California State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
Historic California Posts:
Camp Cady

Located about 20 miles east of Barstow, San Bernardino County, Camp Cady was posted on April 14, 1860, in compliance with an order by General N. .S. Clarke, by Major Carleton with Company K, 1st Dragoons, aggregating 80 men, near the Mojave River Road. The encampment was called Camp Cady for Major Albemarle Cady, 6th Infantry, then in command of Fort Yuma. For three months the Dragoons quartered themselves in temporary shelters of brush and mud or dugouts similar to those used later by the region's miners.
The makeshift quarters were finally replaced by permanent structures built by Army regulars. 'The post had a parade ground 300 yards square, with the buildings arranged along three of its sides. The buildings were of adobe, floored and shingle roofed, plastered out side and plastered and whitewashed inside. The officers' quarters was the only structure with ceilings. Camp Cady served as the base for a whole series of camps, redoubts, and forts along the Old Government Road to Fort Mojave and the Salt Lake Road, with campaigns waged against the Paiutes and Shoshones. The post was abandoned on April 24, 1871.
by Colonel Herbert M. Hart, USMC (retired)
Executive Director, Council on America's Military Past
"Half a days pull through heavy sandy and gravelly wastes brought us to this God-forsaken Botany Bay of a place," wrote Elliott Cones when he visited Camp Cady in 1865, "the meanest I ever saw for a military station, where four officers and a handful of men manage to exist in some unexplained way in mud and brush hovels."
The comparison of Cady to the notorious Australian convict colony was apt, although not calculated to raise the morale of the troopers manning the desolate outpost. It had been built in early 1860 by then Major Carleton at the site of a "Depot on the Mojave," a temporary camp of the preceding September.

Carleton's men had no intention of staying at the spot and were content to live in a scattering of adobe and brush huts, half underground dugout style. There was a central building which could lay some claim to fortress like attributes, a 40-foot adobe square that stood man-high and was surrounded by a ditch.
From here, Carleton vigorously scoured the countryside for traces of Indian marauders. Surgeon Jonathan Letterman, the originator of the Army's ambulance service and after whom Letterman Army Medical Center was named was with Carleton at the time.
An officer "killed two Indians on the 19th in the mountains southwest of our camp," Letterman later wrote. "In the affray two men were seriously wounded, one in the neck and one in the abdomen, by the Indians. Both are doing well, but the one wounded in the abdomen is not out of danger yet." The Los Angeles Star carried news of a Carleton expedition in May, 1860 in which he destroyed a Piute rancheria 50 miles from Cady, bringing away several trophies highly prized by the Indians." A civilian teamster was missing "and it supposed that he was killed by the Indians. These Piutes must get a thorough drubbing."
Rather than a drubbing, Carleton held a peace conference at Camp Cady with 24 Piutes spokesmen, one of them a woman. He told them that the white man and his "Great Father" was powerful and wanted to be a friend of the Indians. The chiefs agreed, gave their pledges, took their gifts, and, for the moment, keep the peace. Camp Cady was abandoned.
Two years later the post was temporarily reactivated, but this time as an early warning outpost against feared Confederate attack. Orders were issued on April 5, 1862 for an 11-man detail to to to Camp Cady "and there shelter yourself and party in a field-work which was thrown up at that point by Colonel Carleton two years since. It is reported that there is a large body of men east of Beale's Crossing on the Colorado River, and it is possible, though not probable, that they will attempt to enter California by the Mojave route."
"The object of sending you to Camp Cady is to give the colonel commanding timely notice, if such be their purpose, and to send to him any intelligence which you may receive of their movements. By putting your men and animals inside of the work, spies or a small number of scouts from such a party, coming up the river, would not know of your presence until they come so close that their escape would be impossible."
The officer commanding the detail was told to stay out 11 days, "when if you receive no intelligence of the body of men alluded to above, you will return by easy marches to your proper station."
A month later, the patrol was back. It had stayed at Cady from April 14 to 24 "seeing and hearing of nothing unusual." Enroute they had heard of wagon loads of powder and small groups of armed men moving on other routes, but their direction was generally northeasterly, and did not seem to pose a threat to California.

The Indian depredations finally caused Cady to return to the official orders on July 26, 1864. Captain John C. Cremony and his B Company of the Second California Cavalry were ordered to patrol from Cady to Rock Springs and "to protect travel, clear the road of thieving, troublesome Indians." A year later, the murder of two men 18 miles from the post, and activities of Indians who "come down from the mountains on either side of the road, steal stock, rob houses, lay forced tribute on travelers, threaten lives" forced the reopening of Camp Cady by a company of cavalry.
They were told to maintain a camp guard of 15 men. "The balance of the men will patrol the road constantly ... keeping it clear ... and particularly to keep Indians away from the watering places," was the guidance to the first detail sent out in March, 1865.
While reestablishing the post, three soldiers were wounded and government stores burned in an Indian attack. The camp was officially reactivated on April 23, 1865, when Company C, 4th California Volunteer Infantry arrived. They manned Cady until July, 1866, rebuilding its collapsed buildings. "The quarters are made entirely of brush and are intended for shelter from the sun only." wrote an observer.
On January 10, 1866, Inspector Brevet Brigadier General C. A. Whittier visited the post. "Great credit is due to Captain West for the construction of neat and comfortable houses with the means at his disposal save the adobe and at no expense to the government Whittier reported, "for the cleanliness and good order prevailing through the camp and for the care of his command and general good administration of affairs."
The following day, the Cady garrison was officially commended by General McDowell for building 35 adobes at the post.
An attempt was made to abandon the camp in 1866, but public and political pressure was too great. Hardly was the post back in business again when a party of Indians approached the fort in a hostile demonstration. Twenty troopers charged after them. Five soldiers were killed in an ambush set up in the dense undergrowth along the river.
In the aftermath, a posse arrived from San Bernardino to reinforce the fort and chase the Indians, but the enemy had disappeared.
Attacks continued on the road. With requirements for pursuit patrols and train escorts, upwards of 120 men manned the fort at times.
In 1868 the post was moved a half mile to the west. Here was sufficient level ground for a parade field, something missing at the first cramped site. A more formal post was built in a rectangle, but a year later the garrison was cut to a token force. By this time, the trail was known as the "Old Government Road" for it had been supplanted by a more direct and safer route.
In 1871 the buildings were sold to civilian men. The mission was finished and the unsentimental Army no longer had any use for shanties. reported to "be of adobe and . . . of little value."
TO GET THERE:24 miles north of Barstow take Harvard Road from I-15, go south 0.8 miles and turn left at Cherokee Road. Go East 2.6 miles to end of fence, South 0.75 mile to north bank of the Mojave River
The original Camp Cady "fortress" stood next to Government Road, was photographed in 1860's by R. D'Heureux. Army inspector in 1866 was not enchanted by desert area. "There is little probability of the post being long occupied," he reported. The country for miles around is not of such a character to induce any sane man to settle... The country is a desert and to my mind there is no possibility of it ever being settled." He found three officers and 63 enlisted men, noted district commander had "wisely" directed reducing post to 15 men to preserve the buildings and supplies enroute to Arizona-but this token force was not long maintained. Fortunately post quartermaster had no outstanding debts because he had only $2.50 on hand. Inspector recommended that meat ration be increased to make up for the fact that 450-pound cattle bought in Wilmington lost 100 pounds by the time they got to Cady.
The Camp Cady site today is bare of evidences of early use, flood in 1938 having washed away all adobe traces. Barracks and sutler store are in ruins, used for stock purposes; rocks mark hospital site. John Fremont was at site in 1844 and prepared for desert trip here. Three fatigued cattle were killed and their meat jerked. During stay, two Mexican refugees told him of being ambushed by 100 Indians at Resting Springs, to the north on the Las Vegas-Salt Lake City trail.
This 1964 photograph shows part of the original barracks used as a stock barn. Schedule for soldiers when living in barracks included reveille at 5 a.m., breakfast at 5:30, drill at 6:30, fatigue call at 7. Due to heat that hit 118 at times, men were permitted to rest from 10:30 to 2:30, with dinner at noon. Taps was at 9:30 p.m. Monotonous duty meant a full guardhouse, severely weakening tiny garrison. One man, an experienced soldier who had been in three Indian fights in as many weeks, still was bored, finally deserted. At least one soldier was knifed to death In fellow trooper and, in final years, soldiers broke into sutler's store, then burned it down. Commanding officer accused sutler of peddling cheap whiskey to men, ordered, "No man henceforth will receive more than one glass of wine or half bottle of ale in the same afternoon." After store was burned, owner sued post commander and, ultimately officer was dismissed from service.
 B  Barracks
COQ  Commanding Officers Quarters
 GH  Guardhouse
 K  Kitchen
 QM & COMM SH  Quartermaster and Commissary Storehouse
This is how Camp Cady looked after it was moved in 1868 in order to give it parade ground. It measured 360 yards east to west and 300 north to south. All buildings "are of adobe, floored, and shingle-roofed, plastered outside and plastered and whitewashed inside," surgeon reported in 1869. "The officers' quarters is the only building coiled. . . . The barrack building is 86 by 26 by 12 feet, but has the northwest and southeast corners partitioned off as temporary dispensary and saddler's shop respectively. It is heated by stoves when necessary, lighted and ventilated by 12 windows and three doors. . . . The officers' quarters is one building, 36 by 18 feet, divided by a hall into two rooms. This a wing in rear, 14 by 12 feet, and a small out-house kitchen.' Surgeon and his family lived in guardhouse, by 18-foot two-room building. Hospital tent was used prisoners. So-called "hangman's tree" was next to the guardhouse house, but there is no record of it being used. Each building had double slanting shingle roof and floors, a far cry from first fort. Rock foundations were quarried four miles away and hauled to site. Soldiers did all construction, used 35,000 adobe bricks, 32,000 feet of lumber, 30,000 roofing shakes. No permanent bunks were in barracks because men were on alert to move at moment's notice, but 30 temporary bunks were made by soldiers on which to put their bed sacks. There was no hospital; hospital at first camp was used. Before post was abandoned, second officers' quarters was added, according to 1872 report. (Redrawn from plate in National Archives.)

This page was reprinted with permission from Old Forts of the Far West, published in 1965

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