- Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
- Fort Tejon
- (Camp Canada de
- Established on August 10, 1854, by 1st
Lieutenant Thomas F. Castor, 1st Dragoons, to replace ineffectual
Fort Miller on the San Joaquin River,
Fort Tejon was located in the Canada de las Uvas, about
15 miles southwest of the Tejon (Sebastian) Indian Reservation,
near present Lebec in Kern County. "The location had been
selected by Brevet Major John Donaldson of the Quartermaster
Corps, apparently with the approval of Lieutenant
Edward F. Beale, U.S. Navy, who was named superintendent
of Indian affairs for California in 1852. The post was intended
to guard the pass through the Tehachapi Mountains, to control
the areas tribes, and to protect the Indians on the reservation
which had been established the previous year. In 1858, when the
fort became a station on the Butterfield overland route, the
garrison provided military escorts through the pass.
The post was considered comparatively small by Army standards,
with an average garrison complement of 225 men. Adobe built Fort
Tejon was the principal military, political, and social hub of
central California's vast area during the early American period.
Fifteen of the officers who served there eventually became generals
in the Civil War, eight Union and seven Confederate. While the
fort was being constructed, the troops were encamped adjacent
to its site, and their temporary quarters were called Camp Canada
de las Uvas. Lieutenant Beale, associated with all facets of
Fort Tejon's history, made the post his headquarters. Serving
as director of the large survey team planning a wagon road from
Texas to California, he brought a caravan of 28 camels across
the Southwest from a point near San Antonio to Fort Tejon in
- The experimental use of camels was so
successful that Beale strongly recommended their continued use
by the Army throughout the arid Southwest. The breaking out of
the Civil War, however, in addition to other factors, put an
end to his proposal. The fort was evacuated on June 15, 1861,
by order of Brigadier General Edwin Vose Sumner. Fort Tejon was
reoccupied on August 17, 1863, by California Volunteers in compliance
with an order of Brigadier General George Wright. The permanent
abandonment of the post on September 11, 1864, in accordance
with a directive issued by Major General Irvin McDowell, was
coincident with the termination of Tejon Reservation. The military
reservation and its 25 structures then became a part of the Rancho
Tejon, a Mexican land grant, purchased by Lieutenant Beale, who
eventually increased his holdings to nearly 200,000 acres. Part
of Fort Tejon's site is now a state historical monument and a
number of the old fort's original buildings have been restored.
- Fort Tejon
- by Justin Ruhge
- In the spring of 1853, Lieutenant Edward
Fitzgerald Beale was made Superintendent of Indian Affairs in
California and a little more than a year later Fort Tejon, which
was to be his headquarters for administrating Indian Affairs,
was established. General Hitchcock, on approving Lieutenant
Beale's plan, addressed the Secretary of War to the effect that
it appeared to him that the choice of the government lay necessarily
between accepting Lieutenant Beale's plan or giving the Indians
over to rapid extermination. Lieutenant Beale, who figures prominently
in the history of Fort Tejon, was later a brigadier general and
also Minister to Austria under President Grant.
- A study of the topography of the location
of Fort Tejon makes it evident that the selection of the site
for the Fort was made with complete disregard for any strategic
advantage that a Fort might possess as a result of its location.
The lack of defensive terrain emphasizes the unusual purpose
for which this particular Fort was built.
- Fort Tejon was established on August 10,
1854 at a point in the Tejon Pass where the Coast Range meets
the Sierra Nevada and about three miles north from the present
- Two special orders of the Department of
the Pacific authorized the establishment of the post. The first,
No. 60, June 24, 1854, ordered the construction of quarters for
one company of Dragoons and one of Infantry on the site designated
by E. F. Beale, Esq. and approved by Captain Jordan, Assistant
Quartermaster. The second, No. 62, June 30, ordered a detachment
of Company A, 1st U.S. Dragoons, under the command of 1st Lieutenant
Thomas F. Castor with sixteen men, to march to the place selected
at Canada de las Uvas, fifteen miles southwest of the Tejon (Sebastian)
Indian Reservation near present Lebec, Kern County. Brevet 2nd
Lieutenant Lattimer, 4th Infantry arrived at Canada de las Uvas
August 15, 1854.
- It continued to be occupied until June
15, 1861 when its regular garrison was removed for transfer to
the east. It was reoccupied by California Volunteers from August
17, 1863 to September 11, 1864, when, with the final removal
of the Native Americans from Tejon Pass to the Tule River Reserve,
it was abandoned.
- The location had been selected by Brevet
Major John Donaldson of the Quartermaster Corps, apparently with
the approval of Lieutenant Beale, U.S. Navy who was named Superintendent
of Indian Affairs for California in 1852. The post was intended
to guard the pass through the Tehachapi Mountains, to control
the area's tribes, and to protect the Native Americans on the
reservation, which had been established the previous year. In
1858, when Fort Tejon became a station on the Butterfield Stage
route, the garrison provided military escorts through the pass.
- Fort Tejon was considered comparatively
small by Army standards, with an average garrison complement
of 225 men. Fort Tejon's buildings were constructed of adobe
even though some of the 25 buildings were three stories high.
While the buildings were being constructed, the troops were
encamped adjacent to its site and the temporary quarters were
called Camp Canada de las Uvas.
- The 1st U.S. Dragoon Regiment supplied
most of the manpower that garrisoned the Fort from 1854 to 1861.
Dragoons were trained to fight as either mounted infantry or
cavalry. Companies A, H, I, F, B and K served at the post in
that order over the years with some overlapping of units.
- From 1857 to 1858, a detachment of Company
I, 3rd U.S. Artillery, sent from the post of Mission San Diego,
was part of the garrison. The artilleryman of Company I, 3rd
U.S. served primarily as infantrymen and proudly called themselves
the "Marching 3rd."
- Artillerymen at Fort Tejon wore primarily
the red collar and cuff 1851 frock coat, gray-blue foot trousers,
and the 1851 pattern dress caps. Sky blue shell jackets piped
in the old yellow markings or the same old jacket reissued with
deep red markings were issued for field and fatigue duty. The
musket was the Model 1842 smoothbore in .69 caliber with the
1835 steel bayonet.
- While the companies supplied themselves
with their own weaponry, the Fort also had its own weaponry and
ammunition supply under charge of the post ordnance sergeant.
When the Fort was established Brevet 2nd Lieutenant Alfred Latimer,
4th Infantry, brought with him two Model 1835 12-pounder bronze
mountain howitzers. The 6.1 caliber barrel barely weighed 220
pounds and when fired on its carriage was subject to a very violent
recoil. These very light howitzers, however, were the only feasible
crew-served weapon for rough country and were therefore much
more popular in the west than in the east. It could be mule-packed
over rough ground, hence the name "jackass battery."
- These two howitzers were transferred to
Colonel J. H. Carleton, 1st Infantry, California Volunteers for
his march into Arizona and New Mexico and became part of the
3rd Artillery attachment of the "California Column."
The guns were first fired in anger at the battle of Apache Pass
in 1862. What happened to the guns after that is not known.
- Fort Tejon became the principal military,
political and social hub of central California's vast area during
this early pioneer period. Tejon was one of the most pleasant
garrisons in the mid-century Army. All of the quarters were
furnished in the best style and it was generally acknowledged
to be one of the finest, if not the best post on the Pacific
Coast. The beauty of the place was widely advertised. It was
a major training ground for Civil War generals. Fifteen of the
officers who served there eventually became generals in the Civil
War, eight Union and seven Confederate.
- Lieutenant Beale, who was associated with
all facets of Fort Tejon's history, made the post his headquarters.
Serving as director of the large survey team planning a wagon
road from Texas to California, he brought a caravan of 28 camels
across the Southwest from a point near San Antonio to Fort Tejon
in 1857. The experimental use of camels was so successful that
Beale strongly recommended their continued use by the army throughout
the arid Southwest. The Civil War, in addition to other factors,
put an end to his proposal.
- Fort Tejon was evacuated on June 15, 1861,
by order of Brigadier General Edwin Vose Sumner. California
Volunteers reoccupied Fort Tejon on August 17, 1863 in compliance
with an order of Brigadier General George Wright who brought
with them 1,000 Native Americans from the Owens Valley. The
Volunteers used the Tejon buildings only occasionally, usually
rushing there from some other fort whenever the peace was threatened.
The permanent abandonment of the post on September 11, 1864,
in accordance with a directive issued by Major General Irvin
McDowell, was coincident with the termination of the Tejon Reservation.
- Eight men died at Fort Tejon, seven of
them memorialized by tiny markers. The first Dragoon Commander
at Fort Tejon, Lieutenant Thomas F. Castor was buried there in
- The military reservation and its 25 structures
then became a part of the Rancho Tejon, a Mexican Land Grant,
purchased by Lieutenant Beale, who eventually increased his holdings
to nearly 200,000 acres. Part of Fort Tejon's site is now a
State Historical Monument under the California Beaches and Parks
System. It was deeded to the State in 1939 by Rancho Tejon.
Three of the old Fort's original buildings have been restored.
Civil War reenactments are held on the parade grounds yearly
with hundreds of re-enactors and many cannon of various ages
- The Fort Tejon Park had three original
cannon from the Civil War period. These are a 2.9 inch Parrott
Rifle, a 3-inch Ordnance Rifle and a 12-pounder Napoleon. These
have been sent to Fort MacDowell on Angel Island. Fort Tejon
has two 12-pounder South Bend replicas mountain howitzer, which
it fires during its interpretive history programs.
- Old Adobes of Forgotten Fort Tejon by
Clarence Cullimore, 1941, is a detailed presentation of the history
and remains of the old Fort to that time. The Artilleryman,
Spring 1997, Fort Tejon State Historic Park Has 3 Original Guns
& Howitzer Replica by Peter A Frandsen.
- A 1941 map of Fort
Tejon showing the arrangement of the fort's buildings, and their
conditions. Source, Old Adobes of Forgotten Fort Tejon
by Clarence Cullimore, 1941.
- History of
by George Stammerjohan, State Historian II, California Departmentof
Parks and Recreation
- Fort Tejon is located in the Grapevine
Canyon, the main route between California's great central valley
and Southern California. The fort was established to protect
and control the Indians who were living on the Sebastian Indians
Reservation, and to protect both the Indians and white settlers
from raids by the wide-ranging and rather warlike Paiutes, Chemeheui,
Mojave, and other Indian groups of the desert regions to the
south east. Fort Tejon was first garrisoned by the United States
Army on August 10, 1854 and was abandoned ten years later on
September 11, 1864.
- The Native Americans who lived in this
area prior to the establishment of Fort Tejon are generally referred
to as the Emigdiano. They were an inland group of the Chumash
people who lived along the Santa Barbara channel coastline. Unlike
their coastal relatives, however, the Emigdiano avoided contact
with European explorers and settlers, and were never brought
into one of the missions or even incorporated into the Sebastian
Indian Reservation. One of their villages was located at Tecuya
Creek, north of Castac Lake. Another village, Sasau, was on the
north shore of the lake, while a third and still larger village,
Lapau, was located at the bottom of Grapevine Canyon. once Fort
Tejon was established, the Emigdiano often worked as independent
contractors for the army, providing guides for bear hunts and
delivering fresh fruits from their fields for sale in officers
- In 1852, President Millard Fillmore appointed
Edward F. Beal to the position of Superintendent of Indian Affairs
for California and Nevada, and sent him to California to head
off further confrontation between the Indians and the many gold
seekers and other settlers who were the pouring into California.
After studying the situation, Beale decided that the best approach
was to set up a large Indian reservation at the southern end
of the San Joaquin Valley and to invite displaced Indian groups
to settle there.
- In order to implement his plan, Beale
requested a federal appropriation of $500,000 and military support
for the 75,000 acre reservation he had selected at the foot of
Tejon Pass. Colonel Ethan Allen Hitchcock, commander of the Pacific
Division of the U.S. Army, supported Beale's plan and agreed
to set up a military post on or near the Indian reservation.
The army was eager, in any case, to abandon Fort Miller (near
Fresno) in favor of a more strategically advantageous site in
the southern San Joaquin Valley.
- In August 1854, Major J.L. Donaldson,
a quartermaster officer, chose the present site in Canada de
las Uvas. The site was handsome and promised adequate wood and
water, It was just 17 miles southwest of the Sebastian Indian
Reservation, and it was right on what Major Donaldson was convinced
would become the main route between the central valley and Southern
- The Mythical
Fort Tejon "Camel Corps"
- George Stammerjohn, State Historian II,
California Department of Parks and Recreation
- At Fort Tejon, camels were NOT an essential
element of the Fort's history. Camels were at the Fort for only
5-1/2 months, from Nov. 17, 1859 to mid April 1860. The camels
were never used by the soldiers at Fort Tejon. They were government
property and were kept here only a short time during the winter
of 1859/60 before being moved to the Los Angeles Quartermaster
Depot on their way to Benicia where they were auctioned off at
a loss to the Government in 1864.
- Fort Tejon was never any "Terminus"
for the camels. There was never a "U.S. Camel Corps"
as has been stated by so many authors; it was just an experiment.
E.F. Beale was a civilian under contract to survey a road from
New Mexico to California by the U.S. Government. He was never
in command of Fort Tejon, the camels or any soldiers.
- The camels have been one of the greatest
myths and legends of Fort Tejon's past. The story is great and
many writers have latched on to it. It is great stuff for western
lore, but most stories about this interesting experiment have
little grounding in fact. Unfortunately, many writers are perpetuating
these myths and rely on the early authors that wrote in the 1920s
to 1960s who based their research and assertions on non-historical
- The Camel Experiment in California
- The victories and settlements of the Mexican-American
War increased the expanse of the territorial United States. To
control and protect this new territory and the new citizens encompassed
within its boundaries or rapidly moving into the new territories,
the government deployed the vast majority of the U.S. Army. Quickly,
Congress and the War Department became appalled at the unexpected
new cost of simply supplying the outposts scattered over the
new region. The transportation cost of the Quartermaster Department
alone was more than the entire pre-war budget for the whole of
the United States Army.
- Distances were great, and often now through
arid or semi-arid country. The Army posts, once conveniently
established along waterways and supplied cheaply by contract
steamboats, were now hundreds of miles from water. This meant
expensive civilian contracts with drayage companies or even more
expensive government owned wagon trains managed, operated and
maintained by large numbers of employed civilians, paid at the
prevailing wage - which out west was several times higher than
eastern wages. The expenses seemed never to stop. Army wagon
trains, using mules or oxen, needed regularly spaced repair,
water and feed depots. Water and feed points were necessary at
least a days journey apart and had to be resupplied either by
Army contract or supply trains. If local farmers could not deliver
forage, hay and grain, to given points, then the Army had to
buy it at one point and stock the feeding points or it had to
carry feed for the animals which were pulling the freight Wagons.
This often meant a ratio of two forage wagons to every freight
wagon. If a train was outbound for a destination which could
not supply livestock feed for the return journey and grazing
along the route was minimal, then empty wagons (actually partially
loaded wagons for the animals pulling them had to be fed) would
start back for a depot point, to load up with forage to meet
the homeward bound wagon column. If timely contact was not effected,
costly government mules (or oxen) would die. And the feared auditors
in Washington, D.C. would want to know why.
- Despite the motion picture image of the
western Army on the frontier, the biggest problems were not "wild
Indians" or "renegade Mexican bandits". They were
transportation, forage, live drayage animals and a constant demand
- Spurred by a hope for improved and economical
transport across the more arid sections of the west, the U.S.
Government dusted off an old plan to experiment with camels as
freight animals. Some 75 Mediterranean camels were imported in
the mid-1850s and delivered to an Army quartermaster at CampVerde,
- Fanciful legend has overshadowed the real
story of the camel experiment. There never was a "Camel
Corps"; Edward F. Beale was never appointed to command a
camel corps, and Fort Tejon, California, was never the headquarters
of the non-existent "camel corps." There is myth and
reality about the Army's camels, and the truth is a more interesting
story than the fiction which surrounds the story. Over developed
romantic fiction has the Army using the camels to haul freight,
regularly to carry the mail, and for active patrols against bandits
and hostile Indians. In reality, very little of this actually
happened or was true.
- On trips east across the Great American
Desert, Gwin Harris Heap, a proselytizing convert to the idea
of camels as a cheap transportation methodology for the American
west, foisted upon Edward F. Beale the recently published book
by the Abbe Huc, Travels in Tartary, Tibet and China, During
the Years 1844, 1845 and 1846. While Beale later claimed be was
immediately captivated by the journal, at the time the opposite
was true. It seemed to have made no impression upon him. In fact,
Beale may have considered Heap somewhat a pushy zealot of a relative,
for they later parted ways under less than happy circumstances.
- Gwin Heap became the proponent of camel
transportation and ultimately the buyer of camels when the U.S.
Navy was ordered to acquire camels from Turkey and Egypt and
bring them to Texas. Nowhere in government correspondence of
the time is to be found any advocacy for the use of camels originating
with Edward F. Beale.In fact, when Beale won the contract for
a re-survey and road development along the 35th Parallel, Secretary
of War John B. Floyd ordered Beale to take 25 camels to California
(and return with them) as part of the expedition. Beale exploded
in anger and in ink to the Secretary. He protested mightily and
insisted that Floyd was wrong to order him to use the camels.
Secretary Floyd stood firm: he wanted to see what these expensive
forage burners, lounging about Camp Verde outside of San Antonio
could do. Reluctantly Beale, who had no choice, traveled to Camp
Verde, Texas, and picked up the 25 camels.
- The majority of the foreign laborers hired
by the U.S. Navy to work with the camels were Greek urbanites
from the streets of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) who
had no experience in the employment of camels. They had seen
a free ride to the United States, where it was rumored the streets
were paved with gold and it was a true land of flowing milk and
honey. The two Turks who were hired by the Navy, and actually
knew how to handle camels were soon disillusioned by the flat
Texas prairies. They wanted to go home. The Navy contract specified
that all foreigners associated with the camels coming to Texas
were to work six months and then, if they wished, be discharged,
given a bonus, and transported home for free by the Navy. The
two Turks went home. This meant that the Greeks available to
Beale were absolute novices in handling the camels.
- "Ned" Beale soon discovered
this flaw, to his anger as his correspondence to the Secretary
of War points out The Greeks seemed untrainable and totally incompetent,
but in time several mastered their new chore and went on to a
long historic, association with the camels which came west. The
others departed the scene upon arriving in California, leaving
a confusing trail for the historian to follow. Three of the men
had names similar to George (Georgics, Georgious and Georges)
and only one emerged out of the confusion as "Greek George":
- Two of the other Greeks also had similar
names: Hadji Alli and Hadagoi Alli. While Hadji Alli became historically
known as "Hi Jolly", the other Alli disappeared after
leaving behind a total confusion caused by the numerous ways
his name could be spelled. All five floated through the story
of the camels until about December 1859, when government records
clarified only two were still in view: "Greek George"
and "Hi Jolly".
- Despite his initial outrage, Beale did
develop an appreciation of the camels' ability, docility and
temperament. He gained trust in the animals' patience; camels
would not stampede, while mules scattered to the four winds.
The camels did have to be watched. While they would not run in
fright, they would amble about for miles to feed. By the time
Beale's expedition reached California, Beale was a believer in
the camels' worth.
- This did not mean, however, that Beale
was totally honest in his report to the government over the camels'
usefulness. He failed to report that be had lost three camels,
the expense of which would have been deducted from the contract's
final financial settlement. And he failed to report that the
Mojave Desert's rocky soil nearly crippled the animals' soft
hooves. They were bred for work in the softer, sand-gravel deserts
of the eastern Mediterranean.
- Beale also ignored orders to bring the
camels back to New Mexico. Using the lame excuse that the camels
would be invaluable if the troops in California were to become
involved in the "Mormon War", then seeming to be a
reality on the Pacific Coast, Beale left the camels with his
business partner, Samuel A. Bishop, and hurried home in early
- This homeward journey created another
myth, whereby in later years Beale adopted a heroic leadership
which does not match the historic correspondence of the time.
Once again Beale had outlived the other participants and this
allowed him to tell his version of the story without eyewitness
contradictions. So "the story" became "history".
- As Beale remembered it, he departed Los
Angeles in early January 1858, with a group of dragoons to protect
"him" to the Colorado River. When he reached the river,
"he" stopped a river steamer and ordered it to ferry
him and his men across the river. "He" had brought
along ten camels to carry forage for his mules and then "he"
sent the camels back to Fort Tejon in case of war in Utah. It
is a great heroic tale and you can find it in all the biographies
on Beale, but it only happened that way in Beale's imagination,
28 years later.
- While Beale was moving west in the early
fall of 1857, the U. S. government was moving troops westward
against the Mormon colony in Utah. In California, the Mojave
and Salt Lake Road connected Los Angeles, San Bernardino and
Salt Lake City. The majority of citizens in, southern California
harbored strong anti-Mormon attitudes. While pending "war
news" filtered into California along the Salt Lake Road,
a fantastic set of rumors emerged that the Mormons departing
California were smuggling tons of firearms toward the Utah colony.
The newspapers reflected these rumors by playing them to the
hilt, often with wild embellishments. Added to the gunrunning
rumors were others, particularly that Mormon special agents were
organizing the desert Indians to attack "Gentile" parties
crossing the Mojave Desert into southern Utah (now southern Nevada).
- While the Army in San Francisco did not
put much faith in these rumors, it decided to launch an investigation.
Major George A. H. Blake, then senior 1st U. S. Dragoon officer
in California, was ordered to take a large patrol out along the
Mojave Road and to examine these rumors. His orders also included
closing the 1st Dragoon headquarters which had been at Mission
San Diego since August of 1857, and relocating them at Fort Tejon
at the end of the expedition. The Department headquarters also
informed Blake that on the way he should meet Beale, who was
returning east, at Cajon Pass and escort him as far as the Colorado
River. Blake received his orders in mid-December of 1857 and
immediately wrote an order to 2nd Lieut. John T. Mercer, commanding
Company F at Fort Tejon, to join him at Cajon Pass.
- Major Blake's orders reached Los Angeles
in the midst of a driving rainstorm, a freak break in weather
during the two year old drought torturing southern California.
First Lieut. William T. Magruder, the commanding officer at Fort
Tejon, was doing Army business in Los Angeles when the correspondence
from San Diego arrived. Despite the miserable weather, he attempted
to return to Fort Tejon. It took him four muddy days and a broken
wagon to get across the San Fernando Valley. Then, once in the
mountains, he was caught in a wind-whipped blizzard and nearly
lost his way in a world of blowing snow. On January 2, 1858 he
finally managed to reach Fort Tejon, buried in snow, where he
informed Lieut. Mercer of the task before him.
- Meanwhile, Beale was in Los Angeles, organizing
his return trip. He had brought ten camels to the pueblo to haul
forage for his mules, leaving the other twelve at Bishop 's Ranch
- not at Fort Tejon. At Mission San Diego, Major Blake immediately
organized his part of the expedition and, despite the weather,
moved out with Dragoon headquarters staff, band and part of the
escort detachment of Company F troopers left behind when the
company had relocated to Fort Tejon in late August. To guard
company and regimental property at the old Mission, Blake left
a small detachment of many F troopers. He hurried on his way,
assuming that Mercer would also be on the move. Blake was an
impatient, headstrong martinet, who listened only to his own
opinion. He reached Cajon Pass on New Year's Eve 1858, and gloweringly
looked northward for Mercer's approaching column. As Blake stood
on the eastern flank of Cajon Pass, Mercer had not even heard
yet that he was ordered to join Blake.
- Lieut. Mercer took his time obeying the
orders from Blake. The weather was impossible. It snowed and
snowed and the snow, driven by terrible winds, piled up ten foot
drifts along the route to Antelope Valley and Los Angeles. Finally,
four days into the new year, Mercer moved his men out. He did
not taDuring 1858, Bishop continued to use the camels privately.
He hauled freight to his own ranch and to the developing town
of Fort Tejon, located three-fourths of a mile south of the Army
post. He did not haul Army freight, for Phineas Banning of New
San Pedro had won the quartermaster contract once again. Banning
held the contract until the Los Angeles Depot was finished in
mid-1859 and then the Army hauled its own freight, often with
Banning contracted to make up the shortages in mules and wagons.ajon
Pass. He joined a very angry major Blake on January 10, 1858.
- Edward F. Beale was also detained by the
weather and by the afternoon of January 10, had not reached Blake
's camp at Cajon Pass. The next morning, Blake took up the march
over the Mojave Road for the Colorado River. Beale was at least
thirty hours behind Blake and never caught up. When Blake reached
the river he hailed an exploring river steamer and requested
it to wait. Beale finally arrived, ferried his men and mules
over the Colorado and sent the camels back with Samuel Bishop
to Bishop's ranch in the lower San Joaquin Valley. Blake, moving
fast, led the way back and took his own command on to Fort Tejon.
- During 1858, Bishop continued to use the
camels privately. He hauled freight to his own ranch and to the
developing town of Fort Tejon, located three-fourths of a mile
south of the Army post. He did not haul Army freight, for Phineas
Banning of New San Pedro had won the quartermaster contract once
again. Banning held the contract until the Los Angeles Depot
was finished in mid-1859 and then the Army hauled its own freight,
often with Banning contracted to make up the shortages in mules
- The few immigrants to use the poorly developed
35th Parallel wagon road were harassed by Mojave Indians at the
Colorado Crossing (Beale's Crossing). None of the immigrants
were able to cross and they turned back. To protect the new route,
the government ordered a fort to be established near the northern
crossing of the Colorado River.
- Major William Hoffman, 6th U.S. Infantry,
led a reconnaissance in January 1859. He was escorted by dragoons
of Companies K and B from Fort Tejon. There was trouble with
Mojaves at the river; the dragoons killed perhaps a dozen and
Hoffman recommended to San Francisco a full scale campaign from
Fort Yuma against the Mojave Indians. Hoffman requested a depot
be placed at Los Angeles to haul supplies for his expedition
across the desert; the War Department approved and ordered Captain
W. S. Hancock to Los Angeles. Knowing it would take Hancock time
to organize his wagon trains, Major Hoffman requested that the
Army take charge of the camels and use them to haul supplies
an the desert. The Secretary of War refused Hoffman's request,
stating that the camel experiment was in the hands of civilians
in California and would remain so. Hoffman's expedition went
forth without the camels.
- In the meantime, Beale had been ordered
by the government to improve the 35th Parallel wagon road and
to do it right this time. Immigrants had complained about the
road, saying it was not in reality what Beale's propaganda said
it was. For this second expedition, Beale was assigned 25 more
camels, which worked well along the route. These 25 camels did
not cross into California. At the same time, Bishop was using
the original camels to haul freight for Beale's work crews, and
- Bishop had several large skirmishes with
the Mojave, who were willing to attack civilians but not the
soldiers. Possibly the skirmish with the dragoons had taught
the Mojave a mild lesson, or it could be they were surprised
by the numbers of soldiers along the river. The civilians were
fewer in number. Hoffman, having fought no Mojave, concluded
peace, established his fort (to become Fort Mojave) and withdrew,
leaving many warlike Mojaves still out in the desert, eager to
kill a white man.
- East of the river, Bishop's men encountered
a large force of Mojaves who showed all signs of wanting an open
battle. Bishop mounted his civilian packers and laborers onto
the camels of this party and charged. They routed the Mojaves.
It was the only camel charge staged in the west and the Army
had nothing to do with it. Then Bishop moved on eastward to find
- On their march home to San Bernardino,
Hoffman's troops ran out of food and allegedly broke into one
of Bishop's buried desert food caches. Three thousand pounds
of food was stolen. Beale was outraged, demanded compensation
and opened a major breach between himself and the Army. This
breach widened and, beginning in the late summer of 1859, the
Quartermaster Department began to demand that the camels under
Bishop's control be turned over to the Army at Fort Tejon. Finally,
on November 17, 1859, Bishop delivered all of the camels but
four to 1st Lieutenant Henry B. Davidson of the 1st Dragoons,
regimental and post at Fort Tejon. Davidson hired two civilians
to herd and care for the animals: Hi Jolly and Greek George.
Three of the four missing camels were found near San Bernardino
and finally, after Christmas of 1859, the fourth was found at
Whiskey Flats in the Kern River gold country.
- On November 17, 1859, the Army at Fort
Tejon took charge of the camels from Bishop. The post quickly
discovered that most of the camels were in poor physical shape,
with sore backs, and that it was very expensive to feed 28 camels
on hay and barley. In early March 1860, they were moved to a
rented grazing area 12 miles from the post, under the care of
the two herders, Hi Jolly and Greek George.
- One of the government projects for the
western experiment of the camels was to see if they would breed
and procreate in the far western territory. The camels, with
males and females intermixed, proved to the Army that they could
procreate, and produce young, strong, healthy camels. The herd
continued to grow, if slowly. There is a great deal of nonsense
written about the brutality of Army camel herders to their charges.
Camels were reputedly shot dead, bludgeoned to death, or stabbed
to death by their herders or packers. The Army took a dim view
of herders or packers destroying government property. Camels
were expensive, and if a herder, camel packer, or soldier had
killed a camel, he would have paid for it by deductions from
his salary. An examination of the salaries of herders, packers,
and soldiers in government employment records revealed no such
incident. The death of each camel (those few that died before
1864, when they were sold) is documented in government quartermaster
records in the National Archives. However, Beale managed to lose
a total of 13 camels and also managed to escape from paying for
the animals. In 1861, the Army at Fort Smith, Arkansas, was still
trying to get back 10 of the camels sent with Beale on the second
- There is also a great deal of undocumented
story-telling on how Army camels frightened and routed herds
of government horses, overturning wagons or dumping troopers
on the hard ground. Attempts to confirm these stories have not
proven fruitful. Rather, Army reports indicated how regularly
the animals blended together in the same corrals or fields, and
tolerated each other with natural ease. When the camels were
introduced to the government mule corrals at the Fort Tejon Depot
in November 1859, the quartermaster reported no panic, no tumult;
in fact, he was surprised at how easily the animals adapted to
one another. The camels, showing effects from hard labor, primarily
wanted to eat, and they consumed expensive oats, barley and hay
at alarming rates.
- Brevet Major James H. Carleton of Company
K, 1st Dragoons, refused to use the camels for his Mojave River
expedition in the spring of 1860. The camels, having only joined
the Army in November 1859 and moved to a grazing camp in March
1860, had not yet recovered from the hard usage of Samuel Bishop,
who had worked them to haul supplies to Beale's road expedition,
his ranch, and to merchants in the civilian town of Fort Tejon
from New San Pedro and Los Angeles. The camels remained at the
grazing camp 12 miles east of the fort under the care of two
civilian herders, and a small detachment of soldiers to protect
the herders, until September 1860.
- The first official test for camels by
the Army in California was conducted by Captain Winfield S. Hancock,
Assistant Quartermaster in Los Angeles, in an attempt to cut
the expense of messenger service between Los Angeles and the
recently established Fort Mojave on the Colorado River. This
trial, in September 1860, featured the camel herder Hadji Alli
("Hi Jolly"), riding a camel like a Pony Express rider,
carrying dispatches for Fort Mojave. One camel dropped dead from
exhaustion at the Fishponds (modern-day Daggett), while a second
attempt to use an "express camel" killed it at Sugar
Loaf (modern-day Barstow). The Army discovered that while camels
died, and it was cheaper, the camels were no faster than the
two-mule buckboard in service under contract to haul the mail
to Fort Mojave. They also discovered that these camels were not
express animals; they were not bred for speed, but to slowly
carry heavy weights.
- At the end of September 1860, Hadji Alli
and Georges Caralambo were dropped from Army payrolls, and two
former soldiers were hired as "camel herders" at Fort
Tejon, at a higher salary. Hi jolly was fortunate that he had
been ordered by Captain Hancock to race a camel to Fort Mojave.
He was not held accountable for the two dead camels and received
his full month's pay of $30.00 for the last month of his employment.
Greek George was fired "for causes", which translated
as stupidity, being unable to read or write, and a too-frequent
fondness for American whiskey.
- The second experiment, during the early
months of 1861, was again by a government-contracted civilian
party. They were to survey the California-Nevada boundary, under
the leadership of Sylvester Mowry, a former Army officer and
currently a citizen of west New Mexico Territory. Mowry stayed
in Los Angeles fighting a bitter war with the California State-surveyor
and turned the field work over to J. R. N. Owen. Owen had charge
of four of the camels and hired "Hi Jolly" to care
for them. The expedition went forth to Fort Mojave with only
- The survey was a fiasco, poorly led, poorly
organized, and hopelessly confused. The group was often lost
and never fond the coordinates for the new Nevada-California
boundary line. Instead the expedition drifted into the northern
Mojave Desert and faced disaster in the barren wilderness. Mules
died, equipment was abandoned; it was only the steady plodding
of the camels which saved the expedition from becoming a fatal
exploration statistic. When they finally struggled over the Sierras
to the village of Visalia it was obvious that the camels had
saved the day.
- At the end of the survey, the three camels
were returned to Los Angeles. On June 17, 1861, the camels, 31
in number, of which three were still at the Los Angeles Quartermaster
Depot, were transferred from Fort Tejon to Captain Hancock at
the Los Angeles Depot. There is no further documentable association
of camels with the later Civil war period at Fort Tejon.
- William McCleave, a former First Sergeant
of Company K, 1st Dragoons, delivered the camel herd to Captain
Winfield S. Hancock on or about the 19th of June 1861. The camels
were placed in the government corrals at the Los Angeles Quartermaster
Depot, where once again they easily mixed with the government
mules. Macleave continued as chief herder until early August,
when Brevet Major James H. Carleton lured the former sergeant
away from Los Angeles to accept a commission as a Captain in
the forming 1st Battalion of California Cavalry. Emil Fritz,
another former dragoon first sergeant, also traveled to San Francisco
with Carleton to accept a captaincy in that same battalion. To
command the battalion, Carleton, who would become Colonel of
the 1st California Infantry, gathered in Captain Benjamin Davis
of Company K, who would receive the grade of Lieutenant Colonel
of California Cavalry. Carleton, who was expected to lead an
expedition along the California Trail, wanted his developing
cavalry force commanded by former dragoons. Much to Carleton's
disgust, the Governor appointed a number of men to be officers
in the battalion who did not have mounted experience.
- When Carleton and comrades boarded a steamer
for San Francisco in early August 1861, they were joined by Captain
Hancock who had turned over the Los Angeles depot to Second Lieutenant
Samuel McKee of the Dragoon regiment. Hancock, rumored to have
received a staff promotion to the rank of Major at the San Francisco
Quartermaster Department headquarters, took along his chief clerk,
leaving his office and paperwork in disarray. At San Francisco,
Hancock discovered he was authorized a leave of absence with
War Department permission to seek an Ohio senior officer's commission.
Hancock soon had his general's star and a command moving from
Ohio into western Virginia.
- When McCleave departed for San Francisco,
Charles Smith also gave up his position as assistant camel herder.
McKee then sought out Hadji Alli and Georges Caralambo and hired
them as camel herders for the depot. When McKee departed for
the east with his regiment, the camels were left in limbo with
Alli and Caralambo looking out for them. They were moved to Camp
Latham, in what today is Culver City, in early December 1861.
- The next two years were a period of frustration
for the Army on what to do with the camels, which continued to
eat while some of the females produced healthy young. When the
Los Angeles depot was transferred to Camp Latham and then to
Wilmington on the establishment of Drum Barracks in February
1862, the camels went along. For a short period they were the
concern of George C. Alexander, the former sutler or post trader
at Fort Tejon, who was the first senior clerk and financial accountant
at Drum Barracks. Alexander soon gave up the clerkship, and the
post quartermaster office.
- First Lieut. David J. Williamson, 4th
Infantry, California Volunteers, then became the guardian of
the camels. Hadji Alli ("Hi-Jolly") and Georges Caralambo
("Greek George") continued to be in charge of direct
supervision. The question was: what to do with the growing and
useless herd? No one wanted, or had time, to bother with them.
- Schemes were proposed by the Drum Barracks
officers. A mail express was proposed for the San Pedro to Fort
Yuma run; it was not tried. Then in late 1862 and again in early
1863 there was a proposal, by Major Clarence Bennett, to carry
mail from San Pedro to Tucson, Arizona. Nothing happened. An
irregular mail express was attempted from San Pedro to Camp Latham
(Culver City) and from Camp Latham on to Los Angeles. A few trips
were made, but then the service was dropped. Bennett then suggested
a mail run to newly re-opened Fort Mojave on the Colorado River.
The express was tried, but the camel foundered and died 65 miles
from Los Angeles and "Hi-Jolly" once again carried
the mail packet on his back across the desert on foot to reach
the fort on the far side of the Colorado River.
- Major Bennett then proposed sending the
camels to Fort Mojave but Lieut. Williamson, the former acting
assistant at Camp Latham and Drum Barracks, rigorously protested
the move. He could barely feed his own mules, which were necessary
for the operation of the desert fort. He had no extra forage
to feed a small herd of camels. Furthermore, the camels were
unsuited for the rocky desert roads of the Mojave. The camels'
hooves were too tender; they became lame and were useless. Williamson
declared that Edward Beale had learned this years ago, but had
not reported the truth about his use of camels on the California
- At this point Federal Surveyor-General
Edward F. Beale of California and Nevada, from his San Francisco
office, again appeared on the scene. He requested the use of
the camels in order to conduct land surveys of the uninhabited
portions of the new State of Nevada. Brigadier General George
Wright, then in command of the Department of the Pacific, endorsed
Beale's concept and Lieut. Colonel Edwin B. Babbitt, the Department'
s quartermaster, pondered the suggestion and then agreed with
Wright's opinion. In reality, Babbitt felt the camels would never
be "used profitably" and as early as November 1862,
had recommended that the experiment be cancelled and the camels
sold. However, Beale's request and the Army decision to turn
the camels over to another federal agency were kicked upstairs
to Washington, D.C. The Quartermaster General in Washington endorsed
Wright's proposal and Wright was then about to take action when
two separate developments delayed his decision.
- In mid-July 1863, Captain William G.
Morris, Assistant Quartermaster at Wilmington, penned a letter
to Colonel Babbitt. Beale, Morris stated, only wanted part of
the herd and the camels from his experiments had developed a
personality problem. The camels did not like being used in small
groups away from the herd. They became sulky when separated,
refused to eat or drink, and on reaching a stream of water a
camel would suddenly lie down in it, throwing the rider and refusing
to move. On rocky or gravelly roads their feet became tender,
and very sore. They became cranky and refused to take commands
and often upon nearing a creek dumped their riders into the water.
- In the meantime, Beale was accused of
misusing government funds and of irregularities in conducting
surveys. It would appear that Beale was only surveying property
in which he, or his friends, had a financial interest. The main
charge was that Beale had spent a great deal of his federal budget
on redecorating his own office in San Francisco. The amount of
$64,000 spent on new carpets and furnishings was bandied about
in anti-Beale circles. Beale was suddenly in disfavor and General
Wright withdrew his support.
In early September 1863, the General in Washington, D.C. wrote
to Colonel Babbitt that the Department of the Pacific should
sell the camels. Babbitt requested opinions from his quartermasters.
Lieutenant Williamson wrote that the camels were of no use. Again,
he stated the failures of their use at Camp Latham and at San
Pedro. And he reminded Babbbitt that the experiments by "Lieutenant
Beale and his partner Samuel Bishop" showed that mules were
superior. The roads when rough and rocky crippled the animals.
They were only good on sandy ground. Williamson reminded Babbitt
that the recent trial run of a camel to Fort Mojave had foundered
the animal just 65 miles from Los Angeles, and the mail carrier
had to walk on to Fort Mojave. The express mail could be carried
by "horses or mules with regularity and with much less expense
to the government." Babbitt was convinced; the camels would
be sold at auction as soon as possible.
- A decision was made to sell the camels
at auction at Benicia Arsenal. Obviously too many people in the
Los Angeles area knew their weaknesses and there was an import
market for camels in the San Francisco area where, after several
false starts, a merchant had been bringing in Siberian camels
- Captain Morris was informed to prepare
to send the camels northward at the earliest moment, but at the
cheapest method. On November 19, 1863, Morris replied to Babbitt
that the camels, apparently 35 or 37 in number, were "in
first rate condition for the trip to Benicia Depot." However,
he was delayed in forwarding them due to the heavy winter storms
along the coast route. After two years of terrible drought, it
was raining. Morris also considered that the current storms would
produce grass along the coastal road, allowing the animals to
be fed cheaply enroute. The camels were started north in late
December 1863. For a brief period Morris thought of shipping
them by sea, but the cost of feeding them was unreasonable and
so Morris decided the final answer was to drive them overland.
- The camels reached Santa Barbara on December
30, 1863 and the herders held them there while they celebrated
the coming of the New Year. Then they crossed the mountains and
moved on to the Salinas Valley and progressed to Mission San
Jose. They skirted the south end of the bay and traveled up the
east road of the shoreline of the Contra Costa, arriving at the
landing site for Martinez on January 17, 18 64. The next day
the camels were ferried across the lower Carquinez Straits to
the government wharf at Benicia Arsenal and were then moved to
the corrals behind the stone constructed buildings at the Benicia
Quartermaster Depot. They were placed in the open corrals; they
were not stabled in any of the fairly newly buildings at the
- Auction notices were published and on
February 26, 1864, the gavel came down on each camel as a separate
government item. The high bidder for almost all the camels was
Samuel McLeneghan, who reputedly had worked with the government
camels earlier. However, nowhere in government employment hiring
records was McLeneghan's name found. The 37 camels brought only
$1,945, much to the grief of the Benicia Depot's quartermaster
for be had expected more active bidding and a higher sales profit.
Apparently McLeneghan was the only bidder, and the auctioneer
had trouble getting any response from the meager crowd that showed
up. McLeneghan got the whole herd for $52.56 each.
- The next day, the Benicia quartermaster
wrote a report to his senior in the Department of the Pacific
headquarters in San Francisco. He expressed his regrets that
the total amount of money was so low, explaining that few of
the people who attended were interested in putting forth money
for camels. He had hoped for more; the auctioneer had tried mightily
to encourage the group of interested or curious spectators, but
at least the camels were sold. The experiment in California was
over. As consolation he offered a thought of relief: "They
have been but a source of expense for years past."
- Author's Note: For years I have worked
on the fascinating, if disappointing, story of the camel experiment
in the West. I have plowed through clouds of myths and good stories,
and have been supported by the ongoing humor of my colleagues
in this business. My friends have sent numerous new clues, or
badly interpreted or footnoted tales of the camels. But there
is one last tale. Humboldt Lagoons State Park has been one of
my history projects with the Department of Parks and Recreation
and the lagoons are located in Humboldt County, far away from
Fort Tejon, Drum Barracks and Benicia Arsenal. Yet, the camels
- In mid-1865, two camels of government
vintage were sold by McLeneghan, or his associates, to the Portland,
Oregon, Zoo. They were placed aboard the ocean going steamer,
the Brother Jonathan, in the same compartment where George Wright's
big black riding horse was also stabled, and the ship steamed
out of San Francisco for the Columbia River. Off Crescent City
the Brother Jonathan struck a submerged rock and went down, with
only a few of the human passengers surviving. All the animals
aboard were lost. Several weeks later, on the long sandbar which
blocks Stone Lagoon from the ocean, the bodies of General Wright's
horse and a "Fort Tejon camel" washed ashore. The local
ranchers were forced to bury the stinking carcasses. One just
cannot get away from the Army camels.
- The "Camel Barns" at Benicia
Arsenal are not camel barns. The elongated double tiered stone
buildings were "construction buildings" where the Quartermaster
Department manufactured equipment or altered civilian items purchased
on the open market prior to delivery to the troops in the field.
Later, the buildings were used for storage as warehouses.
There are good and bad descriptions of the camel story. Beginning
with those who tried to be accurate:
A Bibliography of the Camel, California Historical Society
Quarterly, December 1930.
A. A. Gray, "Camels in California", California
Historical Society Quarterly, March 1930.
Lewis B. Lesley (ed.), Uncle Sam's Camels, the Journal
of May H. Stacey, 1929.
Woodard, Arthur and P. Griffin, The Story of El Teion,
1942. A very incomplete and undocumented work.
Faulk, Odie B., The U.S. Camel Corps, 1976. A readable
but sloppy work. The section an the far west is filled with errors.
- And the bad:
- Howard, Helen A., "Unique
History of Fort Tejon", Journal of the West. A mythical
account; almost nothing is factual.
Fowler, Harlan D., Camels in California, 1950. A cut and
paste rip-off of history published by Stanford University.
Robertson, Deane and Peggy, Camels in the West, 1979.
Riddled with errors.
California History Commission, Booklet, Drum Barracks
and the Camel Corps. Hilarious collection of errors, mistakes,
- Fort Tejon
and California during the Civil War
by Sean T. Malis, State Park Interpreter I, California Department
of Parks and Recreation
- California and the rest of the Pacific
and Southwest played an important and largely ignored role in
securing the region for the Union during the Civil War. When
discussing the War in the Pacific, I often encounter the opinion
that "nothing happened in the Pacific States." I've
even been told, "The Civil War in California?! California
wasn't even a state!" Wrong! Since statehood (September
9, 1850), Californians had formed many a volunteer and militia
company, mostly in the northern part of the State to combat a
perceived Indian threat. These militia units, along with the
Regular Army, helped to form a sense of order and authority in
a new state with a rapidly expanding citizenry resulting from
the "Gold Rush."
- In Lincoln's initial call for 75,000 volunteers
to quell the secessionist uprising in the South, the State of
California was not asked to supply any troops. But by July 24,
1861, California was asked to provide one regiment of infantry
and five companies of cavalry to guard the overland mail. A second
request for California volunteers was sent on August 14, 1861.
This request was responsible for the 2nd through 5th Infantry,
and the 2nd Cavalry Regiments. In 1863, and again in 1864, further
calls produced three more infantry regiments, and a battalion
of native (Californios) cavalry from the Santa Barbara and Los
Angeles areas. All total, California provided 17,500 troops for
the Union, more troops per capita than any other state.
- Early in the war, California Volunteers
in Federal service helped to take over responsibilities from
the Regular Army that was being recalled to the East. Californians
served along the entire western coast from Washington Territory
to the Mexican state of Sonora, and campaigned as far east as
Utah and Texas and throughout New Mexico and Arizona Territories.
The Californians primary enemy was the Indian and the environment.
They did meet and close with Confederate troops in the Southwest
as part of the "California Column." The California
Volunteers served their country from July, 1861 to January, 1867,
when the last troops were mustered out of service.
- 2nd Infantry Regiment, California Volunteers
- From the August, 1861 request for troops,
the 2nd California Volunteer Infantry was formed. Colonel Francis
J. Lippitt was appointed as commander of the regiment. Lippitt
had been a member of Stevenson's 1st New York Volunteers that
came to California in 1846 to help wrest California away from
Mexico in the Mexican-American War.
- The 2nd Regiment was first organized
at the Presidio in San Francisco. After completing its organization,
five companies were sent to Northern California, Oregon and Washington
Territory to relieve Regular troops, while two companies were
sent to Santa Barbara. Most of the companies were organized from
San Francisco, Cal. and Carson City, Nev., with the earliest
enlistments having been made on September 2, 1861.
- Company G was first organized on September
21, 1861, at a meeting held in the theater at Angels Camp, Cal.,
by Captain William W. Stuart. On October 9, 1861, the company
arrived in San Francisco where more men joined, the company being
officially mustered into service on November 29, 1861. Company
G spent the next month in camp at Camp Sumner at the Presidio,
moving to Alcatraz Island on December 20, 1861. On March 8, 1862,
Company G set sail for Crescent City on board the steamer Oregon.
Upon reaching Crescent City, the company marched to Fort Ter-Waw
and then to Camp Lincoln where it would remain until being ordered
to report to Benicia [near San Francisco] on June 16, 1863.
- At Benicia, Company G traded its old
M/1816 converted smoothbores for new M1855/1861 Springfield rifles.
The company remained at Benicia for two months until it received
orders to march southward through the San Joaquin Valley to Camp
Babbitt in Visalia, on August 12, 1863. On its march south, the
company passed through Camp Stanford and Fort Miller, now under
Lake Millerton near Fresno.
- Company G reached Camp Babbitt on August
28, 1863, where it was garrisoned for just over three months,
and then was ordered to Fort Tejon, arriving there on January
16, 1864, one day after Company B.
- Company B was first mustered into United
States service on September 5, 1861 in San Francisco, Cal. The
company remained in San Francisco only a short time before being
shipped to Washington Territory on September 17, 1861. In Washington
Territory, the company concerned itself with Indian trouble until
July 31, 1862 when it arrived back in San Francisco. The company
was sent to Alcatraz Island for only 3 days before being sent
to Fort Humbolt in Northern California on August 3, 1862.
Company B was engaged in chasing after Indians in Klamath and
Humbolt counties for almost a year. Their scouting missions took
them through the most rugged of terrain and the company was employed
in hacking out a 15 mile road through this wilderness. On June
15, 1863 the company sailed on the steamer Panama for Benicia,
where the company was rearmed and refitted before marching for
Fort Miller in route to Fort Tejon. The company marched 60 miles
from Fort Miller to Camp Babbitt in only two days, arriving at
the latter on December 30, 1863. Company B finally arrived at
Fort Tejon on January 15, 1864 after marching 140 miles in six
- Fort Tejon
- Fort Tejon was founded in 1854 on Grapevine
Creek, 17 miles from its originally intended location on Tejon
Creek. Maj. Donaldson of the 1st U.S. Dragoons selected the site
for the new Fort at its present location because of the ready
availability of water, fuel and forage. Originally called Camp
Canada de las Uvas for the wild grapes in the area, it was officially
christened Fort Tejon, (Tejon meaning Badger in Spanish), over
the objection of Brevet Lt. Col. Benjamin L. Beall, 1st Dragoons,
who suggested "Fort Le Beck," after a trapper who had
been killed by a bear there.
- The primary purpose of the garrison at
Fort Tejon was to protect and control the Indians on the Sebastian
Indian Reservation, and to control the major north-south road
through Grapevine Canyon. Fort Tejon was garrisoned by various
companies of the 1st Dragoons, and briefly from late 1857 to
1858 by a detachment of the 3rd Artillery, serving as infantry.
In December, 1856, the regimental headquarters of the 1st Dragoons
was moved from Fort Union, New Mexico Terr., to Fort Tejon, where
it remained until the post was abandoned on June 15, 186 1.
- The rapidly expanding war in the eastern
United States forced the government to recall the Army to the
new seat of hostilities as fast as possible. This need for troops
back in the East along with a growing fear of prosecessionist
activities in the Los Angeles and San Bernardino areas, ultimately
forced the closure of Fort Tejon.
- Fort Tejon and the Civil War
- As discussed above, much of the Californians'
time was concerned with battling the so-called Indian menace.
In 1863, it was deemed necessary to reoccupy Fort Tejon. On July
24, 1863, Fort Tejon was regarrisoned by Companies D and G of
the 2nd California Cavalry under the command of Capt. James M.
- The 2nd Cavalry reactivated Fort Tejon
with approximately 300 Paiute Indians camping near the Post.
When the Paiutes were forcibly marched from the Owens Valley
by the 2nd Cav., they numbered 1000, a third of them being sent
to Fort Tejon. The Indians were kept in a camp down Grapevine
Canyon from the Fort called the "Pot Holes." After
the arrival of the 2nd Infantry, the garrison provided the Paiutes
with a meager ration to keep them in place and to keep them from
starving [which the Volunteers were not supposed to do; Capt.
Schmidt satisfied headquarters by deeming the rations for "Prisoners
The government Indian Bureau agents refused to assume responsibility
for their care.
- As the two Infantry companies settled
into their new home, their time was occupied at repairing and
maintaining the Fort's buildings that had fallen into disrepair
during the two years that the post had been abandoned. There
were frequent patrols mounted from the Fort to keep track of
unruly whites and to maintain control over the Paiutes encamped
nearby. There were always duties to perform in the garrison relating
to the maintenance of the Fort. There was wood to be hauled and
cut, rations to be prepared, inspections and endless drills on
the parade ground. In short, Army life.
- Life at Fort Tejon was dismal to say
the least. 1st. Sgt. Curtis Greenleaf, Co. G, complained in his
journal that Fort Tejon was worthless because the local town
was devoid of a whorehouse. Of some intrigue, however, Pvt. James
Anderson of Co. B, was murdered one evening while returning from
a night out in town. The investigation turned up one James Conrad,
Co. G, as a suspect, but the subsequent court martial could not
- Company G left Fort Tejon on June 4,
1864 for Drum Barracks in Wilmington. Fort Tejon would finally
be closed when Company B left the post on September 11, 1864,
ending the last period of military occupation of the Post, lasting
from 1854 to 1864.
- After serving at Fort Tejon, Companies
B & G were ordered to Arizona Territory, from August, 1865
until March 31, 1866. The two companies were mustered out at
the Presidio, San Francisco, May 10, 1866.
- Uniform of the 2nd Infantry Regiment,
- When the War broke out, the State of California
had no plan for providing its volunteers with uniforming and
equipment. In fact, the State's adjutantgeneral could not even
account for the arms and equipment that had been issued to the
pre-war militia organizations. The Federal government had to
open up its Arsenal at Benicia to the California Volunteers.
- This evidence, along with photographs
of California Volunteers, would suggest that the 2nd Infantry
wore the standard regulation Federal uniform.
- A letter from the quartermaster at Camp
Babbitt asking what to do with surplus property of the 2nd Infantry
- Metallic Scales, mostly broken
o Knapsacks, M1858
Tin canteens and cloth straps, M1858