California’s Little-Known Role in the American Civil War

As one of only two states in the entire western United States, California could hardly have been more isolated at the start of the Civil War. No transcontinental railroad or telegraph has yet connected it to the rest of the country, and no battles would be fought there. Nonetheless, California proved essential to the Union’s war effort, supporting the economy with its vast reserves of gold, raising huge sums for military medical assistance, and providing large numbers of troops. per inhabitant.

California’s membership in the Union was never a done deal. Although admitted as a Free State under the Compromise of 1850, some white residents continued to illegally enslave blacks, even as a movement emerged to ban African Americans from the state altogether. At the same time, the state legislature enacted a system that forced many Native Americans into bondage.

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