Discussion Civil War happenings in and around my home town.

Oct 24, 2019
I grew up in a small town in Nothern California, just a stones throw from San Fransico, Alameda / Oakland was a bedroom community in the East Bay Area that got started after the the Gold Rush.

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(Oakland is almost dead center on the map to the right.)

Here is a map of what it looked like back then.

So it comes to pass that there was some division even in Oakland during the Civil War. Check out this article I found.

"A small cannon stood at Twelfth and Fallon streets in Oakland during the Civil War. Each time news of a Union victory reached the Pacific Coast, members of the Oakland Guard would fire it off in celebration."

"The cannon didn’t go off that often, but often enough to irritate Jack Cohane, leader of the Alameda Copperheads. And one day after a Union victory, the cannon disappeared."

"A few years after the war had ended, the Alameda County Gazette explained the atmosphere in Oakland during those days."

“At the outbreak of the rebellion there were in Oakland Plenty of rough, brutal fellows, Southerners who would revile the Unionists, frequently offer personal violence and who tried to make themselves a terror to the community.”

"Confederate sympathizers were in the minority in California. They organized secret underground groups with names like the Knights of the Golden Circle or Knights of the Columbian Star. They concocted unrealistic plans, such as one to take over Navy ships in the Bay. Union supporters labeled them all “Copperheads.”

"In order to counteract the activities of the Copperhead societies, the Union men organized their own group, the Union League. It was supposed to be a secret society, but apparently a lot of people knew about it."

"The League gained the blessing of the commander of the Pacific Department of the Army and set up military units to keep an eye on suspected Copperheads."

"Harry Morse, later one of the most famous lawmen in the West, helped organize the Oakland Guard, one of the League’s military units."

"The Alameda County Gazette described Morse as an inch shorter than six feet weighing 155 pounds, “an ardent Unionist, afraid of nobody.”

"When the Oakland cannon disappeared, the Oakland Guard immediately suspected Cohane. Morse and his fellow guardsmen captured Cohane, marched him to the foot of Broadway and threw him into the estuary."

"Cohane, not wishing to drown for that piece of cast iron, revealed his group had dumped the cannon off the wharf. Cohane was pulled out of the water, and the gun was recovered."

"Morse quickly was promoted in the Guard from corporal to lieutenant. In 1863, Morse and other guardsmen raided a building at 11th and Madison streets, where they captured three members of the Knights of the Golden Circle, who they suspected were conspiring against the Union. The Oakland Guard turned these men over to authorities who sent them to Alcatraz, where there was a military prison."

"Before the war was over, Morse was elected sheriff of Alameda County. At 28, he was the youngest sheriff in the state. He made a name for himself chasing and capturing bandits. After 12 years as sheriff, he opened a detective agency and gained further fame when he discovered the true identity of “Black Bart,” the highway robber plaguing Wells Fargo’s gold shipments."

"Contra Costa County had its share of Confederate sympathizers. David Stephenson, history researcher at the San Ramon Valley Museum, says that Danville was “a hotbed of Confederate sympathizers.”

"Some of the county’s most respected pioneers in the San Ramon Valley sympathized with the Confederate cause, among them Daniel and Andrew Inman, John Snydor and Jesse Bowles. Danville was founded by Daniel Inman."

"In 1861, Bowles organized a parade as part of a political rally in Pacheco. It featured a large log loaded on a wagon with the name “Constitution” painted across each side. The name “Lincoln” was painted on a big maul (a hammer used to split logs) on top of the log. This was supposed to show that Lincoln was splitting the Constitution."

"William Mero, in “Snakes in the Grass: Copperheads in Contra Costa,” which appears on the Contra Costa County Historical Society Web site, writes that the San Ramon Valley was the center of southern Democrat and Confederate sympathizer activity. But he adds that other prominent anti-Unionists were in other parts of the county, including Nathaniel Jones of Lafayette, one of Contra Costa’s earliest sheriffs, and Jack Tice of Tice Valley."

"These sympathizers prompted pro-Unionists to form the Contra Costa Guard in September 1861."

"The Contra Costa Guard was a cavalry company, part of the First Calvary Regiment, Second Brigade of the California Militia. Sixty-three men signed up to serve. Company headquarters was in San Pablo. County Undersheriff Henry Classen joined up as a second lieutenant. T.J. Wright, Assemblyman from Contra Costa, kept books for the company. The company put up a $3,000 bond to acquire weapons from the state armory. The equipment didn’t get there until September 1864, but it did seem quite adequate."

"Mero gives a partial list of the weaponry, 50 Colt Army pistols, 50 holsters, 50 waist belts, 50 screwdrivers, 50 cavalry swords, 52 uniforms, 25 bullet molds and one arms chest to keep the guns."

"A comprehensive exhibit on the Civil War, including the traveling exhibit from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., just opened at the Museum of San Ramon Valley, 205 Railroad Ave. Danville. It will continue through May 29."

If you folks ever get a chance stop in and checkout Downtown Alameda, you won't find nicer people.​


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Oct 24, 2019
The crossing of two railroads and the uniting of three adjacent villages formed Alliance, Ohio by 1860. A large Quaker population and the publishing of the Antislavery Journal just miles away as well as many local papers kept local citizens very aware of conditions in the country. Alliance as well as neighboring communities were important stations on the Underground Railroad.

Sara Lucy Bagby Johnson, the last enslaved person to be returned to her owner under the Fugitive Slave Act, was accompanied by federal marshals through Alliance on her trip on the rails that led from Cleveland to Wheeling (West) Virginia. Just weeks later Lincoln, on the same rail line, stopped for lunch in Alliance on his way to Washington for his inauguration. Neighboring counties produced both the Copperhead Clement Vallandigham and the Union's "fighting McCooks".

In April 1861, area militias were ready to answer Lincoln's call for volunteers. A new fairgrounds in Alliance was the scene for the organizing of the Three-year 19th Ohio Regiment that served throughout the war in the Western theater and even into Texas. Several regiments were founded in the Stark County area. Quaker John Columbus Haines, whose home was a stop in the Underground Railroad, followed pacifist dictates by leading two regimental bands during the war. Morgan's Raiders came within miles of the area with some of his stragglers being sent through the town on the rail lines.

So area citizens were well involved in the culture of the times.