Nevada in the WarCaptain Tredwell Moore, along with twenty men, was dispatched from Fort Churchill on June 6th, 1861 to check out rumors of Confederate agents being active in some of the mining camps. Captain Moore along with U. S. Marshall John Blackburn confiscated arms from the citizens in Carson City, then marched on to Silver City where he confiscated twenty-one more arms, and then on to Virginia City. There he was to investigate the flying of the Confederate flag.
The Confederate flag was flaunted only once in a public place. June 7th of 1861 the proprietor of a store on the corner of Sutton Avenue and A Street, John L. Newman, hoisted the flag over his business. He stood outside along with a small group of sympathizers to protect it. Immediately after, his very own business partner, R. M. Waterhouse, hoisted a Union flag on the other end of the building. Armed with a pistol he swore hed kill anyone that dared to try and take it down.
This stand-off aroused the citizens and excitement filled the air. For only a few hours danger seemed to be inviting a civil war of their very own.
But the better part of discretion prevailed, and the rebellious emblem was removed, never again to reappear in Nevada. But not exactly by choice . . . .
Captain Moore investigated the raising of the flag and was told by the proprietor it was only meant as a joke, and to create a little excitement. Captain Moore however wasn't to take the incident lightly and looked at the matter from a different prospective.
Believing there was a secret organization in Virginia City he rode in with twenty dragoons and formed two companies of fifty Volunteers each upon his arrival. He gave them the confiscated arms, had them swear an oath to protect the Union and to suppress any rebellious actions. This was the first step towards placing Nevada under martial law.
When the Civil war did break out in the east, it caused many reprecutions along the Comstock. Upon Captain Moore's arrival a number of southern sympathizers were found in the Comstock district and were taken into custody. They were taken to Fort Churchill where they were kept busy with what could be considered corporal punishment. It was reported by a traveler that the sympathizers were given special treatment, a special form of exhaustive work. A twenty foot chain was locked around the prisoner's ankles, the other end fastened to a short post. Then for two hours he was forced to walk at chain's length around the post carrying a fifty pound sack of dirt on his back.
On July 7th, 1861, Territorial Governor James W. Nye arrived in Carson City. Horseman and carriages, adorned with Union flags greeted his stage five miles from town. His arrival was announced with a twelve-pound cannon, and an enthusiastic crowd cheered as he stepped up to make his first speech.
In a speech he made in San Francisco on July 4th, 1861, he declared that no utterance against the Union would be tolerated, and that being neutral in the issue was not possible.
From the time Nevada was given territory status until the time it was made a state, the rest of the country was in a state of civil conflict. Many of the pioneers which had migrated to Nevada in search of riches came from the south. When the south succeeded from the Union it provoked exhibitions of personal opinion and feelings that often ended up in violent confrontation.
With the removal of federal troops and law enforcement, the Overland Mail route was subject to attacks by Indians, and robbery by highway bandits.
The routes to California via the Panama Canal and Cape horn were suspended due to the war. All vessels were needed to effectively carry out blockades. The southern route via Texas, New Mexico and Arizona was under the control of the Confederacy. The only way to get supplies or passengers to and from the east coast to the west coast was through Nevada, so the Overland route was vital.
A warning was sent out to the secessionist that any one repeating such an offense as flying the Confederate flag would be summarily dealt with.
This led to the secessionist organizing a branch of a secret group, the Order of the Golden Circle and their operations were carried on in secret.
Rumors began to surface of plots to seize the territorial government by the sympathizers and the Knights. The object of the Golden Circle was to establish the state and territorial governments under Confederate authority. Confederate President Jefferson Davis commissioned governors and military officers to be leaders of the proposed organization.
Judge David S. Terry visited the Territory of Nevada along with other conspirators with the commission of governor in his pocket. Secret meetings were held, and slight demonstrations were made in order to feel out the temperament of the people, but there were no outbreak of hostilities nor assumptions of authority. The conspirators were under suspicion and their movements closely watched. Precautions were taken by Unionists and Federal Authorities.
A recruiting office was opened in Virginia City in the spring of 1862 by Lt. Soaper. To boost enthusiasm and moral the Lieutenant had two drummer boys and a flag barer march down the street. When the men began their march a sympathizer rushed them from the crowd destroying one of the drums. He was about to attack the second drum when the flag barer knocked him down. The march continued to city hall where a fervent Union meeting was held. Seventy-five men enlisted. Troops that were recruited for the California Regiment, were used for frontier service. Their job was to protect the Overland route against hostile Indians and the bandits. The seventy-five men that were recruited were assigned to the 3rd Regiment of California Volunteers, and were sent to Utah in May of 62, Headquarters, Fort Douglas, Salt Lake City. Their duties included policing and keeping order not only in Utah, but over the entire district to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The Nevada Volunteers never engaged the enemies of the Union. They did however play an important role in aiding and protecting the great overland highway and the settlements on the frontier from Indian invasion and theft.
Col. P. Edward Conner, Commander of the 3rd Regiment of California Volunteers and of Fort Churchill issued an order on August 6th, 1862, making it a crime to express sentiment against the government. Anyone found guilty would be confined until such time they swore an oath of allegiance to the Union. If they returned as a repeat offender, the accused would be confined until such time Col. Conner was notified so he could render the punishment.
While the Civil War was in progress the mines along the Comstock were kept in constant touch with the victories and defeats of the north by news that came across the telegraph wire. Whenever there was a victory it sent excitement through the district. On the top of a rocky point just east of the center of Gold Hill two small cannons were set on heavy platforms facing the west overlooking the town. One of these cannons came from California while the other was quite famous. The latter was the cannon that Captain Frémont had with him when he explored the the Sierras in 1834 to1844. Whenever news of a victory came into town the cannons were fired and the concussion could be felt the whole length of the canyon.