The Civil War was a pivotal event in the history of the United States;
unfortunately, few people realize that California played an important role in the
conflict. Although the major engagements took place in the East, troops from
the Drum Barracks kept California in the Union, protected much of the
Southwest and secured the Arizona Territory for the Union.
The Drum Barracks Civil War Museum is housed in the last remaining wooden
building of the Drum Barracks, named after Adjutant General Richard Coulter
Drum, head of the Department of the Pacific. This facility served as the Union
Army headquarters for Southern California and the Arizona Territory from
The Drum Barracks, which was first called Camp Drum, served as the main
staging, training and supply base for military operations in the Southwest, and
occupied approximately 60 acres of land with an additional 37 acres near the
harbor. The land was sold to the Army by Phineas Banning and B.D. Wilson
for the sum of one dollar each.
After the Civil War ended, Californians from Camp Drum continued to remain
in the Southwest during the Indian Wars. The California units were recognized
by army commanders of the time as being among the best equipped and
trained in the U.S. Army.
From 1861 to 1865, approximately 17,000 Californians served in both western
volunteer regiments and in regiments fighting in the east.
The Drum Barracks was home to the California Column, formed and
commanded by Colonel James Henry Carleton, first commander of the camp.
In 1862, Texas volunteers had taken control of the Arizona Territory for the
Confederacy. Colonel Carleton was ordered by the War Department to gather
his troops and retake control of the territory. Thus, 2,350 men began a march
to Santa Fe during the driest summer of the century.
On the way, the California Column fought the Battle of Picacho Pass, the
westernmost battle of the Civil War. Colonel Carleton successfully marched
his troops through inhospitable territory without the loss of a single soldier, a
feat regarded as a masterpiece of military planning and execution.
The structure housing the museum originally served as the Junior Officers’
Quarters. The camp closed in 1871. For the next 94 years the Junior Officers’
Quarters served as a high school, a boarding house, and a family home. The
building was due to be demolished in the early 1960s, but was saved and
opened to the public as a museum in 1987 through the efforts of community
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