The Pacific Northwest: Far Away, but Not Untouched by the Civil War

My husband and I just returned from 10 days in Washington and Oregon, hardly the forefront of the Civil War. But war reached the Pacific, too, albeit not as dramatically. Here are a few notes I took: Oregon became a state in 1859 and did not secede. Democratic governor John Whiteaker recommended that Oregonians have a "policy by defense only," which, according to the National Park Service Civil War site, "generally meant military campaigns against the Native inhabitants of Oregon." The few U.S. Army troops on duty before the war were called back east, leaving forts unguarded. The First Oregon Cavalry filled the void, especially east of the Cascades and especially when gold was discovered in Canyon City, Oregon.

On the Oregon coast, we drove through Lincoln City. Aha! But I learned that the name came when 5 small towns merged and none would take the others' name. In a contest to find a new name, Lincoln City won. The great unifier, a century later.

The war did not reach Oregon, but Oregon came to the war. During the Battle of Ball's Bluff near Leesburg, Virginia in October 1861, Edward Baker, Oregon senator and close Lincoln friend, was killed.

Battle of Ball's Bluff

Battle of Ball's Bluff

In Washington, a territory until 1889, an effort to raise a regiment from within the territory did not garner enough men; the First Washington Volunteer Infantry had reinforcements from California and Oregon and then served along the Pacific Coast. Although the territory did not see active combat, battles between supporters and opponents of the Northern cause were fought in the press and political circles.

After the war, veterans made their way west, as evidenced by the Civil War veterans' cemeteries in both states.

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