Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Presidio's Connection to the Civil War

A former Spanish fort in San Francisco played major role in US history but only minor role in the Civil War. We had the opportunity to visit the Presidio of San Francisco on June 30, 2017.

Juan Bautista de Anza selected the site for a Spanish fort on March 28, 1776. Later that year, a party led by José Joaquin Moraga built the fort. In 1783, the fort had a small garrison of only thirty-three men. Today, a group of archeologists digs next to a parking lot and excavates walls of the original fort.

When Mexico achieved her independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican Army occupied the fort. A Mexican garrison manned the Presidio for the next twenty-five years.

During the Mexican-American War, the US military seized the Presidio in 1846. American settlers and adventurers in Sonoma staged the Bear Flag Revolt against Mexican rule. Lieutenant John C. Fremont led a small detachment of soldiers and frontiersmen crossed the Golden Gate in a boat and "captured" the Presidio without resistance. A cannon that was spiked by Fremont remains on the Presidio today.
The fort was officially re-opened by the Americans in 1848. The US Army occupied the Presidio. The Presidio began a period directing operations to control and protect Native Americans as headquarters for scattered Army units on the West Coast. The fort served as base for several army headquarters and units. A number of famous US generals (William Sherman, George Henry Thomas, and John Pershing) spent time on the post.

In 1853, work was begun on Fort Point. The fort became a fine example of US coastal defenses. Fort Point, located at the foot of the Golden Gate in the Presidio, was the keystone of an elaborate network of fortifications to defend San Francisco Bay. These fortifications now reflect 150 years of military concern for defense of the West Coast.

Colonel Albert Sydney Johnston protected Union weapons from being taken by Southern sympathizers in San Francisco. Later, he resigned from the Union Army and became a general in the Confederate Army. The Presidio organized regiments of volunteers for the Civil War and to control Indians in California and Oregon during the absence of federal troops.

Civil War Era Housing
Civil War Era Housing

Civil War Era Housing
Major General George Henry Thomas led the Division of the Pacific in 1869-1870 from the Presidio.

Troops from the Presidio defeated the Modoc Indians in the 1872–1873 campaign. This was the last large-scale US Army operation against Native Americans in the Far West.

During its long history, the Presidio was involved in most of America's military engagements in the Pacific. It was the assembly point for army forces that invaded the Philippines in the Spanish-American War.
Dr. John Letterman
"Father of Battlefield Medicine" 
In the 1890s, the Presidio became home to the Letterman Army Medical Center. The medical facility was named for Jonathan Letterman in 1911. Letterman was medical director of the Army of the Potomac and developer of battlefield triage. The center provided thousands of war-wounded with high quality medical care during every US foreign conflict of the 20th century.

One of the last two remaining cemeteries within the city's limits is the San Francisco National Cemetery. Among the military personnel interred there are General Frederick Funston, hero of the Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, and commanding officer of the Presidio at the time of the 1906 earthquake; and General Irvin McDowell.

The Marine Hospital operated a cemetery for merchant seamen approximately 100–250 yards from the hospital property. Based on city municipal records, historians estimate that the cemetery was in use from 1885 to 1912. As part of the "Trails Forever" initiative, the Parks Conservancy, the National Park Service, and the Presidio Trust partnered to build a walking trail along the south side of the site featuring interpretive signage about its history.

The Presidio was the center for defense of the western US during World War II. The infamous order to intern Japanese-Americans, including citizens, during World War II was signed at the Presidio. Until its closure in 1995, the Presidio was the longest continuously operated military installation in the United States.

Internment Order

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