View Full Version : 71st Pennsylvania Vol. Inf. (1st California)

01-11-2012, 03:06 AM
Hello friends,

I'm trying to build my first impression worthy of a "campaigner" title. Iv'e done other impressions under the guidance of unit leaders and members, but this is for a memorial day event at a cemetery where many civil war veterans (including one reb) are buried, so I want to make it as excellent as a young $9/hr guy can achieve. My impression, as i hope it shall end up, will be of the 71st Pennsylvania regiment, or the "California Regiment" as mustered by Col. Edward D. Baker in July 1861. From what I understand ,the regiment was a stand alone unit, but after it was beaten rather badly at Ball's Bluff, and having suffered the death of Col. Baker, it was annexed by the 71st Pennsylvania to help fill it's ranks. The California volunteers were present at many of the most famous battles such as Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Cold Harbor, etc. This leads me to my question. How can I build this impression as accurately as possible? Is it the norm to simply build a generic Union army impression, utilizing quality items, and simply slap a unit title on it? How can I get more detailed and customize my kit to the specific unit? Please offer any advice you can muster.

Thank you.

Kurt Berntsen.

01-11-2012, 08:09 AM
Hi Kurt,

Well this will probably be moved to the "Camp of Instruction", but anyway. This type of question ahs been answered many times by many people on here about many different units, regiments, impressions, what-have-yous.

Best advice I can give, being an early responder to your post, research, research, research and when you're done, research some more. You have some time before Memorial Day, so, get to it! haha Journals, diaries, any sort of regiment records, dive into what historical societies may have, read books on the unit (I could sware I've seen one for the 71st PVI). Have you looked at Bates for the basic nitty gritty on them yet? If you aren't trying to refine it until the day of, you haven't done enough IMHO.

Best thing to start out with is to narrow down everything you can - what regiment (company if possible within it), what year and period of time within that year. Shoot you can pick a name off the roll in Bates and get THAT specific. The sky is the limit...almost. Did you just come out a major engagement, one of the aforementioned above, or are you freshly enlisted? Money being the eternal issue for most these days, if alls you have is a forage cap, don't gun for the period of time when the whole regiment was documented to ahve dress hats, that goes for any aricle of clothing/equipment. Not being able to procure something for an impression (bought or borrowed) can lead to frustration and stress, and who needs those in a hobby :)

Well, that's all I can cram in a quick morning post. :) Best of luck. Feel free to PM me if you'd like.


01-11-2012, 08:19 AM
This recent info is a very good start:

western reb
01-11-2012, 09:09 AM

It is good to see that you're interesting in portraying a CA lad that served in a eastern regiment (it's unique and the public can be educated from that impression). However, the general public out here (CA) still think of the Civil War as happening "back there" and are completely oblivious to the thousands of CA boys who enlisted and served out their term of enlistment in a designated CA regiment, not to mention the varied locations that these men served in as they were spread out all over the western part of the U.S. at given times.

Down in your neck of the woods (southern CA), there are great examples of buildings that saw the garrison of CA troops and their comings and goings (Fort Tejon, Drum Barracks, etc.). Your state is very rich in Civil War history and though I applaud you for the current impression you are going for, keep in mind it is just as worthy and perhaps more educating for the masses (though I realize it is a Memorial Day event and not a living history) in developing an impression of a campaigning CA Infantryman.

Best of luck,

01-11-2012, 09:48 AM
This may be of help

Stopping Picket, the History of the Philadelphia Brigade
By Bradley M. Gottfried
Copyright 1999, A White Mane Books publication
Beidel Printing House, Inc
63 West Burd Street
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0152

The other book referred to in Matthew Mickletz’s post (I think) is

My life in the Army of the Potomac
By Frank Donalson
I can’t seem to locate my copy of this book to give you all the info on it. I know Frank was a Sgt Major in the 1st Cal / 71st PA and ended up joining the newly formed 118th PA (Corn Exchange Regt) as a LT. He was very unhappy in that regt, and I believe ended up resigning and going home. It’s been a long time since I read this book, so please don’t quote me as an authority on it.

As to why the 1st Cal became the 71st PA……
Ed Baker was a good friend of Abe Lincoln’s, and was given permission to raise a brigade of Cal troops. He did not think he could fill a brigade sized unit out west, so started recruiting in Philadelphia (where he had business contacts). He raised the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Cal Infantries. He planed on forming an Artillery battery and Cavalry Troop to take the “4th Cal” designation, but they were never organized.
Andrew Curtin (PA’s wartime Governor) was getting “nasty grams” from the war department for not fulfilling his quota of troops. Some Companies formed in the northern part of Pa found it was easier to cross the state boundary into NY and enlist there, as did some troops out near the Ohio / PA border. Add this to a whole brigade counted toward another state and you have a some what disgruntled Governor. This mess was starting to be sorted out at the time of Bakers Ball’s Bluff death. After he died, the brigade was renamed the Philadelphia brigade, and the regts renumbered. The 71st, 72nd (Baxter Fire Zouaves), 69th (an ethic Irish regt carrying a green flag), and the 106th PA.
This solved Curtin’s troop quota problem, even if no new men were raised for the army. It aslo paved the way for the California regts that were raised in California to use the numbers 1-5.

Alex Peoples

01-11-2012, 10:12 AM
Well, here's an interesting "71st PA" artifact, that looks for all the world like a Confederate Arty jacket...


I've heard of PA issuing gray jackets, but the red piping is new to me. Anyway, it doesn't really help you much, but related none-the-less.

-Randall Pierson

01-11-2012, 10:28 AM
In the Philadelphia brigade book (listed in my last post) on page 7 there is a picture of Pvt George Beidman in his 1st Cal / 71st PA early war gray uniform. I Apologize, I have no way of scanning and posting said picture.

I realize this won’t be of much help for 1st Cal / 71st PA,
But in Echoes of Glory (Union) there is a picture of the 72nd PA Zouave Uniform, if you have an interest in seeing it, its on page 147. I believe they wore these uniforms when they were called 2nd Cal Regt.

Companies I and K of the 69th PA (3rd Cal) wore a similar uniform with green instead of red trim. They were originally called the Baker Guards and Tiger Zouaves. They were considered independent, but attached to the 69th PA / 3rd Cal when these companies first joined the brigade. This is according to a letter signed By Thomas Diver as:
“…. I remain your affectionate son
Thomas Driver
Of the Independent Zouaves
In the Army of the Potomac”

Dated Feb 2nd 1862, Camp Observation

Letter quote from
Pg 152-153,
Paddy Owen's Regulars, History of the 69th PA “Irish Volunteers” volume 1
Copyright 2004, Don Ernsberger
Printed by Xlibris Corporation

Alex Peoples

01-11-2012, 03:20 PM
Also worth reading is this postbellum history available online : History of the Philadelphia Brigade: Sixty-ninth, Seventy-first, Seventy-Second, and One Hundred and Sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers by Bvt. Lt. Col Charles H. Banes. Linked here (http://books.google.com/books?id=PT1LAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA11&#PPA1,M1).

01-11-2012, 03:25 PM
I'd encourage you to get involved with some quality campaigners in the greater Ontario, CA area. I'm glad you came here for answers, as it shows you are interested in "doing it right". Feel free to contact me on here or on Facebook for some more pointed direction.

Trail Otter
03-28-2012, 08:36 AM
This thread is a couple months old and not sure how I missed it, however, I'd recommend reading:
Duty Well Done: The History of Edward Baker's California Regiment (71st Pennsylvania Infantry (Army of the Potomac Ser) by Gary Lash

The regiment, although intially called the 1st California, was actually comprised mostly of men from Pennsylvania and New York. I am a member of the 71st Pennsylvania Volunteers. Our company, Company K, was mostly Irish iron workers from Phoenixville, PA. One of our
2nd lieutenants, Thomas Blakeney, was a dentist from Sacremento who came east to witness the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln. The inital uniform was grey with red piping as illuatrated above. This of course led to some confusion and some of the first casualties were caused by friendly fire during picket duty. The standard blue uniform was issued just before the Battle of Balls Bluff when the unit first saw combat. Due to poor intelligence and lack of experience, it all went up the spout.

I agree that research is the way to go since its the only way to understand who these boys were. I myself have much research to do and I don't think it ever really stops. Godspeed and good luck in your endeavors!