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The Civil War in Oregon

The Civil War in Oregon mostly involved guarding reservations or pursuing Indians who were masters of escape in their own homelands. When war came to the east, the U.S. Government decided to pull their troops from the Oregon forts, leaving the citizens without military protection. In central and eastern Oregon where gold discoveries generated a rapid influx of miners and settlers, federal and state officials scrambled to find replacement troops. The Department of the Pacific raised recruits and dispatched companies of California Volunteers to Fort Yamhill, Fort Hoskins, and Siletz Blockhouse. The Army abandoned Fort Umpqua in 1862.

For many of the soldiers the duty was a monotonous, numbing assignment. In their monthly post returns, officers recorded desertions, suicides, and bouts in the brig because of drunkenness and misbehavior. The Indians were quiet on the Siletz and Grand Ronde Reservations. The rain was predictable and depressing. "Nothing transpired of importance," recorded Royal A. Bensell, a soldier at Fort Yamhill. Too many days brought that refrain in his Civil War diary.

East of the Cascades the troops had active engagement.

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