The Civil War was a pivotal event in the history of the United States, but few realize that California played an important role in that conflict. Although the major battles took place in the east, troops from the Drum Barracks kept California in the Union, protected the local citizenry, the Wilmington Harbor and much of the southwest, and secured the territory that is now Arizona and New Mexico for the Union. From 1861-1865 about 17,000 Californians served in both volunteer regiments in the west and in regiments fighting in the east. After the war, Californians from the Drum Barracks continued to serve in the southwest during the Indian Wars.
Drum Barracks was the point of origin of the California Column, formed and commanded by Col. James H. Carleton, first commander at the Drum Barracks. In 1862 Confederate Texas Volunteers had marched across the Rio Grande River and taken control of part of the territory that is now Arizona and New Mexico. Col. Carlton was ordered by the War Department to form a body of troops and retake control of the territory, pushing the Confederates back into Texas. In April 1962 the 2,350 men of the California Column began a march to Santa Fe during the driest summer of the century. On the way, these soldiers fought the Battle of Picacho Pass, the westernmost battle of the Civil War.
There were two things that stood out from this visit. One was the Gatling gun and how they were able to obtain it. The other is the extensive collection of civil war books, the largest collection west of the Mississippi River. You have to make an appointment to do research there.
The Drum Barracks is located at 1052 Banning Blvd, Wilmington, CA 90744 (310) 548-7509. They are open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10:00 and 11:30 a.m., and on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 and 1:00 p.m. The web site is http://www.drumbarracks.org