Subject: American History
Type: Expository Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1467
Topics: Civil War, Helping Others, Social Work, Volunteering

California is one among the major parties that greatly participated in the American war. However, little is known about the participation of California in the war. Therefore, this paper is designed to examine the impact and importance of California in the American war. In brief, the war involved the Confederate army on one side and the Union army on the other side. The civil war had followed the Abraham Lincoln’s call to force back the Confederate states back into the Union. For the purpose of this study, we will examine the four top infantries that participated in the war. These infantries include the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th infantries.

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The 1st California infantry is also known as the 71st Pennsylvania Volunteers. It was one of the largest regiments comprising of 15 companies bigger than a standard lot of a regiment which is ten companies. It was organized by Senator Edward Baker in 1861. The regiment was originally made up of the residents of Philadelphia and was named the first California in honor of Baker as the founding father. However, the regiment was renamed 71st Pennsylvania after the death of Senator Edward Baker in November 1861 which occurred during the battle of balls bluff. In 1862, the regiment was actively involved in the Peninsula campaigns. The campaign comprised of seven days of battle, where the 71st Pennsylvania took an active part in many charges as it maneuvered towards Harrison’s Landing. Upon arrival, the companies R, P, M, N, and L merged to form the standard lot of ten companies. After the merging, they moved further north to Northern Virginia. While in Northern Virginia, the regiment fought in four major battles namely; the battle of Chantilly, the second bull run and the battle of Fredericksburg and that of Antietam. During the same period, the 71st helped in covering the pope’s retreat.  However, the 71st was greatly hit by the battle of Antietam where they lost more than 33% of their strength.

In 1863, the 71st fought the battle of Gettysburg where they defeated Ambrose Wright’s Brigade. The war lasted three days with the Pickett’s charge marking the end of the battle on 3rd July 1863. By the end of the fight, they had lost more than 98 men and officers. In the year that followed, the 71st fought three main battles including the battle of; the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse and that of Cold Harbour. The battle at Cold Harbor was the last that the 71st fought. Afterward, the remnants of the 71st regiment merged with the 69th Pennsylvania. Only 153 out of the 1665 men serving in the 71st returned home uninjured.

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The 2nd California infantry is also known as the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry. It was another major regiment that played a vital role in the American civil war under the Union Army. It was enlisted from the Philadelphia Irish Militia. The 69th was summoned into service under colonel Joshua T. Owen in August 1861. Prior to their notable engagements in battles, they had fought alongside the 71st in the battle of balls bluff. During this period, the 69th was rapidly expanding and there were ideas of forming the Irish Brigade after a merge with the 69th New York. However, their attempt to merge was unsuccessful after Governor Andrew Gregg opposed the idea of joining.

The 2nd California become a significant role player in the Peninsula campaigns. During this period of service, they achieved the greatest success under Major General Joseph Hooker. They had major successful charges in the battle of Antietam. However, their victory did not last long after losing heavily and suffering high numbers of casualties in the battles of Fredericksburg. Due to this hit during the battle of Fredericksburg, they only achieved minor skirmishes at the battle of Chancellorsville. By the onset of the battle of Gettysburg, the 69th had composed itself and stood firm in combat. The 69th fought alongside the 71st and became a significant role player in repelling Ambrose Wright’s Brigade. They were successful on July 2 and proceeded to hold back the Pickett’s charge of July 3. By the end of the battle, they had significantly lost many men including four high-ranking officers and a group of one hundred and forty-three men. However, the 69th emerged as the strongest regiment not to withdraw from defending the stone wall. Despite the fact that they had vigorously participated in supporting the wall, they had many casualties, and their mighty considerably decreased. In the battles of Spotsylvania Courthouse, the fight at the cold harbor and the siege of Petersburg, the 69th suffered more casualties, lost many of the ranking officials and eventually broke up. The regiment was much weaker in the Appomattox campaign and ultimately was defeated at Ball’s Crossroad. Only 56 out of the one thousand men conscripted into the army remained in the Appomattox campaign.

The 3rd California is also known as the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry. It was organized by Colonel Edward D. Baker with the aim of representing and giving credit to California in the Federal Army. The largest number of recruits comprised of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania firemen. After the regiment entered into service, it actively participated in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. However, Colonel Edward Baker died in the battle among other few casualties. Upon the death of the founding father, the California Brigade broke into two; the 72nd Pennsylvania Regiment and the Philadelphia infantry. The 72nd actively participated in the Peninsula campaigns. During the war, they held the rear strongly, and no significant casualties were recorded. However, the case was different in the battle of Antietam and where more than half of the 72nd Infantry was lost. The number of casualties rapidly increased in the battles of Gettysburg and the siege of Petersburg. Soon after the siege of Petersburg, the 72nd was declared to be out of service in 24th June 1864. Out of the 1600 men enlisted in the regiment, 65% were reported casualties.

The 5th California is also known as the 106th Pennsylvania. It fought fewer battles compared to the first, second and third California infantries. The 106th’s first engagement was at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. During the war, there were only minor casualties. Soon after, the 106th was transferred to join the Army of Potomac where they fought alongside each other in the Peninsula campaign. During the campaign, they fought the seven-day’s battle, battles of savage’s Station, Malvern Hill and the battle of Charles City Cross Roads. After the end of these battles, the brigade was sent to Washington where they fought the second battle of Bull Run. This battle was followed by the Battle of Antietam. During this war, the 106th was attacked from three sides and were forced to withdraw. By the end of the war, the regiment had lost more than a third of its military might. However, the 106th continued to actively participate in battles such as the Gettysburg and the Overland Campaign. With the highly increasing casualties, the regiment was weakening, and by early September 1864, many enlisted men were sent home and the remnants consolidated into one battalion comprising K, H and F companies. The battalion was then used in the Appomattox campaigns. By the end of the campaign in 30th June 1865, the enlisted men were discharged. The whole 106th period ended with a total number of 748 persons who comprised of 704 enlisted men and 39 officers.

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In conclusion, we recognize California as a major role player in the civil war of America. She was a major funder and logistics planner. Because of these reasons, Americans and historians should not overlook the importance of California in helping the Union Army win in the American war.

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  1.  Eric Foner, “The Causes of the American Civil War: Recent Interpretations and New Directions,” Civil War History, vol. (1974), pp. 197-214.
  2. Lisa Brady, War Upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscapes during the American Civil War (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), 71; James McLean, California Sabers: The 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry in the Civil War (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 81.
  3. Benjamin. F. Gilbert, “Welcome to the Czars Fleet: An Incident of Civil War Days in San Francisco,” California History 26, no. 1 (1947): doi:10.2307/25156012;
  4. Donald Frazier, Blood & Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1995), 58.
  5. Ray Charles Colton, The Civil War in the Western Territories: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001), 49.
  6. Andrew Masich, The Civil War in Arizona: The Story of the California Volunteers, 1861–1865, 2nd ed. (Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008), 49-51.
  7. Paludan, Philip Shaw, ‘A People’s Contest’: The Union and the Civil War, 1861-1865, New York, 1988.
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