The Forgotten Oregonians
Member of President Lincoln's inner circle, notable Oregonian Edward Dickinson Baker was a skilled lawyer, a renowned orator, and Union soldier. He was also the only United States senator ever to die in a military engagement. Edward D. Baker of Oregon was killed on October 21, 1861, while leading his Union regiment in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, Virginia.
At the outbreak of the Civil War (1861 - 1865), regular U.S. Army troops in the District of Oregon were withdrawn from posts in Oregon and Washington Territory and sent east. Volunteer cavalry and infantry were recruited in California and sent north to Oregon to replace the Federal troops and keep the peace and protect the populace. Oregon raised the First Oregon Cavalry that was activated in 1862, fought in the Snake War, served until June 1865, and was mustered out in 1866. During the Civil War, immigrants to the new found gold fields in Idaho and Oregon continued to clash with the Paiute, Shoshone and Bannock tribes of Oregon, Idaho and Nevada until relations degenerated into the bloody 1864 - 1868 Snake War. The First Oregon Volunteer Infantry Regiment was formed in 1864 and its last company was mustered out of service in July 1867. Both units were used to guard travel routes and Indian reservations, escort immigrant wagon trains, and protect settlers from Indian raiders. Several infantry detachments also accompanied survey parties and built roads in central and southern Oregon.
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern boundaries, respectively. The area was inhabited by many indigenous tribes before the arrival of traders, explorers, and settlers who formed an autonomous government in Oregon Country in 1843. The Oregon Territory was created in 1848, and Oregon became the 33rd state on February 14, 1859. Founded as a refuge from disputes over slavery, Oregon had a "whites only" clause in its original state Constitution.
Humans have inhabited the area that is now Oregon for at least 15,000 years. In recorded history, mentions of the land date to as early as the 16th century. By the 16th century, Oregon was home to many Native American groups, including the Coquille (Ko-Kwell), Bannock, Chasta, Chinook, Kalapuya, Klamath, Molalla, Nez Perce, Takelma, and Umpqua. The first Europeans to visit Oregon were Spanish explorers led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo who sighted southern Oregon off the Pacific Coast in 1543. During the 18th and 19th centuries, European powers – and later the United States – quarreled over possession of the region until 1846 when the U.S. and Great Britain finalized division of the region.
The region was occupied by British and French Canadian fur traders prior to 1810, and American settlers from the mid-1830s, with its coastal areas north from the Columbia River frequented by ships from all nations engaged in the maritime fur trade, most of these from the 1790s through 1810s being Boston-based. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 ended disputed joint occupancy pursuant to the Treaty of 1818 and established the British-American boundary at the 49th parallel. Oregon was a distinctly American term for the region, while the British used the term Columbia District instead.
Euro-American settlers, miners, and ranchers flooded into central and eastern Oregon in the 1850s and early 1860s. These newcomers moved through Native lands, sparking unrest between the Northern Paiute, Shoshone, and Bannock. Established as a new state in 1859, the inhabitants of Oregon felt the reverberations of Civil War from across the continent.
Among the settlers, there were a large number of Southern sympathizers. Union supporters called Jackson, Josephine, and Douglas Counties Oregon’s “Dixie” because of its support for the Confederacy. These counties were settled by people from the borderland states of Kentucky and Missouri or from heavily Democratic regions in southern Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Many of these people brought with them the same sectional allegiance, racial prejudice, and political philosophy that were being debated on the national stage. Furthermore, the veterans of the Rogue River Indian War of the 1850s were still waiting for war reimbursements, which made them bitter towards the Federal government. As there was a majority of Union supporters in Oregon, the tensions resulted in no more than a rhetorical battle of words carried on between pro-Union and pro-Confederate supporters throughout the war. Although the settlers adopted these arguments from the national debate, they reflected in local politics and created distrust between neighbors.
Although the Civil War was a distant event for most Oregonians and the Native inhabitants of this region, it still had an indelible impact on their lives. Oregonians entered the national debate on slavery, emancipation, and states’ rights, and in turn, communities divided. These debates did not erupt in the kind of violence seen elsewhere in the country. Violence did occur between the Native population and the local regiments, in which Natives managed to elude the First Oregon Cavalry during the war. Although Oregon remained loyal to the Union, Democratic governor John Whiteaker recommended a “policy of defense only” given their distance from the field of battle. His idea of defense of the Union generally meant military campaigns against the Native inhabitants of Oregon. See also Oregon in the Civil War (1861-1865).
Notable Oregonian Edward Dickinson Baker was a skilled lawyer, a renowned orator, and a member of President Lincoln’s inner circle. He was also the only United States senator ever to die in a military engagement. Edward D. Baker of Oregon was killed on October 21, 1861, while leading his Union regiment in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, Virginia. As a Union colonel, he had led the regiment that he helped raise when the Civil War began in the spring of 1861.
The Battle of Ball's Bluff, VA, was a disastrous Union defeat in the first year of the Civil War when Confederate Brig. Gen. Nathan "Shanks" Evans stopped a badly coordinated attempt by Union forces under Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone to cross the Potomac at Harrison's Island and capture Leesburg. On October 21, 1861, a Union force commanded by Col. Edward D. Baker crossed the Potomac River and scaled Ball's Bluff on the Virginia shore, determined to capture Leesburg. Quickly surrounded by confederates, Baker was killed and his men stampeded over the bluff. Many drowned, and their bodies washed ashore downstream in Washington. Ball's Bluff witnessed more than 900 Union casualties, while Confederate losses were approximately 150. This Union rout, coupled with Senator Baker's death, had severe political ramifications in Washington and led to the establishment of the Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, which investigated the defeat.
Baker had practiced law in Springfield, Illinois, before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1845, defeating his friend Abraham Lincoln for the Whig nomination. In 1846, he resigned from the House of Representatives to command a brigade in the Mexican War. Baker moved to Oregon in 1860 and was elected to the Senate that same year. A skilled orator, he made a lasting impression upon the Senate when, dressed in military uniform, he delivered his famous call to arms on August 1, 1861. “We will rally the people, the loyal people, of the whole country,” he exclaimed, “they will pour forth their treasure, their money, their men, without stint, without measure.” Senator Baker was struck during the Battle of Ball's Bluff at approximately four o’clock by a volley of bullets through his heart and brain that killed him instantly. Consequently, almost three years after his death (1864), Baker's widow, Mary Ann, was placed on the government pension roll, receiving $50 per month. Colonel Baker, however, was listed on the pension with the rank of brigadier-general (one rank above colonel) because at the time of his death, Lincoln had already nominated Baker for promotion to brigadier-general and said nomination had been pending confirmation by the US Senate.
Cols. Reuben F. Maury, Charles S. Drew; Majs. Charles S. Drew, J. S. Rinearson, Sewall Truax. The regiment concentrated in Williamette Valley and ordered May, 1862, to Walla Walla Country and Mining Districts of Nez Perce and Salmon River Countries to protect emigrants and miners. Headquarters at Fort Walla Walla, Washington Territory.
Company "A" moved from near Oregon City to Fort Dalles; thence to Fort Walla Walls, Washington Territory, June 24-July 12, 1862. Left Fort Walla Walls July 25, 1862, for Salmon Falls on Snake River Expedition against Snake Indians in Idaho August 19-October 11, 1862, and protecting emigrant roads until November. At Fort Dalles until April, 1863. Ordered to Fort Walla Walla April 20. Expedition against Snake Indians in Idaho May 4-October 26, 1863. Expedition from Fort Walla Walla to Snake River, Washington Territory, February 16-23, 1864, and to Southeastern Oregon April 30-October 6, 1864. Expedition from Fort Boise to Salmon Falls, Idaho Territory, and skirmishes August 27-October 5, 1864. At Fort Vancouver and other stations in Oregon and Idaho until muster out. Expedition from Camp Lyon, Idaho Territory, to Malheur River, Ore., and skirmish July 2-13, 1865.
Company "B" moved from Salem, Ore., to Fort Vancouver; thence to Fort Walls Walla via Fort Dalles May 14-June 2, 1862. Left Fort Walla Walla July 25. 1862, for Salmon Falls on Snake River. Expedition against Snake Indians in Idaho August 19-October 11, 1862, and protect emigrant roads until November 1, 1862. At Fort Walla Walla until April, 1863. Moved to Fort Lapwai June 13, 1863; thence to Canyon City July 10. Ordered to Fort Vancouver September 29, 1863, and duty there until April. 1864. Expedition to Southeastern Oregon and skirmishes April 20-October 6, 1864. Duty at Forts Vancouver, Walls Walla, Boies and other points in District of Oregon until muster out. Expedition from Camp Lyon, Idaho Territory, to Malheur River, Ore., and skirmish July 2-13, 1865.
Company "C" moved from near Oregon City to Fort Vancouver June 24, 1862. (A Detachment ordered to Jacksonville, Ore., July 2, 1862.) Duty there and at Klamath operating against Indians in Rogue River District until June, 1865. At Fort Steilacoom and other points in District of Oregon until muster out.
Company "D" moved from near Oregon City to Fort Dalles; thence to Fort Walls Walla June 24-July 12, 1862. Left Fort Walla Walla July 25 for Salmon Falls on Snake River. Expedition against Snake Indians in Idaho and protecting emigrant roads August 19 to October 11, 1862. At Fort Walla Walla November, 1862, to April, 1863. Expedition from Fort Walla Walls against Snake Indians in Idaho May 4-October 20, 1863. Ordered to Fort Dalles October 29, and duty there until April, 1864. Expedition to Southeastern Oregon and skirmishes April 20-October 6, 1864. Ordered to Fort Vancouver October 6, 1864. Duty at Fort Vancouver, Fort Walla Walls and other points in the District of Oregon until muster out. Expedition from Camp Lyon, Idaho Territory, to Malheur River, Ore., and skirmish July 2-13, 1865.
Company "F" moved from near Oregon City to Fort Dalles; thence to Fort Walla Walla June 24-July 12, 1862. Duty near Lewiston, Nez Perce Reservation, July 25 to November 1, 1862. Garrison at Fort Lapwai until May, 1865. Expedition from Fort Lapwai to the Meadows August 22 to September 20, 1863. At Fort Walla Walla and other points in District of Oregon May, 1865, to muster out.
Although the First Oregon Cavalry mustered out in 1866, tensions between settlers and Natives did not abate. When the Army returned to Oregon, they effectively subdued the Natives and forced them onto reservations. Conflicts continued on into the 1870s, with the Bannock War of 1878. Settlers from the Eastern United States continued to come to Oregon after the war, including 15,000 Civil War veterans.