California State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
Historic California Posts:
Fort Humboldt
 
 
Established on January 30, 1853, by Captain Robert C. Buchanan, 4th Infantry, this post was situated on a 35 foot high bluff overlooking Humholdt Bay at what was then Bucksport, presently a part of the city of Eureka. Intended to provide protection for the area's inhabitants from Indian hostiles, it served also as a supply depot for other posts in northern California. Ulysses S. Grant served here in 1854 as a 4th Infantry captain. In 1866 the garrison, except for one company of artillery was withdrawn and the post then became a subdepot, maintained primarily to provide supplies to Fort Gaston. Department commander Brigadier General Irvin McDowell reported on September 14, 1867, that the company of Artillery had been withdrawn and the post completely abandoned. One historical chronologist reports abandonment took place in 1866, in accordance \with Special Order Number. 243. Department off Californiania. On April 6, 1870, the military reservation, now a state historic monument was transferred to the Department of the Interior. The post hospital, completely renovated, was moved a short distance from its original site. It is now a Museum with Native American and military artifacts, text and photographs. The second building that has been restored is the Surgeons Quarters. This building Is open only for special occasions. Visitors can look in the windows and see photographs of Josiah Simpson, Army Doctor, and his wife Harriett, who lived in the residence from 1854-75. In 2001 the Park added the History in Bloom garden designed to represent a typical personal garden at the Fort in 1853-63. The Fort Museum is open daily from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm most of the year. It is closed on weekends only from November through February. For more info on Fort Humboldt, people can call the State Park at (707) 445-6567.
History
by Colonel Herbert M. Hart, USMC (retired)
Executive Director, Council on America's Military Past
 
Fort Humboldt was headquarters for the Northern California District of the Humboldt, an area of 20,000 square miles during the Civil War. With its rugged forests and mountains, the Humboldt District presented its commander with no easy task. "There are so many Indians and they are so hard to find," Colonel Francis J. Lippitt reported, "that to bring them all in by sending small detachments after them would take as long as it would to bring in the squirrels and coyotes."
 
When the fort was built in 1853, a lieutenant named George Crook was in its first detachment, it was just about the only military establishment in the area. By 1861, the Humboldt had four forts (Humboldt, Crook, Gaston, and Bragg) and as many camps (Baker, Lyon, Anderson, and Lincoln). This had shrunk to only Humboldt, Gaston, and Lincoln by 1865, and Camp Iaqua, built near Blue Lake in 1863.
 
Humboldt had its problems. One of its early captains, a U. S. Grant, served there for five months in 1854, but spent more time at Ryan's Tavern in Eureka than at the fort. In 1861 the rains were so bad that the 26 buildings were abandoned temporarily and shelter was sought in Eureka.
 
Twenty-five men scouted through the brambles and brush in the sixties with such enthusiasm that they were "so entirely destitute as to make it impossible for them to leave the camp, however urgently their services are needed," Lippitt reported. In other words, they had no pants.
 
At one time, Lippitt had 300 Indians and 35 soldiers under guard at the fort. He built a circular stockade 10 feet high and 80 feet in diameter and put everyone in it.After the Civil War, the need for Fort Humboldt lessened. It was closed in 1866 and abandoned in the 1870's. Only one building, the hospital, remains today. It was shifted from its original position, so today nothing at Fort Humboldt remains as it once was.
 B  Barracks
 BK  Bakery
 BLK  Blacksmith
 GH  Guardhouse
 H  Hospital
 LAUN  Laundress Quarters
 OQ  Officer's Quarters
 ST  Stable
 
U.S. Grant's home in 1854 was said to be the L-shaped one in top row of officers' quarters. (Redrawn from California Beaches and Parks data.)
 
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This page was reprinted with permission from Old Forts of the Northwest, published in 1965
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