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2013 Civil War Travelogue

Welcome to my 2013 travelogue page, commemorating the third year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial! (Since these reports tend to be lengthy, they are often in separate HTML pages. Use the links just below to see all the finished reports.)

Here is a reminder about the reason I write these pages the way I do. They record my experiences and impressions of Civil War trips primarily for my future use. Thus, they sometimes make assumptions about things I already know and focus on insights that I receive. They are not general-purpose descriptions for people unfamiliar with the Civil War, although I do link to various Wikipedia articles throughout. Apologies about the quality of interior photographs—I don't take fancy cameras with big flashes to these events.

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Here are the trips I have completed:

Here is a list of interesting 2013 trips that I considered, but could not attend:

Walnut Creek Library Civil War series, January 2013

man speaking
Kevin Starr in Walnut Creek

I had a very enjoyable time on January 7 visiting Walnut Creek, California, for one of the special programs arranged by the Walnut Creek Library Foundation, Lincoln, the Constitution and the Civil War. I started at the library itself for a small, but well-done exhibit on Lincoln. Then the eminent California librarian and historian, Kevin Starr, spoke at the Lesher Center for the Arts about "California and the Civil War: From Frontier to Province." (He began by regretting that he was no longer the official state librarian, because he said he could have forgiven all of our outstanding library fines.)

Starr gave more of an overview of the early history of California than focusing strictly on topics directly related to the war. He discussed General Bennet Riley and the formation of the state of California, bypassing the territorial status. He talked about the compromise of 1850 that brought the state into the Union. He mentioned the Terry-Broderick duel at Lake Merced. He talked about a few of the famous generals who served in California and I was interested to hear his comment that William T. Sherman's early banking career was with Lucas, Turner & Co., which he called a progenitor of Wells Fargo. (I bank with Wells Fargo today!)

He talked about the formation of two companies of cavalry in San Francisco that fought with the Second Massachusetts. These men are known as the California Battalion or the California Hundred, but what I did not know previously was that they were primarily Hispanic. He described the contributions of Thomas Starr King, who went around the state building up support for the Union and the Sanitary Commission. Unlike some historians, he did not overemphasize the importance of Starr King's contribution, indicating that there was actually no danger of the state seceding. He dismissed the Chivalry (the name of the group of Southern sympathizers, mostly in Southern California) as having little support. However, he did note that after the war many Confederates were welcomed to settle in Southern California, mentioning the Patton family specifically.

California was not impacted by the federal draft and none of its citizens were subjected to payments to avoid it. He said that this situation attracted a number of artists to migrate west, including Mark Twain. He talked about Theodore Judah and how he used the war as an excuse to proselytize for the building of the transcontinental railroad. He concluded with some remarks about Abraham Lincoln and his love for the state, and his aborted plans to migrate here after his term of office. The greatest impact of the war on California was the "Americanization" of the new state.

All of this was quite entertaining, but my normally nitpicky side was disturbed by a number of casual errors or oversights in his talk. He was asked about connections of California to the Battle of Gettysburg and the only thing he was able to come up with was that the author Frank Norris (The Octopus) considered writing a book about the battle, but didn't. (He admitted to knowing little military history, but the famous Philadelphia Brigade in the battle had a direct connection to California.) He said that Fort Point in San Francisco was built early in the war (actually 1853). He referred to the Missouri Compromise line, the 36°30' north parallel, as the Mason-Dixon line. He mispronounced Stephen Kearny's name (using the pronunciation favored by his nephew, General Philip Kearny—"Carney"). He said that John W. Geary was killed in battle. He said that after Ulysses S. Grant resigned from the Army (in 1854) he received half pay as a retired captain. He repeated the discredited chestnut that Joseph Hooker's name was the source of the nickname for prostitutes, but indicated that he knew little of the general and his role in California before the war. He also did not mention one of my favorites, William S. Rosecrans, who was a prominent guy in Los Angeles after the war. Oh, well. Despite these shortcomings I had an excellent time and admire the Walnut Creek Library Foundation for a very interesting series of exhibitions and programs about the Civil War.