152 years ago this week the first troops of the First Regiment of California Volunteers encamped on the north bank of the Santa Ana River southeast of San Bernardino. Why you ask? The war was thousands of miles away. But the 1500 or so residents of San Bernardino and and the nearby Holcomb Country mines were kicking up a bit of a fuss over the war – and leaning in a southern direction. This, you might say, caught the attention of the US army. Troops were dispatched, not to put down an insurrection…things had not yet escalated to that point, but to keep an eye on the citizens…just in case. They had to. If California fell to the Rebels then so would the famous California gold.
There had been some trouble – a few southern “cutthroats” firing shots in the air, one politician had been killed over an argument in defense of the Union, and “drunken desperadoes” had been reported doing what “drunken desperadoes” do.
So on August 26, 1861, about 250 Union troops under the command of Captain William A. McCleave set up camp after completing a march through the Jurupa Valley (to avoid ambush). By election day in September (for state senate), the troops were met with taunts from men armed with sticks…”Hurrah for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy!” McCleave had this to say: “I told them free discussion was one thing, the utterance of treasonable language another; that these men had expressed their opinions at the ballot box that day, but that openly hurrahing for the Southern Confederacy was seditious, and I, as a Federal officer, was bound to put it down.”
Well – he didn’t help the Union candidate much. He lost by a landslide. I would like to thank Keith M. of Brooklyn, NY for directing me to this article. Check it out if you want the longer version of the story.