond).  Another militia battery, the National Light Artillery, also formed in July 1863, in Santa Clara County.  But the National battery apparently never received equipment.

While none of these California artillery detachments would see action in the great battles of the war, the cannon and their crews served an important role holding down frontier posts and maintaining order in the far west.