by Paul R. Spitzzeri
On Sunday the 6th, an editorial appeared in the opinion section of the Los Angeles Times titled “In L.A., love and support for the rebel South” by Kevin Waite, an assistant professor of history at Durham University in England.
Waite wrote that there was a largely unknown monument to former Confederate soldiers buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and that, while there were “recent high-profile fights” over memorials to the Confederacy in southern states, the cemetery marker was a reminder that “in Los Angeles, the Confederacy rebellion found a welcome reception and a long afterlife.”
Waite went on to summarize the level of support greater Los Angeles residents, hailing from the south, expressed for the secessionist movement. He gave examples of cheering for the southern cause in the streets, the prominent place in the saloon of the Bella Union Hotel for a portrait of General P.G.T. Beauregard, and alleged “secesh” military drilling at El Monte and San Bernardino.
Further, the professor related that “more than 250 Southern Californians [whether this included San Diego, Santa Barbara or other regions was not explained] left the state to enlist in the Confederate army (versus just two Union volunteers from Los Angeles who went east.”
Of the latter two Union enlistees, one was Horace Bell, who had lived in Los Angeles until 1856, when he joined filibusterer William Walker in the ill-fated overthrow of Nicaragua and then, when that adventure collapsed, returned to his native Indiana. From there, Bell volunteered as something of a spy, so technically wasn’t a Los Angeles volunteer.
The other Union volunteer was Charles M. Jenkins. It just so happened that last Wednesday, three days after the Waite editorial appeared, I was giving a presentation to the Los Angeles Corral of The Westerners, an organization of local historians and history lovers, on the recent find of Jenkins’ diary. The rare document, owned by the Historical Society of Southern California and temporarily housed at the Homestead, was kept by Jenkins from January through September 1865 while serving with a Massachusetts cavalry unit.
Then came last Saturday’s horrific events at Charlottesville, Virginia and subsequent days have seen, beyond the political ramifications, a rapidly moving and quickly shifting series of discussions and actions regarding any Confederate memorial or monument. Again, while most of these are in the South, Waite’s reference to the monument at Hollywood Forever, which was essentially hidden in plain sight, brought it significant attention.
After the monument was defaced and the cemetery received threats of vandalism and an online petition with some 1,700 signatures calling for its removal, officials there with the Long Beach chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected the monument in 1925, agreed to quickly and quietly haul it away yesterday morning.
All of this got me to thinking, among many other thoughts relating to present concerns with Confederate memorials, the reaction to Charlottesville and so on, about how the Workman and Temple families might have felt about loyalties towards the Union or the Confederacy during the Civil War.
While we don’t have letters, diary entries or other documents that directly refer to this, there are some interesting indicators that reveal nuances and complexities that show that the situation wasn’t a clear cut difference between Democrats and Republicans and slavery versus anti-slavery positions.
First, William Workman, who was born in northern England near Scotland (in fact, his brother Harrison died in Durham, where Waite teaches), moved to Missouri, the end of the United States in the early 1820s and a future border state with an extraordinarily contentious and violent Civil War-era history. William went there to join his brother David and stayed for a couple of years (1823-1825) before migrating to New Mexico.
In the 1830 and 1840 federal censuses, however, David’s household included three slaves, including, in the first enumeration, a female between the ages of 24 and 35, and two younger males, one under 10 and the other between that age and 23. A decade later, there was a female between 36 and 54 and two males. It stands to reason that they were the same trio and were possibly a mother and two sons. Moreover, it seems likely that, when William was living with his brother, slaves were in the household. What was William’s views on slavery or the “state’s rights” argument to allow each state to determine whether the “peculiar institution” should remain legal in its jurisdiction?
We don’t know anything, though, about William’s political sensibilities until much later. In 1859, Workman ran for county supervisor. While not much is known about the campaign, Workman was part of an alternative slate of Republicans and Democrats, who were not as supportive of the South and the growing secessionist movement as the main Democratic faction controlled by Southern migrants and led by attorney Joseph Lancaster Brent.
The ticket, which formed after the Democratic county convention, ran under the banner of the “People’s Ticket,” but the Republicans (who arose during the 1856 presidential election from the ashes of the Whig Party, which folded four years before) endorsed the slate, as well. Among the candidates was Jonathan Temple, brother of Workman’s son-in-law, F.P.F. Temple. Workman’s friend and attorney (as well as incumbent county judge) William G. Dryden, a native of Kentucky, and New Mexico-native Santiago Martinez, who lived on the Rowland family portion of Rancho La Puente. Dryden, however, was not included on the Republican slate and was endorsed by Democrats!
Again, Workman’s place on the “People’s Ticket” doesn’t mean that he was anti-slavery and it is fascinating to note another tidbit. In the 1863 tax assessment records for Los Angeles County, under the listing for Workman is that of “Workman’s John,” listed as “F.M. of C.,” or “free male of color.” Correspondence with a Ventura professor, Patty Colman, revealed that the man was John Ballard, who later lived in the Santa Monica Mountains and for whom a mountain near his homestead was named “N*gger Mountain.” Thanks for Patty’s efforts and those of many others, the pejorative and demeaning name was recently officially changed to Ballard Mountain. But, it is curious that the name in the tax rolls was “Workman’s John,” using a possessive.
Not surprisingly, Workman and all of his fellow office-seekers, except Abel Stearns and Dryden (who, again, was endorsed by Democrats), lost the 1859 election to the dominant wing. It is also worth pointing out that the same year, Assembly member Andrés Pico, brother of former governor and Workman’s neighboring ranchero, Pío Pico, introduced a bill to divide California into two states, with the southern portion to be named Colorado. As required, the measure went to Congress to be considered for approval, but languished until the war broke out upon which it was forgotten.
In 1864, as President Lincoln, who was trounced in local returns four years prior, sought reelection, Workman was a vice-president for a Democratic Party rally in Los Angeles for its candidate, General George McClellan, formerly the commander of the Army of the Potomac in Virginia.
McClellan not only lost the national election, but Lincoln narrowly took the Los Angeles County vote, though only because of the high number of Union Army soldiers stationed in the area! Four years later, in 1868, Workman reprised his role at a Democratic Party rally–and the candidate that year (remember Horatio Seymour, anyone?) was roundly defeated by Ulysses S. Grant, hero of the Union’s win over the Confederacy.
Then, there was Workman’s son-in-law and trusted business partner, F.P.F. Temple. Born in Massachusetts, F.P.F. was a rarity in the heavily Democratic political environment in greater Los Angeles in that he was a supporter of the Union who actually ran for office during the Civil War period, but his positions could be shifting, as well.
A former Los Angeles city treasurer and member of the first county board of supervisors, Temple (as well as Workman’s nephew and David Workman’s son, Thomas) supported Tennessee’s John Bell in the 1860 presidential election. Bell was a slaveholder, but opposed its expansion in the west and was a Union supporter at the time. His Constitutional Union ticket did poorly in the race, however.
Temple, who was frequently a precinct judge in local elections, ran for county supervisor in 1863, but did so under the banner of the “Union Party,” rather than as a Republican, though he clearly was one. Naturally, he and his fellow Unionists was badly beaten by the Democratic slate.
In 1864, while his father-in-law Workman supported the Democrats at the mass meeting, Temple was at one for the Unionists, held on 21 October, and was a vice-president of what the Los Angeles News, a Union paper, called “the largest and most orderly of any which has ever taken place in the southern portion of California.” Four years later, with Republicans in firm control of the national political scene, Temple was vice-president at a meeting in late October.
In the postwar period, he ran three more campaigns, once for supervisor in 1871 (a better showing, but still a defeat), a narrow loss for county treasurer in 1873, and a victory for the same seat two years later (and just in time for the suspension and failure of his bank–leading to the strange scenario of the bankrupt former banker actually serving his two-year term from 1876 to 1878, albeit with a deputy doing most of the work). Even in 1875, though, he ran as an independent, not overtly as a Republican, though that party endorsed him. The G.O.P. did not become the majority party until the 1880s.
Professor Waite characterized Los Angeles in his editorial as “the westernmost outpost in a rebellion that spanned the continent,” and a reasonable argument could be had about what “outpost” means and whether Los Angeles was really that connected to the rebellion.
However, as Waite noted, weapons from a state-chartered and funded militia were sent to the South, those volunteers headed east to join the cause, a few Confederate supporters (including a newspaper publisher and California’s first attorney general) were jailed for the expression of their sympathies, and a Union Army presence remained in town for the duration of the war.
But, there was no documented violence known to have taken place that was directly connected to wartime allegiances. Local Union forces spent more time digging ditches for local Union supporter Phineas Banning and cooling their heels than looking out for Southern spies or potential rebels.
This isn’t to at all minimize Confederate support, the Union Army’s response, or the bitter arguments that probably were a regular feature of conversations in saloons, shaving parlors and other social environments. And, who knows how animated discussions about politics were between William Workman and his son-in-law, F.P.F. Temple?
Yet, most citizens, regardless of their views and including Europeans, freed blacks and native indigenous Indians not likely to be invested in the war’s politics, certainly spent more time worrying about the effects of the floods of the winter of 1861-62, the punishing drought that followed through 1864, the devastation of smallpox epidemics and the everyday focus on work, play, family and local issues more than the impacts of a war conducted a couple thousand miles and more away.
What we know of the political allegiances of William Workman and F.P.F. Temple during the Civil War era shows that, with some shifting and realigning, their positions were somewhat more fluid and complicated than narratives suggest about greater Los Angeles during that period.