The year 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil war.  While many of the obvious states will memorialize the event, many would be surprised that California played a part in the war as well.

Gold from California helped keep the Union solvent.  California had more volunteers per capita in the Union Army than any other state. Nearly 17,000 Californians enlisted to fight.  By war’s end, California volunteers in the West occupied more territory than did the Union Army in the east.  The efforts of California men were not only critical in keeping California part of the Union and in keeping the flow of gold to Washington uninterrupted, but also in keeping the Far West federal territory.

Sacramento organized a voluntary military defense force due to the possibility of invasion by forces stationed in Confederate Texas.  In Sacramento’s July 4, 1861 parade, Major J.P. Gillis proudly waved his version of the Confederate flag, which was promptly “captured” by J.W. Biderman.  (The flat is on display at the California State Capitol Museum and is referred to as the “Biderman flag.”  I’m curious as to why it isn’t named after the man who actually created it.)

After war’s end, many Civil War veterans remained in California, including the Sacramento area.  In 1897, a Civil War memorial Grove was planed in Capitol Park (10th and L Streets) with saplings from 40 famous Civil War battlefields, including Manassas, Harpers Ferry, Savannah, Five Forks, Yellow Tavern and Vicksburg.  At the center stood a “tree of peace,” transplanted from Appomattox, where the Confederate Army surrendered.  In the Sacramento City Cemetery, you’ll find the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial, allegedly the first Civil War memorial in California.  To this day, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUV) continue the efforts of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Deceased Civil War veterans often only received a wooden plaque with their name written or carved into or a headstone without information indicating their military service.  SUV, therefore, locates and identifies Civil War soldiers, the units and companies in which they served, infantry, artillery, etc., and what state they were from. SUV then ensured they receive a proper military headstone, and present rededication ceremonies, replicating how it would have looked during that time period, with attendees in full Union blue uniforms and sometimes a 21-gun salute, with muzzle loaders similar to those use din the Civil War. 

Grave sites can be found throughout Sacramento County, including the suburbs of Citrus Heights and Fair Oaks.

If you believe you have an ancestor who served in the Civil War, SUV is a national organization who can be contacted at their web site site, www.suvcw.org.  (Perhaps you’re an “S.O.B.” – son of both sides.)

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