California Column

By: C. L. Sonnichsen

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: September 5, 2019

The California Column, a force composed of a few more than 1,500 men, chiefly California volunteer troops, was organized in 1862 under Col. James H. Carleton and moved eastward to discourage invasion of California by the Confederates. An advance party under Lt. Col. Edward E. Eyre arrived at Fort Thorne on the Rio Grande on July 4, 1862, and Carleton and the main body arrived in August. Detachments were sent to pursue the Confederates and reoccupy army posts as far east as Fort Davis, in Jeff Davis County, where the United States flag was raised on August 29, 1862. Carleton replaced Lt. Col. Edward R. S. Canby as commander of the Department of New Mexico and organized his men for Indian fighting. Most of the members were discharged in August and September 1864. After the war many of the California Column elected to remain in New Mexico and West Texas, and several of them played prominent roles in the history of the region. Charles E. Ellis, killed during the Salt War, was one member; Albert J. Fountain and Albert H. French became prominent in El Paso politics of the 1860s. When Texas cattlemen began to settle in the area in the 1870s and 1880s, the men of the California Column lined up with the native Mexicans against the invading Southerners in a number of disturbances.

Aurora Hunt, The Army of the Pacific (Glendale, California: Clark, 1950). Aurora Hunt, James H. Carlton, 1814–1873: Western Frontier Dragoon (Glendale, California: Clark, 1958). Darlis A. Miller, The California Column in New Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982). George Henry Pettis, The California Column (Santa Fe: New Mexico Printing Company, 1908).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

C. L. Sonnichsen, “California Column,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 5, 2019