Eureka >> Tom Mays, professor of history at HSU and Historical Society board member, presents The California Mutiny: Fort Humboldt in the Civil War at the Humboldt County Historical Society program meeting on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. This program will be held at the Sequoia Conference Center at 901 Myrtle Avenue (behind Burre Center). Admission is free and everyone is invited.
The program will be followed by an election of Historical Society officers and directors, so members are particularly encouraged to attend and vote.
Many students of the Civil War pay little attention to events in the far west. No great battles were fought in California and the state remained firmly in the Union. Perhaps a third of the population was southern but they never posed a serious threat to the sovereignty of the state. But more than 16,000 men enlisted, most believing that they would go east to put down the rebellion. That did not happen.
All the regiments raised in the state were used to take up the void left by the regular army as they left frontier posts for the east. The men who had enlisted to put down the rebellion in the east chafed at western garrison duty and held an open disdain for being used by local politicians to ethnically cleanse Native Americans from land coveted by whites.
Many of the California volunteer units were also poorly led. Drawing from the pool of recent immigrants and minors, the men did not always make the best choices in electing their junior officers. One example was the commander of Co. E, 2nd California Volunteer Cavalry, Captain David B. Akey. In late 1861, Akey’s company was ordered to the remote coast of Northern California to join Colonel Francis J. Lippitt’s Humboldt Military District to fight Indians. By the spring of 1862, to casual observers it appeared that one half of the garrison was on duty guarding the other half in prison, while the majority of officers were testifying or on court marshal duty. Lippitt and Akey’s term of service at Fort Humboldt stands as one of the most dramatic breakdowns of military discipline in U.S. Army history.
Join Professor Tom Mays on Nov. 7, as he looks at Fort Humboldt during the Civil War, chronicling the courts-martial, the desertions, the drunkenness, and other wartime follies. For more information please contact the Humboldt County Historical Society at 707-445-4342, or visit http://www.humboldthistory.org/.