If “war” just means “battles,” then there really wasn’t a Civil War here. But if the war was about issues as well, then Washington Territory participated fully in the Civil War. From Walla Walla to Bellingham, territorial settlers brought their political convictions with them, just as they brought their worldly goods, garden seeds, and rifles. This presentation explores Washington settlers' views about issues surrounding the Civil War, including the importance of race and slavery.
Washington Territory Volunteer Infantry
With the regular U.S. Army troops recalled from the District of Oregon to fight the Civil War in the east, soldiers were still needed to man the forts and outposts in Washington Territory. The headquarters for the newly formed Washington Territory Volunteer Infantry regiment was first at Fort Vancouver. In July 1862, it had moved to Fort Walla Walla.
The Volunteer soldiers who served in Washington did not fight against the Confederacy, but instead garrisoned the few posts in Washington. They protected communications routes between the western and eastern United States in Oregon and Idaho from the Indians. They also protected against the threat of foreign intervention on the Pacific coast by Britain and France — a threat which never materialized.
Reenactors firing a howitzer at Fort Vancouver National Park
About Lorraine McConaghy
Dr. Lorraine McConaghy is a public historian who has devoted her professional life to researching and teaching Pacific Northwest history. At Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry, she has curated a series of successful projects, including the museum’s core exhibits Metropolis 150 and Essential Seattle, as well as Blue vs. Gray: Civil War in the Pacific Northwest.
McConaghy teaches in the Museum Studies program at the University of Washington. Her particular research interest is Washington Territory during the antebellum and Civil War periods. University of Washington Press published her Warship Under Sail: The USS Decatur in the Pacific West in 2009. She is currently working on two projects concerning Washington Territory during the Civil War.