Montana in the American Civil War

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The area that eventually became the U.S. state of Montana played little direct role in the American Civil War. The closest the Confederate States Army ever came to the area was New Mexico and eastern Kansas, each over a thousand miles away. There was not even an organized territory using "Montana" until the Montana Territory was created on May 26, 1864, three years after the Battle of Fort Sumter. In 1861, the area was divided between the Dakota Territory and the Washington Territory, and in 1863, it was part of the Idaho Territory.

Nevertheless, Confederate sympathizers did have a presence in what is now the U.S. state of Montana. Those in the Montana Territory who supported the Confederate side were varied. Among them were Confederate sympathizers who were determined that some of Montana's gold would go into the Southern instead of Northern coffers. But most were those who would rather not fight in the war, which ranged from pure drifters to actual Confederate deserters.[1]

Varina Davis

In southwest Montana, Madison County residents of the area native to the Southeast United States wished to name their new town Varina, in honor of Varina Davis, the wife of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The Varina Townsite Company, on June 16, 1863, went to confirm the 320 acres (1.3 km2) of land as the town of Varina. However, when they applied for the name, the judge—Connecticut native Dr. G.G. Bissell—refused, saying they would be "damned" before he would allow the town to be named for the first lady of the Confederacy. Bissell did say he would allow the company to name the town after the state of Virginia, and they did so, incorporating the town of Virginia City. Charles Dickens even mentioned it in his periodical All the Year Round.[2] The town would remain sympathetic to the South, even after being named the capital of Montana. When boats sailed down the Yellowstone River from the town (this is manifestly wrong, since the Yellowstone River does not even penetrate Madison County, much less flow through Virginia City), the local newspaper said they were sailing to "America."[3][4]

The loyalty towards the Confederacy concerned many supporters of the Union. Seeing this, Sidney Edgerton in 1863 went quickly to see Abraham Lincoln about the situation, and this was one impetus to create the Montana Territory so quickly.[5]

Gold mining in Montana began during the Civil War; gold placer deposits were discovered at Bannack in 1862. The resulting gold rush resulted in more placer discoveries, including those at Virginia City in 1863 and at Helena and Butte in 1864.[6] Gold from the Montana gold mines went to both sides of the conflict.[7] In Broadwater County, in the central portion of the state, Confederate sympathizers found a vein of gold eight miles (13 km) west of Townsend, with the immediate area named "Confederate Gulch" in their honor. It was said to be among the "largest and richest of the placer diggings" within the state.[8][9]

Civil War Regiments in Montana Territory[edit]

Although no organized Confederate forces reached Montana Territory, a series of detachment from union regiments, most of which were raised to fight confederates in the south, instead found themselves far to the west of the Civil War, fighting Native Americans and guarding outposts in Montana Territory. These regiments are listed here:[10]

Infantry[edit]

"Galvanized Yankees", In 1865, a ten man detachment of Company H served at Fort Benton, deep within Montana Territory, and the same year Company B was stationed at Fort Union, Dakota Territory (just outside the Montana border). The ten men of Company H gained the designation of serving the farthest north of any of the "Galvanized Yankees".[11]

2nd Brigade, District of Iowa - Part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux, all ten companies of this regiment, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and K, marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of Montana Territory in August, 1864. The regiment was then transferred to the Department of the Cumberland in Tennessee, where it participated in the Third Battle of Murfreesboro in December, 1864, going on to fight with the 23rd Corps at the Battle of Wyse Fork, North Carolina in March, 1865. In the last year of the Civil War, the 8th Minnesota saw service in Minnesota, Dakota Territory, Montana Territory, Alabama, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina, traveling more miles during that time than any other regiment of the Union Army.

One company, I, of this regiment garrisoned Fort Union, Dakota Territory from June, 1864 until June, 1865. Fort Union is located just outside of Montana inside the present-day North Dakota border.

Cavalry[edit]

Left Column, Powder River Expedition - One officer of this regiment, Captain Samuel M. Robbins, accompanied Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor's left column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865 as the column's chief engineer officer, traveling down the Tongue River valley in August and September.[12]

2nd Brigade, District of Iowa - Part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux, the two companies, A and B, that made up this battalion marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of Montana Territory in August, 1864. The next year, Company B served as an escort for the Sawyers wagon train, accompanying it from northeastern Nebraska until it reached the Bozeman trail crossing of the Bighorn River in southern Montana Territory in September of 1865.[13]

2nd Brigade, District of Iowa - Part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux, this regiment marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of Montana Territory in August, 1864.

Left Column, Powder River Expedition - One officer of this battalion, First Lieutenant Oscar Jewett of Company D, accompanied Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor's left column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865 as Connor's aide-de-camp, traveling down the Tongue River valley in August and September.[14]

West Column, Powder River Expedition - Two companies, L and M, of this regiment accompanied Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor's left column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865, traveling down the Tongue River valley in August and September. Company L also served as an escort for the Sawyers wagon train, accompanying it from the Tongue River until it reached the Bozeman trail crossing of the Bighorn River in southern Montana Territory in September. A detachment of 8 men from Company L traveled with the train all the way to Virginia City, Montana Territory.[15]

2nd Brigade, District of Iowa - Part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux, six companies of this regiment marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of Montana Territory in August, 1864.

1st Brigade, District of Iowa - Part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux, eleven companies of this regiment marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of Montana Territory in August, 1864.

Left Column, Powder River Expedition - This regiment, which is most famous for being part of Custer's Michigan Cavalry Brigade in the Army of the Potomac, found a detachment from four of its companies serving as the mail escort between Fort Connor, Dakota Territory and the rest of Connor's command in the Tongue River valley.[16]

1st Brigade, District of Iowa and Western Column, Powder River Expedition - Part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux, three companies of this regiment marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of Montana Territory in August, 1864. The next year, one company, F, of the regiment accompanied General Patrick E. Connor's Left column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865, traveling down the Tongue River valley.[17]

Left Column, Powder River Expedition - One officer of this regiment, Captain Henry E. Palmer of Company A, accompanied Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor's left column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865 as the expedition's quartermaster, traveling down the Tongue River valley in August and September.[18]

Left Column, Powder River Expedition - This regiment, initially organized as the 7th Ohio Cavalry and then the 6th Ohio Cavalry, found two of its companies, E and K, accompanying Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor's Left column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865, traveling down the Tongue River valley.[19]

Eastern Column, Powder River Expedition - All twelve companies of this regiment, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, and M, marched out from Omaha, Nebraska Territory as part of Colonel Nelson D. Cole's eastern column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865, participating in fighting against Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho throughout the Powder River country of southeastern Montana Territory.[20]

Center Column, Powder River Expedition - One company of this regiment, H, acting as an artillery battery marched north from Fort Laramie, Dakota Territory as part of Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Walker's center column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865, participating in fighting against Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho throughout the Powder River country of southeastern Montana Territory.[20]

Center Column, Powder River Expedition - Ten companies of this regiment, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K and L (minus one of these) marched north from Fort Laramie, Dakota Territory as part of Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Walker's center column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865, participating in fighting against Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho throughout the Powder River country of southeastern Montana Territory.[20]

1st Brigade, District of Iowa - This battalion, which had previously been attached to the 5th Iowa Cavalry in the western theater of the Civil War, made up part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux. Brackett's Battalion marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of Montana Territory in August, 1864.

  • Independent Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry Battalion

2nd Brigade, District of Iowa - Part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux, this battalion marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of Montana Territory in August, 1864.

  • Independent Company A, Omaha Scouts, Nebraska Cavalry

West Column, Powder River Expedition - This independent company, made up of Omaha Indians, accompanied Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor's western column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865, scouting throughout the Tongue River valley. The Company also served as an escort for the Sawyers wagon train, accompanying it from the Tongue River until it reached the Bozeman trail crossing of the Bighorn River in southern Montana Territory in September.[21]

Left Column, Powder River Expedition - This company, made up of Pawnee Indians, accompanied Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor's western column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865, fighting and scouting in the Tongue and Powder River country in southeastern Montana.[22]

  • Independent Company A, Winnebago Scouts, Nebraska Cavalry

West Column, Powder River Expedition - This independent company, made up of Winnebago Indians, accompanied Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor's western column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865, scouting throughout the Tongue River valley. The Company also served as an escort for the Sawyers wagon train, accompanying it from the Tongue River until it reached the Bozeman trail crossing of the Bighorn River in southern Montana Territory in September.[23]

  • Stuff'ts Independent Company of Indian Scouts, Nebraska Cavalry

2nd Brigade, District of Iowa - Part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux, this company marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of Montana Territory in August, 1864.

Artillery[edit]

  • 2nd Missouri Volunteer Light Artillery Regiment

Eastern Column, Powder River Expedition - After serving in the South, with Battery H fighting at the Battles of Pilot Knob, Little Blue River, Big Blue River, and Westport in Missouri, and at the Battle of Mine Creek in Kansas, seven Batteries of this regiment, B, C, D, E, H, L, and M, mounted and equipped as cavalry, marched out from Omaha, Nebraska as part of Colonel Nelson D. Cole's eastern column of the Powder River Expedition of 1865, participating in fighting against Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho throughout the Powder River country of southeastern Montana. The seven batteries sustained over half of all the casualties suffered during the Powder River Expedition of 1865.[20]

2nd Brigade, District of Iowa - Part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux, this battery marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of the Montana Territory in August, 1864.

  • Prairie Independent Light Artillery Battery

1st Brigade, District of Iowa - Part of Brigadier General Alfred Sully's 1864 Expedition against the Sioux, this battery marched along the Yellowstone River in the eastern part of the Montana Territory in August, 1864.

Miscellaneous[edit]

Left and Eastern Columns, Powder River Expedition - Two separate U.S. Signal Corps detachments, both made up of men from the Department of Missouri who had recently participated in Civil War campaigns in the east, accompanied the Powder River Expedition of 1865, with the first detachment of 15 men accompanying Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor's western column in traveling down the Tongue River valley, and the second detachment of 7 men joining Colonel Nelson D. Cole's eastern column from Omaha, Nebraska Territory, campaigning against Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho throughout the Powder River country of southeastern Montana Territory.[20][24]

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sargent, Tom. Lincoln's Vulnerable Treasure Chest, The Civil War in Montana (Virginia City Preservation Alliance, 1999)
  2. ^ Dickens, Charles. All the Year Round. 1868. p. 60.
  3. ^ Cromie, Alice. (Well, this is clearly wrong, since the Yellowstone River does NOT lie anywhere near Virginia City) A Tour Guide to the Civil War (Rutledge Hill Press, 1992) pg.171,172
  4. ^ Dimsdale, Thomas. The Vigilantes of Montana (University of Oklahoma Press, 1977) pg.72
  5. ^ Sargent, Tom. The Commanding Officers in Montana, The Civil War in Montana. Virginia City Preservation Alliance, 1999.
  6. ^ Koschman, A. H., and M. H. Bergendahl. Principal Gold-Producing Districts of the United States (Professional Paper 610). United States Geological Survey, 1968, p.143.
  7. ^ Sargent, Tom. The Economics of the Civil War, The Civil War in Montana (Virginia City Preservation Alliance, 1999)
  8. ^ Cromie, p. 172.
  9. ^ Dimsdale, p. 244.
  10. ^ "Civil War Regiments in Montana Territory". Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  11. ^ "Civil War Regiments in Montana Territory". Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  12. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  13. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  14. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  15. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  16. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  17. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  18. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  19. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  20. ^ a b c d e Wagner, David E. (2009). Powder River Odyssey: Nelson Cole's Western Campaign of 1865, The Journals of Lyman G. Bennett and Other Eyewitness Accounts (Frontier Military Series). The Arthur H. Clark Company. 
  21. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  22. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  23. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);
  24. ^ Wagner, David E. (2010). Patrick Connor's War. The Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 109-112.  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help);