S.B. and the Civil War

Californio S.B. Company C Joins the War

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
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California was a state of divided loyalties when the Civil War began in April 1861, and Santa Barbara reflected this. The decade of the 1850s had seen growing ethnic tension and political conflict between elements of the Californio population and the growing number of American settlers. In October 1861, four prominent Santa Barbarans sent a letter to the U.S. commander in Los Angeles stating that “the safety of loyal citizens of the United States residing in the county of Santa Barbara is in great peril. … Indeed, some Americans are avowed friends of the rebels, and do much to inflame the native Californians and Mexicans.”

Nonetheless, California and Santa Barbara would remain in the Union fold. One staunch local supporter of the North was José de la Guerra, patriarch of one of the state’s most prominent Californio families. Early in 1864, his youngest son, Antonio María de la Guerra, took it upon himself to call for volunteers for service in the Union cause. So was formed in Santa Barbara Company C of the First Battalion of the Native California Cavalry. Antonio María was made captain of the 99-man detachment, his nephew Santiago was first lieutenant, and Juan de la Guerra was appointed first sergeant and translator for the Spanish-speaking rank and file. Another nephew was made second lieutenant.

Antonio María de la Guerra
Click to enlarge photo

S.B. Historical Museum

Antonio María de la Guerra

Mustered in July, by September the company was stationed at Drum Barracks in Wilmington just south of Los Angeles. The Anglo post commander did not think much of Californio troops, so the superb horsemen of Company C were put to work digging ditches for an irrigation project and guarding water tanks at San Pedro.

Finally, in the spring of 1865, orders came down to put the Native California Cavalry on the march — not against Confederates but rather Apaches in the Arizona desert. Due to further delays, Company C did not start on the long, dry, dusty march to Fort Mason just north of the Mexican border until September.

Once there, inaction again became the order of the day for Company C. Although Apaches were sighted from time to time from a distance, the Indians remained frustratingly elusive. Meanwhile, conditions at the fort were miserable: Supplies were scarce, equipment was in poor shape, and disease became a problem.

The Civil War had ended in the spring of 1865, and in January of the following year, the battalion began its long journey home for disbandment. Company C made its way to Baja California, where it took ship for San Francisco. The company was mustered out in April.

Despite a tour of duty that had lacked in martial glory, upon arriving home in Santa Barbara, the troop was honored with a tumultuous welcome, punctuated by music, dancing, fireworks, bullfighting, and a parade.

During two years of service, two members of the company had died, both from respiratory illnesses. Additionally, the health of Captain de la Guerra was permanently broken. Treated with injections of mercury, he was blind by 1874 and died at age 56 in 1881. The last surviving member of the Native California Cavalry died in 1945 — First Sergeant Juan de la Guerra of Santa Barbara’s own Company C.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Thank you for this interesting story.
I am glad Senor de la Guerra chose to recruit soldiers and fight for the Union cause. How shameful that the US Army treated them like slaves, digging ditches, and then incredibly sent them after Geronimo and the Apaches, which has nothing to do with the Civil War, with little or no supplies. To add insult to injury, Mr. de la Guerra is poisoned with mercury, which along with arsenic are the most toxic non-radioactive elements on earth.

Rinconer (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 5:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Soldiers are usually treated like slaves. I can't believe he died at age 56. He looks like he's about 80 in that picture.

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 6:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As much as I abhor any type of slavery, especially when it is ethnically based, most of the non-Union forces were primarily fighting for the right to secede from the Union that they had VOLUNTARILY joined just about 80 years earlier. They knew that it was important to be able to secede as the founders had originally intended so that they would not have to face tyrannical or draconian policies coming down from the Federal Government. Since the Civil War we have had our banking system completely taken over by banking interests from England and they have used all of the wealth that we generated to fund the enforcement arm of the global corporations, the US Military and CIA. Now we are bankrupt. Because the Union 'won' the Civil War.

The fact is that slavery was foisted on the south by the very same British banking interests who would hundreds of years later take over our banking system in 1913 with the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank. And I'm not trying to say that England controls our country, I'm trying to say that the banking interests who control England also control us, they just happened to take over England and other parts of Europe first.

I'm not "apologizing" for slaver owners or anything of the sort, but consider that much of the cotton in the south was being sent to England and it would be difficult or impossible to compete on price against other slave owning plantations. Consider that pretty much all slaves came attached with DEBT, a monthly payment OWED TO THE BANKS. That's why a lot of people kept slaves that were passed down to them because they either had to continue to pay the debt or sell the slave to a large plantation, which were the WORST offenders as far as treating slaves very poorly.

With over 1 million casualties and with untold economic loss, I'm convinced the "Union" would have been better off putting the issue to rest by buying the slaves so that the owners would no longer have to make the payments to the banks and in trade those states would agree there wouldn't be any more slaves. The offer was never made. The reason they never made the offer is because the Civil War didn't really have anything to do with slavery, it had to do with the banking interests taking over the New World.

You see, the slavery that was occurring in the south is the old type of slavery using brute force to control humans. That has been happening for more than a few thousand years. The "new" slavery is debt. Banks create ALL of the money in the economy by creating debt, and then they charge interest. Where does the interest come from? The creation of more debt. That is how we are enslaved. If you don't think you are a slave, consider that the US Govt. has over 16 trillion in debt. Who do you think owes that money? We do. Consumer debt is over 11 trillion. Who do you think we owe all of this money to? The banks. China. This likely won't end well. And it happened because we lost our ability to secede from the Union.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 3:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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