California In The American Civil War

Little-known story of California in the Civil War is told at the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum, part of the City of Los Angeles museum system.

Drum Barracks sits in the middle of sprawling, modern Los Angeles. In1863, Los Angeles was a town of 4,400, and Wilmington was a tiny village near the harbor (now the Port of Los Angeles).The outpost owes its existence to a chain of events in the Far West, an often overlooked theater of the Civil War. In 1861, Confederate forces struck out into the Arizona territory from Texas. Their long-range goal was the ports, mineral resources and open lands of the lightly defended California, which was admitted into the Union in 1850. Confederate leaders viewed California, particularly the pro-secessionist southern section, as “a land of opportunity for them.” The new base became a depot, training base and staging point for operations of the Union Army in the West. Almost 8,000 men passed through Drum Barracks during the war. Visitors find a wealth of artifacts in the 14 rooms of the U-shaped building, which was originally the junior officers’ quarters. One of the most impressive is an 1875 Gatling gun, part of an extensive display of Civil War-era weapons, including a collection of 291 bullets. A battle flag was donated by the family of a veteran of the Battle of Vicksburg who received the Medal of Honor. Rooms are decorated to show the living conditions of soldiers and officers, featuring period pieces, like a rare 1869 Steinway piano. Drums Barracks also has a genuine drum from the 8th New York Volunteers, a library of 3,000 volumes and the artificial leg of a soldier, which was donated by his descendants.

Drum Barracks Civil War Museum, at 1052 Banning Boulevard, Wilmington, Calif., is open for tours Sunday, Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday. It is closed Monday and Friday. Donation: $5. For more information:

The surviving building holds a reputation as the locale of various paranormal activity, with visitors and local residents claiming to hear the sound of rattling chains or wagon wheels and horses’ hooves, seeing smoke (presumably from soldiers’ pipes), spotting apparitions of a woman in a hoop skirt, and smelling a strong lavender violet perfume. The Drum Barracks was profiled on Unsolved Mysteries in the early 1990s in a segment called ‘Civil War Ghosts’. Some of the people interviewed in that segment claimed to have seen apparitions of Civil War soldiers. In 2005 the Barracks was featured in an episode of Most Haunted and Wiki