California is not talked about too much in the context of the American Civil War (1861-65).
It had only joined the Union in 1850 and was far from the main action in the east of the USA. However, California did have a part to play during the US Civil War.
California and Statehood
It was prior to 1850 that the true nature of the Wild West existed in California, this pristine region of the country. Ideology was split, and even within the split, there was further fracturing due to cultural differences as well as consistent fighting for property rights. The discovery of gold exacerbated the issue of regional turmoil as California was pulled into the US Civil War. This is just the tip of the iceberg on how California existed during this era. Many, or almost all people, are not aware of how truly important California as a region was during the Civil War.
California and Californians themselves endured in its struggle and existence. California had essentially wrapped itself in the American Civil War in politics, finances, and culture. California ethos (or ideology) was absolutely split politically. In hindsight, it was seemingly more than “Blue & Grey” ideology in a state that was overwhelmingly Native American. California had always been home to a Native American and slave population well before being “settled” by Americans East of the Mississippi.
It all started when California made statehood in 1850. Soon thereafter in 1859, the legislature of California was split into two states – Northern California and Southern California (as Colorado Territory). Even though Southern California was part of the Union, it had strong Confederate sympathies. These Confederate ties were due to the large number of Southerners who had transplanted to the Southern California area during the famous Gold Rush. This mass-relocation showed its evidence in the 1860 presidential elections. Lincoln had received only 25% of the Los Angeles vote.
On the brink of the Civil War California chose the Union, abandoning three other choices: secession, neutrality, and independence. Arguments and counterarguments were made from every political and civic level of the community. It seemed as though some people were in doubt and tossed about in which decision it should have been. Although California was isolated from the conflict in the East and despite the diversified political beliefs of her people, a feeling of loyalty to the United States and federal government was overwhelming. California Republican and Union-Democratic leaders expressed an unwavering loyalty in a multitude of ways.
Ultimately, the Unionist political candidates took over two-thirds of the votes for state government. Various estimates have been guessed regarding the number of pro-Confederates in the population in California. Indeed, although the loyalty of the state appeared evident, militias were activated.
Revenue and Turmoil
Oaths of loyalty were required for certain groups and individuals, and of course occasional military arrests were made to solidify loyalty. Regardless, California would end up being a major financial contributor to the federal government during the Civil War, because the gold deposits were direct revenue to pay for war costs. In fact, quite a large portion of the federal government’s war budget was reinforced by new gold from California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. General Grant, in fact, said, "I do not know what we could do in this great national emergency, were it not for the gold sent from California.”
The U.S Army built and operated many fortifications along frontier trails in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. What people do not know is that although California leaned towards the Union, they were so wrapped up in their own civil discord at home they were not able to send organized regiments east. In late 1861, a Confederate Brigadier General Henry Sibley was allowed to open up an easier route into California through northern Arizona Territory, with further instruction to capture the gold fields in San Francisco by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. This instruction would be for the purpose of a preemptive strike against the Unionist state and in turn show how significant California really was in the Civil War.
Little did both sides realize, California was in regional turmoil on its own accord without the help of a formal war. Now, aside from the status quo bleeding “Blue & Grey,” some non-traditional elements to the war are that the settlers who had come to California were still dealing with the effects of settling tribal lands, adding negative social, criminal, and economic dilemmas between the local Native American tribes, settlers, and the U.S. government.For example, in Humboldt County (approximately 271 miles north of San Francisco) on March 29, 1862, a Humboldt Times headline read, “Horrible Indian Outrages!—The Savages Become Bolder!”
In this letter submitted to the paper’s editors on March 27, 1862, the citizens of Arcata were “really alarmed at the extent of their (the Native America) evil deeds and the increased boldness and daring… “. The letter states that local natives shot Mr. Zehendner and burned his home, burnt Goodman’s house and the next day, Mrs. Brehmer’s. On Friday, March 28, Augustus Bates was shot and killed. The natives burned his house. The letter ends, “What a sudden reverse - peace and fancied security one day - death and destruction the next. Surely human life is mutable and occurrences like this bring the fact impressively to our mind. This is a gloomy letter, and ours is a gloomy town. I can think and write of nothing else.”
Still The Wild West
On April 2, 1862, many of the citizens of Arcata signed a petition asking the military to remove all the Native Americans from the county completely and push them far away. They went on to state that they didn’t want them in Mendocino County or Crescent City – as it was too easy to get back. This shows that California was essentially dealing with its own problems, as well as the internal war. With a combination of civic non-cohesion of indigenous native populations, the settlers of the newly established towns, and with the two warring governments remaining active in the state, it appears as though both the centralized governments failed to see the deeper issue residing in California.
Overall, there were handfuls of land skirmishes in California. Within the timeline of the war, California seemed to be most concerned with keeping political tension at a minimum. A further example of the civil issues that California would have to navigate would be the Bullion Bend Robbery.Two stagecoaches were robbed of their silver and gold near Placerville. A letter was left for authorities explaining that they were not committed criminals but carrying out a subversive operation to funnel money to the Confederacy.
In 1864, a magistrate and handful of men became known as the Partisan Rangers.They sacked the property of Union-loyal civilians in the rural and outlying areas around Stockton. For the next two years they posed as “Confederate Partisan Rangers” but acted out criminally. They were found committing robberies, thefts, and murders located in the counties of San Joaquin Valley, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Clara, and a few other counties located in Southern California.
A final notable incident required a superb show of force by the Federal Cavalry in the streets of San Bernardino at the end of election day in September of 1864. They quelled a Confederate political demonstration during the gubernatorial elections in San Bernardino County.
California’s Permanent Divide
After the Civil War ended in California the state took greater control and quickly began to integrate the counties of what would end up being on today’s political boundary maps. With the last of the Pacific coast Native Americans being rounded up to be placed on reservations and the fizzling out of what would come to be known as Westward Expansion, the state would start to consolidate its power as the new and now truly established authority in the West.
It was now no longer considered the Wild West – as you would see on old black and white Western movies. Even so, the Union won the Civil War and California adopted the Union’s policies, politically--there would always be a permanently heavy Democratic and Republican divide that would simmer beneath the voting cracks.
Daniel L. Smith
Charles B. Turrill."San Francisco and the Civil War." Museum of the City of San Francisco. Last modified 1876. http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist5/civwar.html.
“Horrible Indian Outrages! - The Savages Become Bolder!”The Humboldt Times, March 29th, 1862. p.3 col. 1.
Brian McGinty. "I Will Call a Traitor a Traitor: Albert Sidney Johnston." Civil War Times Illustrated, 1981.
John Boessenecker (1993). Badge and Buckshot: Lawlessness in Old California.Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 133–157. ISBN 0806125101. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
William B. Secrest, (2007). California Badmen: Mean Men with Guns.Sanger, Calif.: Word Dancer Press. pp. 143–147. ISBN 1884995519. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
Henry Martyn Lazelle; Leslie J. Perry (1897). The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
Kevin Starr. California: A History. New York: Modern Library, 2015
See my article at HISTORY-IS-NOW MAGAZINE
The whole idea of independent sovereignty with full “property rights” being given to the individual person—is a Christian concept that the natives observed. The Cherokee Constitution—was their tribal national constitution drafted to resemble the United States Constitution and the Georgia State Constitution (a slave owning state). As an example; it was a purposeful effort by the Cherokee Nation to adopt Western ideals, as through their observations they felt a sense order, structure, justice, and liberty. Hence, they moved to partition their Cherokee Nation from tribal culture, and establish a more formal and legal presence within North America.
In Article 2, section 1, “The power of the Government shall be divided into three distinct departments---the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial.” This is the same wording as the American Federal Constitution, in article 1, section 1. This evidence suggests that the Cherokee established their constitution under the same formatting as the Federal Government for reasons of: 1.) Tribal Security, 2.) Tribal Continuity, and 3.) Regional Relief of Tensions.
According to todayingeorgiahistory.org, “It was designed to solidify the tribe’s sovereignty and resist white encroachment and removal -- and to counter American citizens stereotyping of Indians as savages. The Cherokee constitution proved controversial with both other Cherokee, who saw it as a threat to tradition, and the state of Georgia, which thought it threatened its sovereignty over the tribe. Georgia continued, and succeeded in, its relentless pursuit of Cherokee removal, despite the Constitution adopted on July 26, 1827” 
It’s a hard lesson to bite. Especially when you learn that the Cherokee Nation was attempting to assimilate into American society as best as they could, all while maintaining their own sovereign identity. Oppositely though, it is quite hard to believe that there wasn’t political or cultural misconduct between Georgia and the Cherokee. Typically as it is in global politics, there is always a reaction to an action whether negative or positive in outcome.
I had an argument where a fellow peer said, "A constitution that has been in practice since before the upstate settlements in the 1600’s and may hold partial responsibility in the development of the settlers nation. As proof, they cite records kept by the colonists. An Onondaga named 'Canassatego', suggested that the colonists form a nation similar to the Iroquois Confederacy during a meeting of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania in Lancaster on June 25, 1744." This was a poor argument.
The ideals for some Native American nations, such as the Cherokee, predate any influence provided by the Europeans. We see most similarities in how these Native Americans formatted their laws to reflect that of the settlers. This was most likely done in the attempt to most effectively convey their already sovereign nations to these foreigners in a way that most effectively would do so."
I disagree that the ideals for some Native American nations, such as the Cherokee, predate any influence provided by the Europeans. There is nowhere in history that shows evidence that Native American political ideals predated European Influence. Especially when it comes to the Constitution of National Governments. Here is why: legalism and property ownership is a Christian principle (even though all cultures understand ownership over physical items).
An example here would be the Magna Charta of 1215. The Magna Charta was a signed document and statement that embodied the principle that both sovereign nations and sovereign people are beneath the law and subject to it. Later, both Englishmen and American Colonists cited the Magna Charta as a source of their freedom. Natives of North America did not have access to this document.
Even before 1215, Alfred the Great who ruled from 871-899 was a strict follower of Catholic Saint Patrick. After many Viking invasions, Alfred the Great instituted many Christian reforms in many areas of life, including government. These reforms were based on the Ten Commandments as the basis of law and adopted many other patterns of government based from the Hebrew Republic. My point here is that, there is no way Native Americans of North America could have established a style of "Christian Constitution" without direct Western European influence.
According to the Michael P. Gueno, “English common law jurists expounded upon the argument for the English monarchy’s right to conquer non-Christian territories, most articulately described in Lord Chief Justice Edward Coke’s dicta in Calvin’s Case. Coke argued that all non-Christians were perpetual enemies, of the Christian and by their very nature are in a state of war with Christian nations. However, despite the general consensus that Native American tribes lacked any rights to the territories that they occupied, in practice, colonists often felt compelled to obtain at least some formal semblance of legal consent from the tribes through treaties or purchase agreements to assert their claim upon tribal lands”. This further proves the principle foundation of ethics the Christians had towards the native tribes.
Mr. Gueno continues to state that, “Some colonists even denounced the unilateral rights and universal sovereignty of European Christians over the Native Americans. Colonial theologian Roger Williams rejected the assumption that being white and Christian were sufficient conditions to legitimize colonization or conversion. He argued that since Native Americans clearly believed that they owned the land, Native American–inhabited territories could not be legally treated as vacuum domicilium and settled without regard for tribal presence.” The context of property ownership was plainly understood between both parties. 
Gueno concludes, “Europeans continued to debate conflicting religious interpretations of Indian rights during the early North American colonial era. Yet, whenever Native Americans were numerous, proximate, and potentially threatening, colonizing peoples felt pressed to seek Indian consent for new settlements. Thus, European powers ascribed, to some extent, in practice and in theory a sufficient degree of sovereignty to Native tribes to legitimately transfer claim of lands and administer their own communities.”
It's a complex issue regarding North American history. Interpretations are one of the major battles in presenting history.
Facts are facts however, and objective evidence is always better than subjective! And legalism (including religion) grounds every culture on earth.
Written: January 20, 2019
 "1839 Constitution." Cherokee Nation, www.cherokeeobserver.org/Issues/1839constitution.html. Accessed 26 Nov. 2018.
 State of Georgia. "Cherokee Constitution." Todayingeorgiahistory.org/, 2013, www.todayingeorgiahistory.org/content/cherokee-constitution. Accessed 26 Nov. 2018
 David H. Getches, Charles F. Wilkinson, Robert A. Williams, Jr., Matthew L. M. Fletcher, & Kristen A. Carpenter, eds., Cases and Materials On Federal Indian Law, 7th ed. (Saint Paul, MN: West Academic Publishing, 2017), 63.
 Henry S. Commanger, ed., Documents of American History, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1968), 5–10.
 Gueno, Michael P. "Native Americans, Law, and Religion in America." Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, 10 Nov. 2017, religion.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-9780199340378-e-140. Accessed 10 June 2018.
Arthur Wigmore was a settler from Missouri. He lived near Lower Rancheria on the Eel River. Settler’s from back east, such as Mr. Wigmore, would come to farm the land among other choice career opportunities. In September of 1854, he was murdered and thrown into a local marsh. After an investigation done by officials and locals, it was made clear that a local native known by the locals as “Billy” was the one who had killed him.
As soon as word of “Billy’s” accusation reached the local natives of the Lower Rancheria, they, apparently knowing or having good reason what to expect in response to this accusation, all fled into the elevations of the Trinity mountains. Over the course of a few days, meetings were held and plans were in the works to find and arrest the murderer of Mr. Wigmore. During the course of this time, one citizen “enlisted into their service a small band of renegade” natives to hunt down to perpetrator. After a day or two, the natives returned with a newly decapitated head claiming it to be that of “Billy.”
Around that same time, then Commander of Ft. Humboldt Colonel Robert Buchanan sent out Captain Henry Judah to arrest any natives implicated in the murder. Judah, proving an effective leader, surprised a camp of about 100 local natives—two of whom confessed to the murder. Judah detained the two perpetrators and escorted them back to Ft. Humboldt to await civil authorities intervention—leaving the rest of the tribe alone, in peace, to themselves.
Released Without Charges
A communications breakdown would occur at this point, as the citizens of the county called upon the Commander of Ft. Humboldt to punish them—which he would not. Buchanan held firm that he had “no authority to punish the Indians for the murder of Wigmore, even after admission of guilt” occurred. At that moment in time, it was seen as not the place of the civil authorities to give legal trial to prisoners captured by the military. In the end, the two local natives were released without charges and left back to their tribe.
This incident stirred negative sentiments from the settling citizens of these industrious towns across the entire western region of Northern California. For about a year afterwards there was no outbreak of hostility. The local native tribes however were completely restless though and the miners in the mountain and foothill districts of Humboldt and Trinity counties were well aware. There was serious trouble on the horizon and the miner’s knew it.
Orleans Bar is located on the Klamath river that forks the Trinity River in Humboldt County. In 1855, the miners along the Klamath river passed local ordinances that “all persons detected in selling fire-arms to the Indians should have their heads shaved, receive twenty-five lashes and afterward be driven from camp; and also that all the Indians in the vicinity be disarmed.” In following through with the last resolution passed—a delegation of miners visited a handful of ranches and the weapons discovered there were confiscated.
The Klamath's Grace
A few tribes however would be reluctant to hand over their firearms to the entrustment of the miners, regardless the reason or cause. In response to the local tribes disagreement, an armed company of miners was formed. They punctually marched to the nearest ranch withholding firearms and demanded their surrender of weapons. The natives responded with a quick volley of fire from their firearms to the miners sudden surprise. In the melee as several miners would lay dead and others would scatter wounded.
Instead of fighting, the miners retreated under attack to Orleans Bar and sent for military assistance from Commander Buchanan at Fort Humboldt. He sent Captain Judah up to the Klamath river as a response—with very little reaching effect. Partially this reason is due to his non-consent and unwillingness to lay waste to all of the natives living on the Klamath under such an isolated issue of murder in this nature. For instance, “Billy” was known around the neighborhood personally. This would further make it a domestic issue. More than that though, Captain Judah was recalled by the U.S. Army before he could even make any standing order on how to deal with the situation.
At this same time, at various areas above Orleans Bar was equally as bad. At the split where the Klamath and Salmon rivers meet, there was a stout anxiety by the mining communities to kill off all of the local Klamath natives once and for all. That determination to commit to this massacre was quickly thwarted by United States Army soldiers and among them was a young Captain-in-Charge by the name of Ulysses S. Grant. This is that same man who would later “rise to the highest distinction in the profession of arms and the highest office in the gift of his countrymen.” Captain Grant curtailed the miners hostility and agitation that day, using a show of force as well as masterful communication skills. It would have been a day where the ends at that moment would have not justified the means. Without Grant's assistance, the miner's would have dealt a swift end to the Klamath river tribes.
Daniel L. Smith,
Images courtesy of: Smithsonianmag.com & The National Archives.