February 21, 2008

Civil War California

At the Catalina Island Museum we learned that the island was briefly the site of a Civil War encampment. Apparently the Union wanted to prevent the Confederacy from establishing ports on the western coast, and Catalina was one logical port. Also, southern California was full of secessionist sympathizers, and the U.S. needed to keep California from supporting the Confederacy.

Then while we were in the Los Angeles area, we visited the Drum Barracks, a Civil War site named after an important officer, Richard Drum. The building was part of a camp established by the U.S. Government in January 1862.

What impressed me about the site is that the buildings were basically prefabricated in the east and shipped to California by boat (a long, long distance, there being no Panama Canal in those days). Lumber was not available in the Wilmington/L.A. area then as forests of large trees were far away. After the war, the site was sold back to the previous owners and they sold off the buildings except for one, which remains there today. The other buildings were removed to places unrecorded.

Drum Barracks Museum, Los Angeles

Not far from the museum is the Banning House (pictured at left), residence of Phineas Banning, who sold the land for the barracks to the U.S. Army. We did not have time to tour the house. Later I read that Banning's sons eventually purchased Catalina Island (1892) and developed it successfully, only to be set back by a devastating fire in 1915.

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