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The Last of the California Rangers (1928) by Jill L. Cossley-Batt


XXIV
HOWARD’S PART IN THE CIVIL WAR

When William J. Howard enjoyed a picnic with Ulysses S. Grant under the trees in Mariposa County, California, in 1853, little did he realize that he was talking to a future President. Grant was born in Ohio and had graduated at West Point Military Academy. Being full of ambition, he made a trip to the Far West, where he stayed for a short while with his brother-in-law, who had a store near the Stanislaus.

A few years later, the War of Secession, 1861-1865, gave him the opportunity of demonstrating his ability to lead and organize, and the world knows how his military genius finally made him Commander in Chief of all the Federal Armies. We are concerned now, however, only with the Civil War activities in which Captain Howard took part.

The sentiment in California at the outbreak of the war between the North and South was quite evenly divided between the opposing sections, and while the State furnished probably 16,000 men in the two armies, no active warfare took place within its borders. As already stated, the population was made up of many nationalities, yet the majority had come from the East and were natives of those States which were fighting on the side of the Union. In consequence, their sympathies with the North were very strong; but at the same time there was a large minority that was equally ardent in its sympathies for the South; so it required no little determination on the part of the authorities to smoulder the fires of patriotism on both sides and keep them from bursting forth in open conflict. As is always the case under such conditions, the people were controlled by a few strong leaders; therefore, the 140,000 men of Southern blood were held in check and restrained from violence by the sane councils of such men as Howard, Fitzhugh, and Bondurant.

Victories by both armies were celebrated in California, a fact made possible by a spirit of tolerance no less admirable than unusual. Many Federal people lived in Hornitos, and when there was a Union victory they celebrated it with much pomp. William frequently visited this lively little mining town, where he did all in his power to persuade the Confederate sympathizers to keep silent.

On one occasion a Federal party visited Snellingsville and destroyed a newspaper called The San Joaquin Valley Argus because it advocated the Southern cause. At another time a company of Federalists set out for Mariposa to destroy a Secessionist paper, but Crippen, the Sheriff, while a Republican and in sympathy with the Federals, sent word to the party not to come. The people of Mariposa, he said, were peacefully disposed and tolerant; but the majority of them were Southerners, he added, and if the Federal band came there it would be annihilated.

One day Howard and two young Confederates were in Hornitos when the Federals were celebrating, with much hilarity, a recent victory. This sight upset the two young Southerners so much that they wanted to fire into the crowd of merrymakers. At the psychological moment Howard used his influence, remonstrating with them so effectively that they reluctantly gave up the idea and returned with him to Mariposa. Had these men carried out their hostile idea, Captain Howard assured me, war would have commenced in California.

General Edward Connor, another ex-member of the California Rangers, took an active part in fighting for the Union and was anxious that Howard should join him. However, William’s sympathies were with the South, altho he did not believe in secession; so he said to Connor: “I have a wife and family, and under the circumstances feel that it is my duty to be near them.”

During the years of desperate fighting, the man of destiny was Abraham Lincoln, born in Kentucky. His kind and gentle nature, his evident sincerity, homely wit, and ability to grasp and express in simple language the sentiments of the masses of the North, gained for him the affection, confidence and respect of the people. Howard did not meet Lincoln personally, but through his friendship with Governor Stoneham, and with Senators Wigfall and Winter, learned to admire him, and to the end of life regarded him as one of the greatest men that ever lived.


General P. Edward Connor

[click to enlarge]
GENERAL P. EDWARD CONNOR
One of the California Rangers and later a General in the Union Army.

Colonel Edward Baker

[click to enlarge]
COLONEL EDWARD BAKER
Pioneer political leader, soldier and orator of early California days.




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