"I have long desired to see California; the production of her gold mines has been a marvel to me, and her stand for the Union, her generous offerings to the Sanitary (Commission), and her loyal representatives have endeared your people to me; and nothing would give me more pleasure than a visit to the Pacific shore, and to say in person to your citizens, ‘God bless you for your devotion to the Union,’ but the unknown is before us. I may say, however, that I have it now in purpose when the railroad is finished, to visit your wonderful state."

~Abraham Lincoln, speaking to his friend Charles Maltby, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California, on March 25, 1865.


You may not think of California when you think of the Civil War, but the war deeply divided Californians as it did the rest of the country. Secessionists dominated the Southern half of the state, while Northern California remained predominately pro-Union. Even before the war began, California played an important role in the fight over slavery, as events here helped to set the stage for war.

The financial prowess of the state's rich gold mines and pro-Union business elite would ensure the success of the Northern war effort by keeping it well-funded. Without this steady supply of gold, the outcome of the war might have been very different. Addditionally, California led the nation in contributions to the United States Sanitary Commission, which was the primary organization responsible for the medical treatment of the many military casualties suffered on the Union side.

Like other Northern states, California supplied thousands of soldiers for the Union war effort; California troops were responsible for pushing the Confederate Army out of Arizona and New Mexico in 1862. Additionally, numerous California regiments were organized and joined with state regiments back east. Californians would face the enemy in most of the major battles in the East, including one regiment, organized and commanded by the former California Senator Edward Dickinson Baker (then a Colonel), that defended against Pickett's charge at Gettysburg, arguably the most pivotal military action of the war. In all, over 17,000 Californians would join as soldiers; this is the highest per-capita total for any state in the Union.

California in Time: the Fight over Slavery Through the Civil War

This timeline lists and explains important events related to slavery and the Civil War, and their causes and consequences, in the context of California's role in the nation's history between 1850 and 1865. It includes names of any California state parks connected with each event, as well as the approximate locations for all other events.