Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
by Robert B. Roberts
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company of artillery was withdrawn and the post then became a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company of Artillery had been withdrawn and the post completely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.
by Justin Ruhge
Captain Robert C. Buchanan, 4th Infantry,
established Fort Humboldt on January 30, 1853. This post was
situated on a 35-foot high bluff overlooking Humboldt Bay at
what was then Bucksport, presently a part of the City of Eureka.
Fort Humboldt was headquarters for the Northern California District
of Humboldt, an area of 20,000 square miles during the Civil
War. Colonel Francis J. Lippitt, 2nd Infantry California Volunteers
was assigned to the command. Intended to provide protection for
the area's inhabitants from Native American hostiles, it served
also as a supply depot for other posts in northern California.
Eventually, 26 frame buildings were constructed around a 300-foot
square parade ground, which overlooked the ocean and bay.
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."
Remember Francis Lippitt from the occupation of Santa Barbara?
When the Fort was built in 1853, a lieutenant
named George Crook was in its first detachment. By 1861, the
Humboldt area had four forts, Humboldt, Crook, Gaston and Bragg
and as many camps, Baker, Lyon, Anderson and Lincoln. This number
was reduced to only Humboldt, Gaston, and Lincoln by 1865 plus
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 heavy that the 26 buildings were
abandoned temporarily and shelter was sought in Eureka. At one
time, Colonel Lippitt had 300 Native Americans and 35 soldiers
at the Fort where he built a circular stockade 10 feet high and
80 feet in diameter and put everyone in it.
In 1854 Colonel Joseph Mansfield, Inspector
General of the Army, visited Fort Humboldt one year after it
was founded. His eyewitness commentary, which follows will give
the reader insight into the conditions and Army customs at that
"Fort Humbolt is in latitude 40
degrees 46 minutes and longitude 124 degrees 9 minutes at Bucksport,
on Humbolt Bay, on a reservation of 640 acres, of 700 yards from
(on the water and town) by 4,444 yards deep; thus securing wood
land, and gardens and keeping off grogeries. It is well selected
in rear of the town, on the high ground, and commands a good
view of the harbour and its entrance. There are four little settlements
on this bay. At the northern extremity is the town of Union;
7 miles south of it is the town of Eureka; 3 miles further south
is Bucksport; and 4 miles further, opposite the entrance of the
harbour, is the town of Humbolt. Thus there is quite an American
population on this bay, with a good steam tug to bring in vessels
and a small steamer to communicate daily with the different places.
The Indians in this quarter number about 250 warriors and are
much degraded. On the Mad River and Eel River they are armed
with bows and arrows. Fifty miles from this post is the junction
of the Trinity River with the Klamath; and this post undoubtedly
exercises an important influence over the Indians on these rivers,
in conjunction with Fort Jones in Scott's Valley, which is 150
miles distant over a bad and dangerous trail.
A Sketch of Fort
Humboldt in 1854 by Army Inspector General Colonel Joseph Mansfield.
Courtesy of the National Archives.
There are constant trains of pack mules between Union and
the mining villages on the Klamath, Trinity, and Salmon Rivers;
and there is a large amount invested in saw mills at Eureka and
Bucksport, which should be protected against any combination
of Indians who could concentrate on any of these three posts,
Fort Lane, Fort Jones, or Fort Humbolt. This post is important
now and should be maintained for some time yet to come, if not
always, for the defense of this bay-particularly as the troops
here on an emergency may be regarded as a reserve that a steamer
could transport to any point along the coast. There is abundant
lumber, wood, grazing, fresh beef, potatoes, and barley here.
All other supplies come from San Francisco. This post is under
the command of Captain and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel R. O. Buchanan,
4h Infantry, who established it January 1853. Attached to this
post is Assistant Surgeon Josiah Simpson. The force consists
of Company B, 4h Infantry, 41 in aggregate: 2 sergeants, 2 corporals,
one musician, 17 privates for duty; 1 rank and file in confinement;
2 rank and file sick; 11 rank and file on extra daily duty; total
37 present for duty. 1st Lieutenant J. B. Collins, 4h Infantry,
absent on recruiting service; 2d Lieutenant C. S. Rundell on
service in New Mexico, not having joined since promoted 5h August,
1853; one rank and file absent sick; one rank and file on furlough.
Total present and absent 41.
Company F, 4h Infantry (Captain
Henry M. Judah), 32 in the aggregate: 1t Lieutenant L.C. Hunt
also acting assistant quartermaster and commissary and recruiting
officer; 2 sergeants, one corporal, one musician, 15 privates
for duty; 3 rank and file sick; 5 rank and file on extra daily
duty; total present, 29: 2d Lieutenant John Withers on detached
service at Fort Vancouver as regimental quartermaster since 25h
October, 1853; Brevet 2d Lieutenant A. E. Latimer on duty at
Fort Miller with Company A, 1t Dragoons, not joined since promoted
1t July, 1853; one rank and file absent confined. Total present
and absent 32. Thus shewing an aggregate force present for duty
The discipline of this post
is good. Both companies were in the old uniform, and their arms
and equipments in good serviceable order, and attention paid
to the comforts of the men. The quarters however were only sufficient
to accommodate one full company. These troops have done a great
deal of work, and put up all their quarters, under the direction
of Colonel Buchanan, at a small cost in purchasing materials
and hiring labour so that all the quarters of this post have
cost only 11,664 93/100 dollars, and the men have supplied their
own wood and made a very valuable garden. In short, great credit
is due this command for its industry &c. A good bakery, hospital,
storehouse and magazine have been built, and abundant quarters
for officers. The plan adopted by Colonel Buchanan of small,
snug plank buildings for each officer is an excellent one and
readily executed. There was a post fund on the 30h June of 29
36/100 dollars. Colonel Buchanan gave a handsome battalion drill,
and Captain Judah, a handsome company drill at infantry. The
drill as skirmishers was indifferent. There was a deficiency
of music, only one drummer and one bugler. There is at this post
one mountain howitzer with 74 rounds of fixed ammunition for
it and 12,500 rounds musket ball cartridges. And the post records
in good order.
The Medical Department is under the direction of Assistant Surgeon
Simpson and the sick well cared for. This a healthy locality
and the greatest heat of temperature in July, 73 degrees, and
the changes not great and strongly contrasted with Fort Reading
in about the same latitude 175 miles by mule trail eastward over
the coast range of mountains and beyond the influence of the
north west winds which blow steadily in the dry season.
The Quartermaster's Department
is in the hands of Lieutenant L.C. Hunt, whom I found in quite
ill health and expecting soon to leave. His average expenditures
for the last four quarters were 1,890 dollars, and he had on
hand at date 3,284 71/100 dollars, which is kept in an iron safe
in his office. There are no citizens in his employ and all his
records in good order, and supplies well stored. His funds on
this account come from Major Cross at head quarters.
Lieutenant Hunt also performs
the duty of commissary of subsistence and the supplies good and
abundant. The price of fresh beef here is 15 cents the pound
on the hoof. Other supplies come from San Francisco, and are
sometimes shipped beyond this to Crescent City and have to be
reshipped back, thereby increasing the time and causing damage.
There is no necessity for this as lumber vessels are constantly
here direct from San Francisco. Lieutenant Hunt had on hand on
this account 995 66/100 dollars, which is also kept in an iron
safe in his office. His funds for subsistence come from Brevet
Major Eaton at head quarters. There was condemned in this department
this year 20 barrels of flour and 185 pounds of coffee.
The duty of recruiting officer
too is performed by Lieutenant Hunt, and he has in his hands
on account 346 dollars in an iron safe in his office.
My attention was called here
to the flannel shirt which is white, and shrinks so badly after
washing as to be unfit for service: whereas I was informed the
coloured flannel does not shrink.
The American population capable
of bearing arms in the four little towns on this bay may be stated
For a sketch of this post see
L hereunto appended."
The Army life and conditions continued
pretty much as outlined in the above report by Colonel Mansfield
for the foreseeable future.
After the Civil War, the need for Fort
Humboldt lessened. In 1866, the garrison, except for one company
of artillery, was withdrawn and the post then became a sub post
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 in accordance with Special Order No. 243. On April
6, 1870 the military reservation was transferred to the Department
of the Interior. The Fort site eventually became a part of the
California State Park System. Under the Park's management, the
post hospital was completely renovated and moved a short distance
from its original site. Still standing is the restored building
which formerly housed the commissary's headquarters. It is now
a museum that houses a model of the original Fort and other historic
displays, including a bronze, 1850s mountain howitzer and carriage.
The Bancroft Library at Berkeley, California has a very fine
photograph of the Fort taken in the 1860s.
by Colonel Herbert M.
Hart, USMC (retired)
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.
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.)
This page was reprinted
with permission from Old Forts of the Northwest, published