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Did you know that the southern leg of Highway 79, (formerly part of the old 395) was a Civil War military road? It linked Los Angeles with Fort Wright (in Oak Grove, south of Temecula and Aguanga) and Fort Yuma during the early 1860's! These forts were manned by the Union Army of the Pacific and were used to keep the Confederate Army of New Mexico out of California in 1862. This not only prevented California gold shipments from falling into the hands of the south, but stopped the advance of the Confederate Army in New Mexico territory and in the Confederate "state" of Arizona. Fierce Civil War battles had been fought at Fort Craig, Val Verde, Glorietta Pass, Peralta, and Mesilla in New Mexico Territory in 1861 and 1862. The control of California by Union forces was culminated with the advance of the California Column marching to Fort Yuma, thus reclaiming the Southwest from retreating Confederate forces.

 

Little is it known that California was often very divided on the issue of secession during the Civil War. San Bernardino County was a hotbed of re-located Southerners who were active in the gold rush of the 1860's. Most were settlers in Holcomb Valley whose loyalties were often well known. These southern sympathizers were joined by the dissatisfied Mormons living in the County since the 1850's whose relatives had experienced the threat of federal troops in 1858 in Utah. With this coalition, the secessionist movement now found added strength. Fortunately, this local belligerence finally ended in nothing more than a few barn burnings, reminiscent of "Burning Kansas" a decade earlier.

What seems ever more curious is the Confederate press in San Francisco which thrived during the war. It met with quick death when an angry mob burned down the "Copperhead Press" building in the wake of the Lincoln assassination. The Civil War in California ended with a few other individual incidences, mostly involving potential smuggling. All in all, these facts leave one with a more interesting impression of the role California had in the struggle for the Union.