Did San Francisco have play a role during the Civil War?

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Did San Francisco play a role during the Civil War? Were any of the US Cavalary divisions stationed here?

-- sandy (sfmcnw@earthlink.net), February 12, 1998


San Francisco was a golden target for Confederates throughout the war, but it was never attacked. They lusted after the wealth of silver and gold coming to San Francisco from the Comstock, and realized that California wealth could finance their struggle against the Union. However, despite laying elaborate plans, the Rebs never were able to mount a serious military threat to California.

Unaware of the Confederacy's limited resources, the Union poured vast amounts of money, men and materiel into fortifications around the Bay in anticipation of possible attack. There already-existing forts on Alcatraz and Fort Point were greatly enlarged, and the Army constructed emergency gun batteries on Angel Island, Fort Mason and Mare Island. Even the Navy got into the act, sending a "Monitor"-type ironclad warship to San Franciso.

Numerous companies of Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery troops were stationed at the Presidio and elsewhere throughout the war.

San Francisco's worst fear was a British-supported Confederate attack on San Francisco, or an uprising by local Secessionists that would cut off the Bay from the rest of the Union. In the summer of 1865, the Confederate warship "Shenandoah" was in the Pacific and its captain laid plans to attack San Francisco by sneaking past the forts during a heavy fog, training his guns on downtown San Francisco and demanding payment or surrender.

A couple of days before attacking, Captain Waddell stopped a British ship for supplies and learned the Civil War had ended a couple of months earlier. Needless to say, he called off the attack.

For more information on San Francisco during the Civil War, check out the bookstores at either Fort Point or the Presidio. My first book, "Fortress Alcatraz," is a good starting point.

John Martini Presido of San Francisco.

-- John Martini (John_Martini@nps.gov), February 14, 1998.

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