Humboldt County
Eureka - Fort Humboldt

Fort Humboldt is located on a bluff overlooking Humboldt Bay on the southern edge of Eureka. A unit of the 4th Infantry Regiment, led by Captain Robert C. Buchanan, was stationed there at the end of January 1853 with the assignment of trying to protect Native Americans and Anglo-Europeans from one another. (Lietenant George Crook was a member of the original detatchment.) The effort was notably unsuccessful, and the history of the era is replete with violent incidents between the two groups, culminating in the Indian Island (Tuluwat) Massacre in which a large number of Wiyot people were killed by vigilantes in 1860. Hard feelings existed between many settlers and the army with most settlers advocating a harsher policy toward the Indian than the army leadership was willing to undertake. To compound the problems facing the commander, the post suffered continual desertion during this period as enlisted men decided to leave temporarily or permanently to seek riches in the gold fields.

With the start of the Civil War in 1861, all federal troops were recalled from Fort Humboldt to strengthen units fighting on the Eastern battlefields. Officers left to join one or the other of the belligerent armies. California Volunteers replaced Federal personnel in manning Fort Humboldt. The Volunteers pursued a harsher and more violent policy toward local Indians. Many Wiyot were removed to the Klamath Indian Reservtion where they were regarded as foreigners by the other Indian tribes residing there.

During the Civil War, Fort Humboldt became the headquarters for the Humboldt Military District under the Department of the Pacific. It's territory of responsibility extended north to Fort Ter-Waw near the mouth of the Klamath River and Camp Lincoln just north of present-day Crescent City. It extended south to Fort Bragg, Fort Gaston, and Fort Wright in present-day Mendocino County. At it's zenith, the fort contained fourteen buildings, but today only one of the original structures remains. It served as the post hospital in the nineteenth century and now houses a small museum. A second building is a reconstruction of the surgeon's quarters. Neither building is currently open, but you can peek in the windows of the surgeon's home and get a glimpse of what "civilized life" on the frontier was like.

In 1865, with the conclusion of the Civil War, Federal troops returned to replace Volunteers in manning Fort Humboldt, but the army had largely lost interest in the post. It continued to support other posts in the region, but was gradually reduced in importance and manning. By 1867, only one sergeant was stationed there. Fort Humboldt was abandoned in 1870 and the land was purchased by private interests. In 1900, the United Wireless Telegraph Company operated the first telegraph service in the area from Fort Humboldt. From 1911 to 1917 the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company operated the service. In 1935 Fort Humboldt was registered as a California State Historical Landmark. In 1966 it was designated as a State Historical Park.

Today, Fort Humboldt is famous for having been the post that convinced Ulysses S. Grant to resign from the army. Captain Grant was a decorated hero of the Mexican-American War and found this assignment (1854) totally uninteresting and boring. He is said to have drunk to excess and neglected his military duties to the point that, had he not resigned, he would have been cashiered out of the service. Unfortunately, little is being done today to publicize the real significance of this place in the history of our country. The California State Park Service is currently suffering from the adverse impact of California's economic ills. Very little is being done to preserve, let alone develop Fort Humboldt. That is unfortunate because it offers an excellent vehicle to speak to the complexities of early Indian-settler relations.

Fort Humboldt is worth a visit and some reflectioin, but not because General Grant got drunk there.



Fort Humboldt

Fort Humboldt

Fort Humboldt

Fort Humboldt

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