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Union Blue and Dixie Grey

San Diego's Civil War Veterans

Surviving members of the Grand Army of the Republic, Oceanside, 1912.
  • Surviving members of the Grand Army of the Republic, Oceanside, 1912.
  • San Diego Historial Society

When the Civil War started in 1861, San Diego was an isolated village of 731 individuals. Hispanic families and a few American settlers lived in Old Town; Indians lived in scattered locations. Since San Diego was a great distance from the coming battles and since military commanders prevented California volunteer troops from going back East to fight, San Diego did not have much of a presence in the Civil War.

Samuel Heintzelman: there for the 1850 purchase of army land at Kettner and Market Streets

Samuel Heintzelman: there for the 1850 purchase of army land at Kettner and Market Streets

After the Mexican War had ended in 1848, surveyors from the Boundary Commission arrived in San Diego to chart the new border between Mexico and the United States. One of the surveyors, Andrew Gray, camped on the bay near where the foot of Market Street is now. He realized the location would be an ideal site for a city, and by March 1850, he, William Heath Davis, and others had purchased a 160-acre tract bounded by present-day Front Street, Broadway, and the bay. The townsite, later called New San Diego, in its earliest days contained two hotels, some residences, a store, and a wharf constructed by Davis as part of his contribution to the project.

Samuel P. Heintzelman, an early commander of troops guarding the Mexican border, was on the scene when the new townsite was purchased. He wrote in his diary on March 21, 1850, that “Mr. Gray has just returned from sounding the Bay. He has found a point of the Bay where there is eighteen feet of water, even at low tide. He and five others have bought it, and some other land, from the Alcalde for $23,000.”

Where San Diego Civil War veterans came from

Where San Diego Civil War veterans came from

For lack of better quarters, government troops were stationed at San Diego Mission de Alcala, but they needed a new barracks. Gray and Davis granted land for this purpose at what is now Kettner and Market Streets, and an enlisted men’s barracks was completed in 1850. As a sub-depot for specialized functions, the new installation was separated almost immediately from the command at the mission, and only a few officers of the quartermaster, commissary, and pay departments were stationed there. Land was also dedicated for a public park, now known as Pantoja Park, named for Juan Pantoja, the Spanish navigator who mapped San Diego Bay in 1782.

In 1851, William Heath Davis suffered business losses. He abandoned New San Diego in 1852. Many of the buildings were moved to Old Town, and by May 1857, only 14 civilian buildings and the military barracks remained. In late 1858, troops left the San Diego Mission de Alcala, and Company G, 6th Infantry moved into the New San Diego barracks. Brevet Major Lewis Armistead commanded the post.

Colonel George Rulen, in an article entitled “San Diego in the Civil War,” describes California at the beginning of the war: “When the last gun was fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861, two-thirds of the U.S. Army was stationed in frontier posts scattered over the country west of the Mississippi River, and one-fourth of the force was on the Pacific slope. Southern California was an open powder keg. All that was needed was an able leader to ignite the fuse which would rend the state asunder and bring the Civil War to the Pacific coast.

Augusta and Matthew Sherman. Sherman was the earliest Civil War veteran on the postwar scene in San Diego

Augusta and Matthew Sherman. Sherman was the earliest Civil War veteran on the postwar scene in San Diego

“There were many Confederate sympathizers in California, especially in Southern California, in the San Joaquin Valley, and in the mining camps of California and Nevada. Los Angeles, San Bernardino, El Monte and Visalia were hotbeds of succession rumors, and loyal Unionists appealed to the military authorities for help. They feared an open outbreak within the state and invasion from Lower California.

“Brigadier General Edwin Sumner arrived at San Francisco on April 24, 1861, and assumed command of the Department of the Pacific, relieving Brevet Brigadier General Albert S. Johnston, who resigned his commission, fled across Southern California, joined the Confederacy with the rank of General, and was subsequently killed while in command at the battle of Shiloh. General Sumner's first act was to order the regular Army garrisons in Oregon and Washington Territory moved to San Francisco; troops at Fort Mojave on the Colorado River moved to New San Diego; and those at Fort Tejon to Los Angeles. Two companies were at Fort Yuma, and one at San Diego.”

When Civil War vets came to San Diego

When Civil War vets came to San Diego

Ed Scott, in his book San Diego County Soldier-Pioneers, discusses what happened next. A number of officers of the army who were Southerners resigned their commissions to join the Confederate Army; among them was San Diego Commander Major Armistead, who “wrote his letter of resignation from the United States Army at New San Diego on May 26, 1861. Command of G Company, U.S. 6th Infantry devolved to Lt. Orlando H. Moore, whose Captaincy was dated on the day Armistead resigned.”

In July 1861, a plea went to California for volunteers. Californians responded quickly. Within weeks California Volunteer Regiments were formed. California furnished 15,725 volunteers to the Civil War effort, including two regiments of cavalry, a battalion of native cavalry, eight regiments of infantry, one battalion of veteran infantry, and the First Battalion of Mountaineers. These units were recruited and organized in the northern part of the state, around the Bay region and in the mining camps.

G.A.R members, 1890s

G.A.R members, 1890s

As U.S. Army troops departed for the war, California Volunteers moved into the vacated posts. Several units arrived to man the San Diego Barracks. One unit, during a winter season of heavy rain, took down a wharf that William Heath Davis had constructed and several other New Town buildings for firewood, making New San Diego look like a ghost town.

“During the four years of the war,” Colonel Rulen’s article states, “close to seventeen thousand joined one or another branch of the service. All were volunteers, as there was no draft. However, very few recruits were obtained from the southern part of the state. The volunteers replaced the regular troops, nearly all of whom were transferred to the eastern theater before the end of 1861.”

Horton’s brother-in-law William Wallace Bowers “announced he had acquired the block bounded by Third, Fourth, Fir and Grape"

Horton’s brother-in-law William Wallace Bowers “announced he had acquired the block bounded by Third, Fourth, Fir and Grape"

“California troops, for the most part, remained on the western frontiers,” writes Leo P. Kibby in “California Soldiers in the Civil War.” “They fought in no major battles of the war. Rather their military engagements were with small forces of Confederate troops in New Mexico and with Indians throughout the West. One authority has said that the California volunteers in doing their duty ‘preserved peace in these western States and Territories, and the flag of rebellion was soon driven beyond the Rio Grande. Men in the California volunteer regiments saw service in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.”

When Company G, 4th California Infantry, arrived at New San Diego Barracks in November of 1862, Ed Scott writes, “The post presented a desolate picture. There were now five civilian buildings besides a big drab yellow barracks” and the ruined wharf. Company G was a large company of 152 men. Executive officer 1st Lieutenant Matthew Sherman spent all of his Civil War service in San Diego County and returned when the war ended to play a leading role in creating the city we know today.

Dr. Peter Remondino joined the Civil War between medical school terms in 1863 and 1864. He served with the Union Army in Maryland and Virginia

Dr. Peter Remondino joined the Civil War between medical school terms in 1863 and 1864. He served with the Union Army in Maryland and Virginia

“Conditions in Old Town remained static during the Civil War,” according to Ed Scott. “Since there was no newspaper, we have no contemporary picture of public feeling of San Diegans during the war, no reports on the weekly happenings in town, no list of ship arrivals, and no advertisements of business activity. Most San Diegans were staunch Unionists and Republicans, but as one would expect there were some Confederate sympathizers.”

Company G soldiered quietly at New Town until August 1865, when it received orders to proceed to La Paz, Arizona Territory. A small detail was posted at New San Diego Barracks, and the rest of the company marched eastward. Post returns from Fort Yuma noted the arrival of Company G on August 13 and its departure two days later. “The report stated Company G was headed for Fort Rock, but official records reveal the company went to La Paz where martial law was needed.

Holabird proposed that a Soldiers’ Home be built in the “Grantville” area

Holabird proposed that a Soldiers’ Home be built in the “Grantville” area

“In June of 1866,” Ed Scott continues,“after all stores and gear were shipped out, the guard detail from Company G, 4th California Volunteer Infantry, locked the big faded yellow barracks and departed. New San Diego was totally deserted, prey to pilfering gringos, animals, birds, and ‘ould Injuns’, which the soldiers called the older Indians who slept in the vacant houses.

“There were four houses, the Quartermasters house nearby built by General Lyon, the big barracks, some naked wharf pilings, bush-covered, gullied streets, and nothing more.”

Who, then, were the Civil War veterans of San Diego? All of them migrated here from somewhere else. They had certain characteristics, the most outstanding being that they had survived the war. They may have been wounded in battle. They may have been in prison camps, may have seen cruel fighting and the slaughter of their friends. But they had made it through the war and were now poised to go on with their lives. Some trickled into San Diego immediately after the war, but then they came in a flood and contributed to the city.

George W. Hazzard erected one of the first brick business blocks at the corner of Sixth and Market Streets

George W. Hazzard erected one of the first brick business blocks at the corner of Sixth and Market Streets

Nearly 2000 Civil War veterans lived in San Diego between 1869 and 1943, according to cemetery information and Grand Army of the Republic records. (The G.A.R. was an organization of Union veterans of the Civil War.) Of the native-born veterans, state of birth is available for 96 percent, nativity being determined from the veteran’s organization records, tombstone inscriptions, city and county histories, and information on burial cards at Mount Hope Cemetery. Many of the native-born Civil War migrants to San Diego were from the more populous states, as the chart below indicates.

Foreign-born veterans came from the following countries: 57 from Germany; 50 from England; 43 from Ireland; 22 from Canada; 10 from Scotland; 8 from France; 7 from Norway; 6 each from Nova Scotia and Switzerland; and 5 each from Denmark and Sweden. Also, 4 veterans each were from Prussia and Wales; 3 from Poland; 2 each from Austria, Bavaria, Belgium, and Holland. One each were from Bohemia, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Newfoundland, and Russia.

Attorney Levi Chase settled the title and boundaries of El Cajon Rancho and worked on litigation involving Warner’s ranch

Attorney Levi Chase settled the title and boundaries of El Cajon Rancho and worked on litigation involving Warner’s ranch

Only 27 San Diegans can be identified as Confederate veterans. Of the 21 for whom nativity can be determined, 5 were from Virginia, 3 from Mississippi, 2 from Tennessee, 2 from England, and 1 each from Canada, Germany, Georgia, Ohio, Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas, and Vermont. One was “American” bom, and the nativity of the remaining 6 cannot be determined.

Some Confederate soldiers are buried in the Confederate plot at Mount Hope Cemetery, and a few placed their Confederate affiliation on their tombstones. A Confederate major, Hugh G. Gwyn, organized a parade of Grand Army of the Republic groups from California and Nevada that were meeting in San Diego in 1895. Confederate veteran John M. Riddle accompanied several Union veterans to a Gettysburg assembly in 1938. But few other local Confederate veterans can be identified.

San Diego suffered boom and bust periods from 1880 to 1900, and these are reflected in the dates that veterans arrived here. A great impetus for local settlement in 1885 was railroad service that connected San Diego to the East This was a dream come true for local developers, for prior to this people arrived by boat, stagecoach, or wagon. Civil War veteran migration to San Diego slowed in the 1890s and then steadily increased until 1927, when it started dropping off again.

General Datus Coon led attack at Glorietta Bay at Civil War reunion in 1890

General Datus Coon led attack at Glorietta Bay at Civil War reunion in 1890

The dates that veterans arrived in San Diego can be determined only approximately. Most Grand Army of the Republic records list the dates that veterans entered the organization, thus giving a clue to when they moved to San Diego. Using that information, the following arrival dates were extracted. Such information is available for 74 percent of the Civil War veterans who came to San Diego:

It is difficult to determine the proportion of veterans in the city’s population, but the chart from Metropolitan Coast: San Diego and Orange Counties, California (below) shows population figures for the city of San Diego from 1850 to 1940.

One wonders why nearly 2000 Civil War veterans came to San Diego between 1867 and 1943. As Clarence McGrew indicates in his book, The City of San Diego and San Diego County, Judge Moses Luce, Civil War Medal of Honor winner, gave what are probably the most often cited answers: climate and better health.“I came here because I had developed a weak throat. It troubled me so much that I could not well deliver an address to a jury, and I thought that it was time that I was coming to a gentler climate. I had subscribed to the San Diego Union in the fall of 1872, and what I read in that newspaper about San Diego proved so satisfactory that I started here, arriving in May 1873.”

Horace Day, the last San Diego vet to die (1943): “I went out in ’64 and came back in ’65 after smelling plenty of powder”

Horace Day, the last San Diego vet to die (1943): “I went out in ’64 and came back in ’65 after smelling plenty of powder”

Ed Scott writes that “New San Diego subdivision remained deserted only eleven months after the guard detail of Company G, 4th California Infantry, vacated the barracks in June, 1866.” Matthew Sherman of Company G was the earliest Civil War veteran on the postwar scene, right in time for pending development.

Clare Crane, in an article entitled “Matthew Sherman: Pioneer San Diegan,” writes: “Born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1827, Sherman enlisted in the Navy at age 13 and served on the USS Columbus and the USS Independence. He sailed around Cape Horn on the latter ship and served in the Mexican War. After the war, he went back east, but returned to California, was mustered in, and served most of his Civil War time in New San Diego. In 1862, he was stationed in San Diego and liked it so well that he came back to settle permanently after his discharge from the Army in 1865.”

Ed Scott continues: “In May 1867, Captain Matthew Sherman, and his bride, Old Town’s young schoolmarm, lovely Augusta Jane Barrett, moved into either the big barracks building (in New San Diego] or the nearby cottage built by Captain Nathaniel Lyon in 1851.... Sherman returned to San Diego as a deputy Customs Collector in the (southern) San Francisco district. As a government official, he had his office at the New San Diego Army installation. Lyon’s house was considered a part of the barracks, so the Shennans would have lived there rather than the big barracks itself.” The Shermans were the only inhabitants of New Town, their nearest neighbor being four miles away at Old Town.

When they died

When they died

Clare Crane continues: “By June 1867, the Shermans had purchased Pueblo Lot 1155 from the City Trustees, a 160-acre tract, for 50 cents an acre. Sherman’s Addition (called ‘Sherman Heights’ because of its elevation) overlooked the flat lands of what is now downtown San Diego, stretching west to the harbor. It was bounded by 15th and 24th Streets, between Market and Commercial Streets, and was one of the oldest subdivisions in New San Diego. In 1867, the Shermans built a home at 19th and J, and in 1869, they subdivided Sherman’s Addition, soon recouping their original investment as they sold off lots.

“San Diego went through mini-boom and bust periods and went ‘bust’ when plans for a railroad connection to the east and north fell through. The Shermans retired to their farm in the El Cajon valley, raising zinfandel grapes. In 1885, the recently organized California Southern Railroad made connections with the Santa Fe, running a line from San Diego to San Bernardino, and at last, San Diego had its transcontinental connection. The population tripled and land sales boomed! The Shermans came out of semi-retirement, sold their El Cajon farm and vineyard, and had plans drawn up for a large new home in Sherman Heights. It was a two-story, 11-room structure, cost $15,000, and was located at 563 22nd Street and Market.”

The Shermans donated land for what was later called Sherman School and helped develop Mount Hope Cemetery. Mrs. Sherman gave the cemetery its name. Matthew Sherman served as mayor of San Diego from 1891 to 1892. He lived on until July 5,1898, and his passing was marked by a funeral with a large turnout. Augusta Sherman continued to live in the big house with her son and his family, dying there on January 5,1913. Matthew and Augusta Sherman are buried in Division 3 at Mount Hope Cemetery.

“On May 10, 1867, the date of the Sherman wedding in Old Town,” Ed Scott writes, “a newcomer named Alonzo E Horton bought 960 acres of pueblo land from the San Diego Board of Trustees for $265,” and the development of New Town began in earnest. “Horton’s Addition was not the former New San Diego, but people started calling it New Town in 1868 and the name stuck.”

When Horton came west, it was for his health. While living in Oswego, New York, he had developed a cough, and it was thought he might have consumption. Elizabeth C. MacPhail writes in The Story of New San Diego and of Its Founder Alonzo E. Horton that “This came as a great shock not only to Horton but to his family and friends.” Horton, along with others, stayed in San Diego for climate and health reasons, even during the bust periods.

“The tract Horton purchased,” Ed Scott writes, “covered the area east of New San Diego and Middletown subdivisions from the Front Street of today east to 15th Street, from the bay northward to Upas, excluding the area from A to Upas, between 6th and 15th.... In 1867, San Diego’s pueblo lands totaled over forty-eight thousand virgin acres, available to land developers like a huge melon in a sunny field. Alonzo E. Horton received the juiciest slice from the heart of the melon by reaching San Diego ahead of the post-Civil War land developers.”

“By 1869,” MacPhail writes, “it was apparent to even the die hards that (New Town) was going to supplant Old Town. Those who a year before were ready to make an affidavit that Horton was insane and should be committed to the state hospital at Stockton were beginning to wonder just who was crazy, Horton or they.”

“Horton, although married several times, had no children but had an abundance of relatives and in-laws. He wrote enthusiastically to his family in Wisconsin, telling them about his new city, and urged them to come West and make their fortunes with him. Many of his relatives did just that. In the summer of 1869 his youngest sister, Lucy, arrived with her husband, [Civil War veteran] William Wallace Bowers.... Soon after Bowers’ arrival,Horton announced plans for the Horton House, which was to be a lavish hostelry, a palatial brick edifice,’ one of the finest in Southern California. His brother-in-law, W.W. Bowers, would be the architect and builder. The site of the Horton House was to be on D between Third and Fourth,” the present site of the U.S. Grant Hotel.

An important Civil War leader who took an active interest in the development of San Diego was General William Starke Rosecrans, who had resigned from the Army after the war and came to California as one of the incorporators of the Southern Pacific Railroad. MacPhail continues that General Rosecrans “told Horton he would like to visit San Diego to see if a railroad could be built from San Diego eastward to Yuma. If it could, Horton’s property would be worth millions.On Horton's next trip south Rosecrans accompanied him. They hired a team and with several others went first to Tijuana and then to Jacumba Pass, where they could view the desert. General Rosecrans said, ‘Horton, this is the best route for a railroad through the mountains I have ever seen in California.’

“As they returned through Horton’s Addition, Rosecrans jokingly remarked that if he ever owned a lot in San Diego, ‘I would like it right here.’ Horton remembered this casual remark and the approximate location. After the land was surveyed and lots set out, Horton made Rosecrans a present of the block bounded by Fifth, Sixth, F and G.”

On September 18, 1869, General Rosecrans “paid another visit to San Diego. Arriving with a group of railroad officials, he was in town only one day and was royally entertained. While here he sold back to Horton the block that had been given to him a year before. The consideration was said to be $2000 in cash and two lots. Rosecrans was well satisfied with the deal, and after assuring residents that a railroad was a ‘certainty,’ he extended his best wishes and left on the steamer Senator.... General Rosecrans served in Congress as a representative from Northern California from 1885 to 1893. He died in 1898, the year Fort Rosecrans was established on Point Loma.”

MacPhail continues that in 1883, Horton’s brother-in-law William Wallace Bowers “announced he had acquired the block bounded by Third, Fourth, Fir and Grape, and would build a luxurious hotel on the site. True, this was way up on the hill, far from the center of town, with only a rough dirt road leading to it. It had previously been the site of Indian huts, and sheep still grazed in the vicinity....”

“The new hotel opened on February 24, 1884, with a gala ball and became the showplace of the city during the boom days. It was called the Villa, or the Florence, and the surrounding area became known as Florence Heights.” The Florence later became the Casa Loma and eventually was torn down.

Dr. Peter C. Remondino was another veteran involved in the building of San Diego. In his thesis, “The Fever of Life: The Story of Peter Charles Remondino,” Peter Ottaviano states: “An Italian by birth, Dr. Remondino joined the Civil War between medical school terms in 1863 and 1864. He served with the Union Army in Maryland and Virginia as an Acting Medical Cadet and an Acting Assistant Surgeon. After graduation on March 10,1865, he served as a Post Surgeon at various Virginia posts.

“The wartime experience that would most impact Dr. Remondino’s eventual decision to migrate to the west was his acquisition of a malarial-type fever in the fall of 1864. The fever that would plague him off and on for the next nine years became a key reason for his move to seek a more healthful climate in Southern California. Remondino started his San Diego medical career in Alonzo Horton’s New Town, then just seven years old. The San Diego Business Directory for 1874 lists an office for Dr. Remondino on Fifth Street near ‘F’ Street, and he would have an office within walking distance of that site for the next fifty years.

“After marrying Sophia Earle on September 27,1877, the Remondinos traded 19 lots, ultimately selling 6 and holding 13 for investment purposes. In addition to land deals in the city, the Remondinos bought and sold an 80-acre ranch in El Cajon. This spread was expansive and included a 10-acre fruit orchard and a large barn, with stalls for 20 horses. They were also involved in the buying, building, and when necessary, the moving of downtown San Diego buildings, one of which was a book bindery.

“With Dr. Thomas Coates Stockton, Dr. Remondino opened the growing town’s first private hospital. After selling all his interest in the sanitarium to Dr. Stockton, the Remondinos opened the St. James Hotel. San Diego was in the midst of its greatest boom era in the mid-1880s, the 'Glory Years.’ Railroad service between San Diego and the eastern United States commenced on November 19,1885, after several failed attempts. The railroad was responsible, for Southern California’s rapid expansion. The Remondinos were ready to ride the boom with the amenities to travelers and opportunity-seekers afforded by their hotel. The mansard roof of the St. James, San Diego’s first skyscraper, was covered in decorative round tin plates on the top floors, which reflected the sun and glittered like mirrors.

“The heyday of the hotel ended in 1888 with the collapse of the property boom. A formidable new competitor, the Hotel del Coronado on nearby Coronado Island, opened in February 1888, and the St. James lost its glittering reputation as 'the place to be’ to the prominent and exclusive island landmark. Dr. Remondino leased out the St. James in May 1889, then sold it during the 1890s. Dr. Remondino experienced the highs and lows of business in the 1880s, as did so many other San Diegans. Unlike Alonzo Horton, Ephraim Morse, and others, however, he did not die a poor man but was able to survive despite serious financial difficulties because he never relinquished his true vocation, his medical practice.”

Always on the horizon across the bay from New Town was called “the peninsula,” later called Coronado. In Coronado: The Enchanted Island, Katherine E. Carlin and Ray Brandes explain that Pedro C. Carrillo acquired Coronado when he married Josefa Bandini. The property was deeded “as a ‘wedding gift’ by Governor Pio Pico on May 15, 1846.

“Hampton L. Story left Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1856 for Chicago. There he opened a music store, served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war farmed in Kansas.... By 1885 he had spent half a dozen summers and winters in San Diego.... Here he met Elisha S. Babcock Jr., a native of Evansville, Indiana. Babcock had joined the Union Army just after graduation from high school.” They together planned to acquire Coronado and selected Civil War veteran Major Levi Chase, “a prominent lawyer who had come to San Diego in 1868,” to negotiate the sale on November 19,1885.

Babcock, Story, and their partners went on to develop Coronado. They hired Civil War veteran W.H. Holabird as general agent for the company. Holabird, a native of Vermont, had served in the same Vermont regiment as Story. Carlin and Brandes write,“[Holabird] came to San Diego at Story’s urging and was sometimes referred to as the ‘Father of the Boom,’ because of the extraordinary skills he showed in advertising southern California to the rest of the nation.”

November 13, 1886, was set as the date for the formal auction of Coronado land, and Civil War veteran Robert J. Pennell of the Pacific Coast Land Bureau was put in charge as agent. “Pennell did his job well, inviting investors to take a map and examine the property.... Bidding began at $500.00 and moved up to $1,600.00. Major Levi Chase bought the first lot on the ocean, near the site of the proposed hotel. Before the day had ended the Land Bureau had sold 350 lots for a total of $110,000.”

Holabird was involved not only with the Hotel del Coronado, but also with a Soldiers’ Home in San Diego. His advertising in a pamphlet entitled Soldiers’ Home in Grantville stated, “The Government has established homes in Washington, D.C., Dayton, O., Hampton, Va., Leavenworth, Kas., Milwaukee, Wis., and Togus, Me., with accommodations for 12,000 soldiers, with no provisions made for at least 200,000 VETERANS who will need such a refuge within the next five years.”

Holabird presented a proposal to the National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in August 1887 that a Soldiers’ Home be built in the “Grantville” area of San Diego. The Junipero Land and Water Company pamphlet entitled Grantville! stated that the proposal, later implemented by Holabird and the Junipero Land and Water Company, was “to set apart 200 acres of their best land, beautifully situated in the valley of the San Diego river near the Old Mission, for a town site. To divide it into lots 25x140 feet, with 80 foot streets and 20 foot alleys, to lay out in the center about 5 acres in the form of an ellipse, for the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home, and 20 acres of rich bottom land for gardens....

“The lots were to be sold and one third of the net proceeds, together with the two pieces of land mentioned above, put into the hands of three trustees.. .and used by them to build a home for veteran soldiers belonging to the Grand Army of the Republic. The United States government have established several such Soldiers’ Homes, but this one was proposed as a private institution.”

In October 1887, the townsite and grounds were laid out. Over 400 lots were sold, a number of houses were built and permanently occupied by families, a post office was established, a store opened, a district school was located within a mile, and many improvements were made. In June the company commenced erecting one wing of the proposed Soldiers’ Home, which was to be finished during September. This was planned to be a neat building, conveniently arranged and costing about $5000. It would be added to from time to time as sufficient funds were collected. The Soldiers’ Home was located just south of the present site of Kaiser Hospital on Zion Avenue.

In a January 28, 1960, article in the Allied Gardens Examiner, Sophie Jaussaud Jackson writes: “Having been born in Grantville, I have seen many changes. In 1887, plans for a townsite were laid by the Junipero Land and Water Company. Plans for a Soldiers’ Home were in the making. The Grand Army of the Republic could not have chosen a more beautiful site at that time for the erection of its first Soldiers’ Home, a place where old soldiers passed the closing days of their lives amid such historic surroundings as the first settlement and Mission in California. The site of the Soldiers’ Home was north of the school and is now called Grant Circle. The home housed 500 veterans. I can remember as a small child watching a soldier on guard with a gun to his shoulder, walking back and forth past the small station building and entrance to the grounds.”

Ryall Wilson takes up the story in an April 18, 1994, article in the Navajo News: “Grantville got its start, but the grand plan of the Junipero Land and Water Company fizzled. The great ‘bust’ of 1888 caused Grantville and many other real estate ventures to bog down or collapse altogether as money tightened, and land values dropped due to the unrealistic speculation.... In a 1935 biographical sketch of Col. Holabird, The San Diego Evening Tribune stated, ‘Grantville was one of his latest ventures in San Diego County booming and was not successful.’ Holabird left San Diego in February 1887. His legacy remains, however. The next time you’re on Rainier, Glacier, or Vandever Avenues, halfway between Mission Gorge Road and Crawford Street, turn onto the quiet residential road you see there. You’ll find yourself on Holabird Street!”

Other Civil War veterans also developed and built San Diego. As the years went by, George W. Hazzard erected one of the first brick business blocks at the corner of Sixth and Market Streets and he erected buildings on other blocks downtown; George H. Crippen developed Point Loma; William H. Holderness farmed in the Tijuana River Valley; William Ober built the first house in Ramona; and Uzzial Stevens invested in the El Cajon valley. Attorney Levi Chase settled the title and boundaries of El Cajon Rancho and worked on litigation involving Warner’s ranch.

While these veterans built the city, others helped to move around what had been built. Such was the case with Civil War veteran John D. Palmer. As his granddaughter, Bertha Palmer Wohlers, states in her book Follow the Light. The Palmer Family and the Savoy Theater: “After John D. Palmer’s saw milling business in Ohio was swept away by a freshet, he packed up his wife Lydia and their eight children (four boys and four girls) and headed west. He arrived in San Diego in 1884 with $16.00 in his pocket and before long started a business: contracting, building, and moving houses. In 1906, J.D. Palmer & Sons moved the Horton House on D Street, between Third and Fourth, to 1134 Union Street, to make way for the construction of the Grant Hotel on D Street.”

City development involved more than buildings and roads. John D. Palmer’s son Andrew Scott Palmer helped run the Pickwick and Savoy Theaters in San Diego, and his brother. Civil War veteran Isaac L Palmer, set the first stake for the California Southern Railroad. He was a noted civil engineer and surveyor in later years.

Other Civil War veterans who came to San Diego had varied occupations. The intake form for Heintzelman Post G.A.R. shows the following: Farmers and ranchers (154 veterans), carpenters (92 veterans), merchants (43 veterans), real estate investors (26 veterans), attorneys (25 veterans), ministers (21 veterans), doctors (20 veterans), and engineers (17 veterans).

Among the most prominent of the veterans were attorneys Levi Chase, Alfred Haines, David Bancroft Hoffman, Moses Luce, George Puterbaugh, and J.D. Works. Others were political activists. Matthew Sherman, in addition to serving as mayor from 1891 to 1892, also served on the board of supervisors. Alonzo Horton’s brother-in-law William W. Bowers was in the state assembly, was port collector, was state senator from 1887 to 1891, and was congressman from 1891 to 1897.

David Bancroft Hoffman was coroner from 1855 to 1857 and on the board of supervisors, as were James P.M. Rainbow and Henry U. Emery. Martin D. Hamilton, who lost an arm in the Civil War, was assessor from 1879 to 1887 and county clerk from 1889 to 1890. Sylvester Statier was county clerk from 1878 to 1882, and Eli T. Blackmer was superintendent of schools from 1877 to 1879 and treasurer from 1885 to 1890. Additional occupations were editor (David Kretzinger), civil engineer (John Fonda and Isaac Palmer), construction engineer (Milton Slocum), and hotel owners and keepers (Babcock,Story, Dr. Remondino, and others).

Many building trades were represented by one or several veterans. There were also barkeepers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, machinists, stone cutters, boat builders, fruit dealers, printers, tinners, painters, cabinetmakers, coopers, embalmers, surveyors, lecturers, postal clerks, teachers, and mechanics. When veterans had a business to advertise, sometimes their names appeared in city directory yellow-page ads. Eli T. Blackmer’s music store is one example, and another is Dr. Thomas L Magee’s medical practice.

Other prominent veterans included Charles E. Anthony, who became an established expert on mines and mining, and merchant. Erastus H. Weegar whoemerged from skirmishes with the Navajos in New Mexico during the Civil War to become an expert on Southwestern Indians. William H. Bailhache, who prior to the war lived in Illinois and was a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s, became assistant editor of the San Diego Union in 1892. Hugh G. Gwyn, a Confederate major on General Morgan’s staff during the Civil War, was postmaster of Coronado for four years and a principal in the firm of Foster & Gwyn, a company that sold fire insurance.

Eighty percent of the Civil War veterans of San Diego were members of the Grand Army of the Republic. There were two posts here, Heintzelman Post #33 (1076 members, established in 1881 )and Datus E Coon Post #172 (528 members, established in 1894).

Heintzelman Post #33 was organized on October 8,1881, by Matthew Sherman as mustering officer and named for former San Diego commanding officer Samuel P. Heintzelman. A partial list of charter members included Joseph Farley, Edward Folsom, Martin Hamilton, W.H. Horrell, Cornelius Huntington, Curtis Johnson, Danville Jones, lames Jones, John Kooken, Joseph Leonard, William Leonard, Moses Luce, Charles Pierce, William Reupsch, and Hosea Rice.

In August 1890, Heintzelman Post #33 sponsored the Civil War Encampment (reunion) on Coronado. The San Diego Union reported this event in two articles on August 4 and 8. The first article described the court martial of Camp Commander J.P. Jones for calling the roll of states at the encampment and neglecting to include in the roll call the largest and most populous of all states, the “state of matrimony.” The article described the decoration of the tents, listed names of some of the attendees, and reported that thousands of people came to see the “visitors on the beach.” It also described a yacht race held the previous day.

The article indicated that delegations of Civil War veterans had arrived from several states, the largest number coming from Illinois (20), Iowa (19), Ohio (17), New York (14), Michigan (13), and Pennsylvania (12).

The article went on to say: “The fifer who plays with such animation when the camp drum corps is out is John Comstock, and the fife is the same one which he played while marching with the Western Army under General Grant. Mr. Comstock was a member of Company K, 45th Regiment Illinois Volunteers, also known as the Lead Mine Regiment, the historic regiment that blew up Fort Hill at Vicksburg and then charged into the break and held it for two hours. Because of their heroic conduct during the siege they were given the honor of marching in first, and so it came about that the old fife was the first played in Vicksburg on that memorable Fourth of July morning.”

The second San Diego Union article stated: “Many things take place in camp life that are not announced in the programmes, and some which do not find their way into print. There is scarcely a night after the ball is over without something going on till nearly daylight that keeps the people more or less astir. One night, which promised to be a quiet one, the camp was thrown into a state of alarm by the firing of a cannon at midnight, and it was feared that filibusters had made an attack, but it proved to be only some of the old boys who had stolen a cannon from the Quartermaster and were experimenting with it.

“Serenades take place nightly. Twenty-two tents were visited, which included all the headquarters, all the officers, both outgoing and incoming, and the headquarters of the San Diego Union, Sun and San Diegan newspapers.

“Among the interesting war relics seen in camp are copies of two Southern papers, the Daily South Carolinian and the Richmond Sentinel, bearing the dates of 1864 and 1863, respectively. These papers are the property of H.P. Starr of Otay, Lieutenant, Twenty-Second Regiment New York Cavalry, and came into his possession while in prison, being given to the soldiers by the colored men who looked after the prison. This gentleman also has a blank book for which he paid $30 and used as an autograph book while in prison. The first two pages are handsomely engraved with pen and ink sketches done by an officer and fellow prisoner and give the names of a number of prisons in which Mr. Starr was confined. Then follows the names of the unfortunates who were his companions in misery.

“Quartermaster Kooken has at his headquarters what was once a very handsome silken flag, but now tattered and discolored with age. The blue field contains the Pennsylvania coat of arms and the motto ‘Virtue, Liberty, Independence,’ surrounded by thirty-three stars. Printed in gold letters on the stripes are ‘Dranesville, Dec. 20, 1861, 42nd Reg’t PV 1st Rifles, Penna Reserve Vol Corps.’ This flag is owned by Mrs. General Ord of San Diego and originally belonged to her husband. Mrs. Ord is in feeble health and would like all comrades and WRC’s [Women’s Relief Corps, an auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic] to visit her.”

The article also described the attack and storming of “Fort Union.”

“Last evening was the brightest, boomiest, noisiest time which Camp Heintzelman has seen since it was initiated into existence a week ago. The people from the city began to crowd the cars and ferryboats as early as 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The occasion of all this gathering was the event of the encampment, the storming of Fort Union.

“The busy seaport town of Heintzelman, situated on Glorietta Bay, was thrown into the greatest excitement yesterday when it became known that an invading army under the command of General Datus Coon had gone into quarters at Fort Union, and an attack was momentarily expected. The State militia was at once called out to protect the city. Three gunboats and a ram steamed into Glorietta Bay, and a signal station was established on the bluff near the camp.

“The attack was begun by the naval force on the bay. The new men-of-war, Charleston, Boston, and San Francisco, steamed in close to the Fort under the command of Commodore Pettingill and began shelling the fort and the iron-clad monitor Montauk, which had just been raised from her long resting place off Cape Hatteras. While the vessels were at their almost useless by-play, General Coon dispatched a force under Colonel Vestal to engage the land forces under General J.P. Jones. The loss on both sides was heavy and the wounded were numberless.

“Just as the fort surrendered, a parting shot was given to the fleet. The shell entered the forward magazine of the Montauk, exploding the small quantity of power therein contained and setting fire to the monitor. The flames burned slowly but could not be controlled, and the crew were forced to abandon her, escaping to the other vessels or to land. The burning boat formed a pretty sight, and the fort having been silenced the army and camp had nothing to do but watch it. The entire fleet drew away from the burning boat expecting every moment that the flames would reach the main magazine and explode it, but for some reason the flames died down and went out before it was reached.

“Prisoners were taken to camp and in accordance with general headquarters were shot as traitors for taking part in the filibustering expedition. After the execution, the camp went into a general rejoicing over the victory, and the camp fire was continued until early morning, no attention being paid to taps, though they were given.”

Needless to say, the August 1890 Encampment was a great success, and participants most certainly went home with a favorable impression of San Diego. It was probably the reason why many of the men found their way back to live in San Diego in later years.

Datus E. Coon Post #172 G.A.R. was organized November 10, 1894, by George Puterbaugh as mustering officer, with 24 charter members, namely John Q. Ashton, Joseph Van Castle, W.D. Woodward, Francis Higgins, James Grovesteen, John Confer, Joseph Martin, Charles Miller, Thomas Crogan, Z.C. Mathes, John Straw, Frank James, C.C. Bailey, W.E. Lewis, John Dot, Samuel Knoles, Arthur Dauchey, Patrick Wellington, Joseph Gray, Peter C. Smith, John O’Brien, Peter Watts, Isaac Esleeck, and Horace J. Hull.

The Datus Coon Post was founded as a result of the fatal shooting of General Coon by a friend, which was reported in a San Diego Union article on December 17,1893:

“At 9 o’clock yesterday morning General Datus E. Coon was accidentally shot by his friend, J.H. Grovesteen. The ball of a 32 calibre, entered about an inch below and two inches to the right of the navel, inflicting an exceedingly painful and perhaps fatal wound. The manner in which the accident occurred and the circumstances connected with it were described by Mr. Grovesteen to a Union reporter, and his version was corroborated by General Coon in conversations with General Murray and Judge Luce soon after the unfortunate occurrence took place.

“ ‘I had promised Father Ubach to go out to the old mission this morning to repair an organ at the Indian school,’ said Mr. Grovesteen, ‘and was anxious to have a companion on the trip. In feet, Mrs. Grovesteen insisted that I should not go alone on account of the large number of tramps said to have been encountered at different times lately by travelers in outlying districts of the city, and in consequence I asked two or three different friends to go along before I thought of General Coon. None of the others could go, but the general was unoccupied and said he would be delighted to take the outing. This was at the Ablemarle hotel, where I met him about 8 o’clock in the morning.

“ ‘He went up to his room and got his revolver, and then we drove to my house at First and Date Streets. The general remained in the buggy while I went in and procured my tools and a lunch to be taken along. When these had been placed in the rear of the vehicle, I stepped into the buggy at the right side. Noticing that the general carried his revolver in his outside upper coat pocket, I thought to . put my revolver, an old-fashioned weapon and one which I had not seen for perhaps three years, in the same pocket in my coat. I took the scabbard containing it from my side pocket and, curious to see the condition of the revolver, drew it from the scabbard.

“ ‘After a glance I returned it to the scabbard, but in some unaccountable manner, and while the revolver was still in my grasp, the weapon was discharged, blowing out the end of the scabbard. Before I had looked up General Coon, sitting beside me, gasped, “You have killed me, Grovesteen; I am done for!”

“ ‘I was horror stricken, but realizing the situation I immediately began to assist the general in getting to the ground, and with but little help from me he walked up the steps to the house and into a room, where he reclined on a bed. I made him as comfortable as possible at a moment’s notice, and leaving him in my wife’s care, I ran to Dr. Edward’s residence.

“ ‘That physician responded at once. He found by a hasty examination that the wound was an exceedingly dangerous one and called in other physicians. Drs. Magee, Hearne and Burton, the latter the army surgeon at the barracks, were called after the shooting, but owing to the nature of the unfortunate man’s wound, no one was admitted except Captain Albert Dill and one or two other old army friends of the general, who acted in the capacity of nurses during the afternoon.

“'Besides the doctors named, there were numerous friends and acquaintances of the general at the house within a short time. From what they told me I fear there is very slight hope for my poor friend. It was a terrible accident.’

“Many anxious inquiries were made at the house as to his condition throughout the afternoon, and the deplorable accident was but the one subject of conversation among hundreds of persons. No blame is in any way attached to Mr. Grovesteen, but rather keen sympathy, for he had long been an intimate friend of General Coon. The only near relative of General Coon is a daughter, Mrs. Charles Loomis, who is a resident of San Francisco. She was telegraphed to immediately after the accident and is doubtless now far on her way toward this city.”

After a space, the article ended with “General Coon died very quietly at 2:44 this morning.”

A later article in the San Diego Union described the war record of General Coon, who entered the Civil War as captain of the Second Iowa Cavalry. In September 1861, he “was promoted to the command of the Second Battalion. He was in the battles of New Madrid, Shiloh, and at the battle of Boonville, July 1, 1862, where he was promoted to major.

“In 1864, he was appointed colonel and was ordered to Memphis, where he commanded a brigade of cavalry. He participated in the battle of Franklin, was driven back to Nashville by Hood’s army, and in December, 1864, with his command increased to 5,000, he moved with the whole army to contest with General Hood. At Brentwood Hill, charging as an infantry up a hill, his men captured 400 prisoners, two pieces of artillery, and 400 stand of arms. The colonel’s horse was killed under him. Immediately after the battle of Nashville, he was appointed brevet brigadier general by President Lincoln for gallant conduct on that field.”

General Coon is buried under a simple tombstone on G.A.R. Hill at Mount Hope Cemetery, his bravery all but forgotten. But he wasn’t forgotten by his friends. Almost a year later to the date, James Grovesteen, George Puterbaugh, and others formed a Grand Army of the Republic chapter bearing his name.

“Ordinance No. 229 An ordinance granting to Heintzelman Post No. 33, Grand Army of the Republic, a certain tract of land for cemetery purposes: Be it ordained by the common council of the city of San Diego, as follows:

“Section 1: That there is hereby set apart, dedicated to and for the use of Heintzelman Post No. 33 of the Grand Army of the Republic, in trust for cemetery purposes only, all that lot, tract, piece and parcel of land, situate, lying and being in Mount Hope Cemetery, in the city of San Diego, in the county of San Diego, state of California, designated by the letters G.A.R. on the map of said Mount Hope Cemetery, made by O.N. Sanford, CE, in January 1893.

“Section 2: That the said Heintzelman Post No. 33, of the Grand Army of the Republic, shall have the free and exclusive use and control of said tract of land forever for cemetery purposes only, subject however, to such supervision as may be vested in the corporate authorities of the city of San Diego by the laws of the state of California.

“Section 3: That this ordinance shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage and approval and three publications in the San Diego Union and Daily Bee.”

If the veterans weren’t active in the two Grand Army of the Republic posts, they were Masons or Odd Fellows, or they were buried in Catholic cemeteries with other members of their church. The associations stand out at Mount Hope because the older parts of this cemetery were historically divided along association lines (G.A.R., Masonic, Odd Fellows).

Some clustering of Civil War veteran burials can also be seen in the older sections of Greenwood Cemetery, namely in Laurel Place, Magnolia Place, Ivy Place, and Hawthorne.

In 1897, a small mortar gun arrived in San Diego, as the San Diego Union reported on December 14:

“Heintzelman Post G.A.R. has received from the ordnance department at Mare Island a ten-inch mortar and -forty-two ten-inch shells, the weapon having been brought down on the steamer Santa Rosa Sunday night. It will be exhibited on the plaza for a few days, after which it will be taken to Mount Hope and occupy a conspicuous place in the G.A.R. section of the cemetery, the shells being sufficient in number to form a pyramid near the mortar. The mortar was procured for Heintzelman post through the efforts of Major Smith of Company H, U.S.A., lately stationed here, and other gentlemen.”

The mortar still stands at Mount Hope Cemetery G.A.R. section today, protecting the Civil War veterans. In the Civil War, often the goal was to reach the high ground. In the Battle of Gettysburg, for example, many lives were lost in the attempt to reach and secure the high ground of Little Round Top.

It is probably no mistake that a great number of San Diego’s Civil War veterans are buried on the high ground of G.A.R. Hill. The high ground signified safety. The grouping of the veterans signified companionship. The name of the cemetery. Mount Hope, signified a desire for a better experience in the life to come. May God bless them and keep them all.

— Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer has a Ph.D. in urban history from the University of Minnesota and is the author of The Civil War Veterans of San Diego, which contains records of nearly 1000 San Diego Civil War veterans and more than 500 of their wives.

The die-off of San Diego’s Civil War veterans can be charted in newspaper articles depicting the last meetings or community events that the veterans took part in. A frontpage San Diego Union story on June 5, 1938, discussed four San Diego veterans who would attend a reunion at Gettysburg. The article indicated that “...not so long ago, there were 375 members in Heintzelman Post G.A.R. here, and Datus E. Coon Post boasted more than 560. But now there are only 13 in Heintzelman, and 4 in Coon post.”

San Diegans making the trip to Gettysburg included Arthur Vest, Walter Northern, Charles Kennedy, and John Riddle, a Confederate veteran, whom the San Diego Union quoted: “ ‘Every year...I go back to Virginia to raise a crop. Now, I’m going to Gettysburg to raise.’ ” Mr. Vest “hoped to meet O.N. Wilmington of Indianapolis, Indiana, while at Gettysburg, as ‘We bunked together for four years. As far as I know, we are the only survivors of our regiment.’ ”

The article stated in passing that San Diego was a destination long popular with veterans in the twilight of their lives. “Throughout the United States,” according to Dr. Overton Mennett, Los Angeles, National Commander, “about 5000 Civil War veterans are living, an average of less than 2 to a county, and the combined total on the rosters of the local posts is 17!” The last article of this type appeared on May 30, 1939, which discussed the Hammer Club’s luncheon for 6 members of the Grand Army of the Republic who were still alive at that time.

Many of San Diego’s Civil War veterans lived a long time into the 20th Century. Only 29 percent of the veterans for whom death information is available had died by 1909. A little over half (57 percent) had died by 1919, 87 percent by 1929, and 99 percent by 1939. However, seven veterans were still alive in 1940.

Arthur Vest lived second longest, dying in early 1943. Horace Bly Day died about six months after Mr. Vest, on June 1, 1943. Mr. Day began his career selling horseradish to New York hotels, and the business gradually grew into the H.B. Day Hotel Supply Company. He was the first New York agent for the Cadillac automobile and later helped to organize the Home Telephone Company in San Diego. He also served on the San Diego Water Commission. A San Diego Union article in 1939 said about Day: “Cherished first among the souvenirs of this stalwart builder of empire is the memory of his service in the Army of the Confederacy in the War between the States, where ‘I went out in ’64 and came back in ’65 after smelling plenty of powder.’ ”

Hiram Reynolds lived to age 107. A San Diego Sun article stated that he was born in Springwater, New York, on March 10, 1829, and came from a long-lived family, one relative dying at 103 and another at 106. When Mr. Reynolds died, he was believed to be the nation’s oldest Civil War veteran. He was 35 when he entered the Union ranks, and he fought until a broken leg at the Battle of Richmond put him out of frontline action. He was quoted as saying: “I do not believe in death, and so I do not fear it. What others call death, I think of as ‘passing over’ — a transition, a further growth. Growth and development is the secret of the universe. Nothing is ever lost.”

Veterans from both Heintzelman and Datus Coon G.A.R. Posts are buried in the Heintzelman-owned plot on G.A.R. Hill at Mount Hope Cemetery. The two posts were never competitors but instead cooperated with each other. Heintzelman Post members attended the founding of the Datus Coon Post and supported its activities. It was probably the sad story of the death of General Coon that pulled the men together. As such, they are together even in death. A September 1893 article in the San Diego Union described how many of the veterans had sealed their pact to be with each other in death. The article stated:

“Ordinance No. 229 An ordinance granting to Heintzelman Post No. 33, Grand Army of the Republic, a certain tract of land for cemetery purposes: Be it ordained by the common council of the city of San Diego, as follows:

“Section 1: That there is hereby set apart, dedicated to and for the use of Heintzelman Post No. 33 of the Grand Army of the Republic, in trust for cemetery purposes only, all that lot, tract, piece and parcel of land, situate, lying and being in Mount Hope Cemetery, in the city of San Diego, in the county of San Diego, state of California, designated by the letters G.A.R. on the map of said Mount Hope Cemetery, made by O.N. Sanford, CE, in January 1893.

“Section 2: That the said Heintzelman Post No. 33, of the Grand Army of the Republic, shall have the free and exclusive use and control of said tract of land forever for cemetery purposes only, subject however, to such supervision as may be vested in the corporate authorities of the city of San Diego by the laws of the state of California.

“Section 3: That this ordinance shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage and approval and three publications in the San Diego Union and Daily Bee.”

If the veterans weren’t active in the two Grand Army of the Republic posts, they were Masons or Odd Fellows, or they were buried in Catholic cemeteries with other members of their church. The associations stand out at Mount Hope because the older parts of this cemetery were historically divided along association lines (G.A.R., Masonic, Odd Fellows).

Some clustering of Civil War veteran burials can also be seen in the older sections of Greenwood Cemetery, namely in Laurel Place, Magnolia Place, Ivy Place, and Hawthorne.

In 1897, a small mortar gun arrived in San Diego, as the San Diego Union reported on December 14:

“Heintzelman Post G.A.R. has received from the ordnance department at Mare Island a ten-inch mortar and -forty-two ten-inch shells, the weapon having been brought down on the steamer Santa Rosa Sunday night. It will be exhibited on the plaza for a few days, after which it will be taken to Mount Hope and occupy a conspicuous place in the G.A.R. section of the cemetery, the shells being sufficient in number to form a pyramid near the mortar. The mortar was procured for Heintzelman post through the efforts of Major Smith of Company H, U.S.A., lately stationed here, and other gentlemen.”

The mortar still stands at Mount Hope Cemetery G.A.R. section today, protecting the Civil War veterans. In the Civil War, often the goal was to reach the high ground. In the Battle of Gettysburg, for example, many lives were lost in the attempt to reach and secure the high ground of Little Round Top.

It is probably no mistake that a great number of San Diego’s Civil War veterans are buried on the high ground of G.A.R. Hill. The high ground signified safety. The grouping of the veterans signified companionship. The name of the cemetery. Mount Hope, signified a desire for a better experience in the life to come. May God bless them and keep them all.

— Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer has a Ph.D. in urban history from the University of Minnesota and is the author of The Civil War Veterans of San Diego, which contains records of nearly 1000 San Diego Civil War veterans and more than 500 of their wives.

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