On January 25, 2014, members of Camp 22 and Company B attended Living History Day at Fort Point in San Francisco. This annual event is very popular, giving SUVCW Camps and Civil War re-enactors a great opportunity to interact with many visitors.
Fort Point is part of Golden Gate National Park, and is located—quite literally—under the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The contrast of the mid-19th century architecture with the art deco tower and arched steel girders looming overhead is remarkable.
The construction of Fort Point by the Army Corps of Engineers was completed in 1858. It was part of a complex of forts built to defend the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. The fort is situated at water level, so as to allow low-trajectory artillery to hit targeted ships near the waterline.
During the Civil War, Union forces were stationed at Fort Point to guard against possible Confederate Navy incursions or attacks on what was at the time the heart of west coast banking the supply of gold supporting the Union’s war effort. Although no attacks ever occurred, the strategic value of Fort Point was considered high, even into the early 20th century.
One of the units based at Fort Point during the Civil War was Company B of the 8th California Volunteer Infantry Regiment. This company was recruited in Sacramento in 1864 by Captain Gaston D’Artois. Immediately upon forming, the company was ordered to Fort Stevens in Oregon, where they were garrisoned in defense of the mouth of the Columbia River. At the end of the war in 1865, Company B returned to San Francisco, and was mustered out of service along with the rest of the 8th California. Today, many members of SUVCW Camp 22 wear replica uniforms of Company B in honor of the many Sacramento soldiers who served during the Civil War.
During Living History events, the public is free to interact with re-enactors and portrayers. One of the more popular activities at the Fort Point event was Company B’s “recruiting” station for young visitors. After verifying they are “over 18”, Company Commander David Salyer instructed his new recruits in the manual-of-arms. For adults, and children alike, there were also displays of Civil War weaponry and equipment, as well as a display on the history of the USS Camanche, the only ironclad warship stationed in San Francisco during the Civil War.
(There are anecdotes that some Civil War recruiters enlisted under-age recruits by scrawling the number “18” on the ground, then asking the young recruit to stand on top of it. Then, when the recruiter asked, “Do you swear you’re over 18?” the under-age applicant could reply (somewhat) truthfully, “Yes, I’m over 18!”
Although this particular recruiting method has never actually been documented, there were nevertheless many under-age recruits enlisted during the Civil War. Most likely, they simply lied about their age with a sly wink from the recruiter.)