Honoring Our Veterans: Sergeant Willliam Workman Temple, 4th Artillery Regiment, U.S. Army, 1880-1884

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

As we remember our veterans on this day, which was initially Armistice Day marking the end of the First World War, we recognize the service of another member of the Temple family, William Workman Temple (1851-1917).  He was the subject of a “Portrait Gallery” post here back in July 2017, which consisted of a general biographical sketch, so today’s brief post looks specifically at his service in the military.

Featured in that post from two years ago is a carte de visite portrait of young Temple when he was about 19 years old and a student at Santa Clara College near San Jose.  The image showed William in a military uniform and it may have been that he was in a militia, which were quite popular in those years.  After completing his studies, William worked for a time at a law firm in San Francisco and then did so briefly in Los Angeles.

For a couple of years in the mid-1870s, William attended Harvard Law School, where he received his juris doctorate, or J.D. degree and then he went to study in London at the vaunted Inns of Court, where British lawyers received their training.  William was in England in late summer 1875 when word reached him of the staggering news of the suspension of the Temple and Workman bank, owned by his father, F.P.F. Temple, and namesake grandfather, William Workman.

William rushed home and arrived towards the end of the year.  He immediately went to work documenting the complicated real estate and other legal transactions involving his father, grandfather and their bank and a ledger he compiled is in the Homestead’s collection.  He then, although just 24 years old, took on the herculean task of representing the bank and his grandfather’s individual estate in court proceedings that followed the institution’s collapse and, a few months later, Workman’s death by suicide.

William W Temple 2010.1.1.1
This caret-de-visite photograph from the Homestead’s collection of William W. Temple was taken about 1870 while he was a student at Santa Clara College.  He may have been a member of a militia during those years.

More than likely, even a seasoned barrister would have found the entanglements of the bank and its principals to be a daunting task and William’s youth and lack of experience probably made such work doubly difficult.  Then, there was the sheer fact that he was a close relation trying to sort out the financial and legal mess of the family and this grew to include his being a guardian for some of his siblings.

In 1879, after Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin foreclosed on loans totaling nearly $350,000 that he made to the bank and which, with interest, mushroomed to well over a half million dollars, a chancery court in San Francisco duly executed an order giving Baldwin the real property that was used as collateral for the bank loan.

The following year, on 16 July 1880, William enlisted with the United States Army at its Presidio facility in San Francisco.  He was assigned to a battery company with the 4th Regiment of Artillery, which was created out a massive reorganization of the Army coming from a House of Representatives resolution in 1820.

The new Fourth Regiment was headquartered at Pensacola, Florida and covered an area from the old Spanish city of St. Augustine west to New Orleans, though in succeeding years some companies went north.  In 1829, regimental headquarters relocated to Philadelphia, though companies of the regiment continued to operate in other sections of the country.

WW Temple 3 1872
A circa 1872 cabinet card portrait of William W. Temple, not long before he went to Massachusetts to study at Harvard Law School.


For example, the Black Hawk War of the early thirties included some 4th Regiment companies serving in frontier Illinois.  Political problems in South Carolina, presaging the Civil War and secession of states, meant that some companies were transferred there.  Other companies fought in the Seminole and Creek Indian wars of the 1830s.

The following decade found the regiment in the upper Midwest in Michigan and Ohio and then in Buffalo, New York before the outbreak of the Mexican-American War and the campaign with forces invading Mexico.  Upon conclusion of war in 1848, the 4th Artillery Regiment returned to Florida, though, again, companies were sent throughout the South and upper Midwest for service.

In 1853, regimental headquarters were in Baltimore, with companies serving in such far-flung locales as Massachusetts and along the Rio Grande in Texas and New Mexico.  More campaigns against Indians in the Plains region was also involved and headquarters returned to Florida within three years.  Some companies operated in Texas and Utah in the late 1850s, but difficulties in “Bleeding Kansas” led to a transfer to that troubled territory, with other service in neighboring areas.  Some companies were sent to Harper’s Ferry during John Brown’s abolitionist raid in 1859.

With the Civil War erupting in 1861, the regiment moved to Maryland and thirteen battery companies were sent to various campaigns and battles throughout the many theaters of operations and battles fought in them.  With the conclusion of hostilities in spring 1865, the regiment was reassigned to garrison duty and headquarters established at Fort McHenry at Baltimore.

In the postwar years, some companies did service in reconstruction North Carolina and others fighting Indians in the plains.  Then, in September 1872, the 4th Artillery Regiment was relocated, by exchanging posts with the 2nd Artillery, to the Presidio at San Francisco.  There were batteries in the Bay and at the Columbia River and Sitka, Alaska (that area acquired by the U.S. from Russia five years before.)

William Temple enlistment register 16Jul80
The United States Army enclistment register showing that William W. Temple joined at the Presidio in San Francisco on 16 July 1880.  It noted his prior residence as Los Angeles, his age as 29, his occupation as lawyer, and his physical description of black hair, brown eyes, dark complextion and height of 5’9 1/4″

Several companies also served in the Modoc War in northeastern California in those years, while others fought in campaigns against the Sioux during the time of Custer’s dramatic downfall at Little Big Horn in Montana and against the Nez Perce when Chief Joseph led his people in a tragic march that fell short of the goal of reaching Canada.  In 1877, when labor riots broke out during the Workingmen’s Party agitation in San Francisco, companies were sent there, while other remained engaged in campaigns against Indians throughout the Midwest and Plains regions.

After a brief tenure at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, the 4th Artillery Regiment returned to the Presidio in March 1880, just a few months before William Temple’s enlistment with the regiment there.

In 1881, he received a letter at the Presidio from William W. Jenkins, a Temple family friend, who became the administrator of the estate of Temple’s father, who died in April 1880.  William sent a curt and pointed reply to Jenkins, who apparently inquired about legal issues in which William was previously involved, and Temple pointedly answered that he had joined the Army and no longer wanted to be involved in any of his family’s affairs.  It seems he joined the Army to escape those troubles

Though some batteries were briefly in Arizona in campaigns against the Apaches just after William’s enlistment, the regiment was sent east to take the 1st Regiment’s stations along the New England coast with headquarters relocated to Fort Adams at Newport, Rhode Island.  It does not appear that there were any major military campaigns and it looks as if the regiment mostly did station duty for most of Temple’s hitch.

On 17 April 1884, just shy of four years after he enlisted, William was discharged from Fort Adams and he did so with the rank of sergeant.  In the enlistment register, it was recorded that his character was judged “excellent.”  From there, William’s whereabouts are generally murky, but he certainly did not return to California.

WWT enlistment p2
The portion of William’s enlistment register listing detailing his discharge from the Army and the description of his character as “excellent.”

After his brother, Francis, who owned the 75-acre Workman Homestead that he purchased from Baldwin in 1880 after the foreclosure, died in August 1888, he stipulated in his will that the ranch was to go to William and their younger brother, John.  William, however, was out of the state, probably in New Mexico, and, in May 1889, he sold his half-interest in the Homestead for $3,000 to John, who’d moved onto the ranch and owned it for a decade until it was lost to another foreclosure.

William, it seems, then spent up to about twenty years in Mexico City, where a few prominent former Los Angeles residents, particularly former lawyer and judge Ygnacio Sepulveda, were living.  Sepulveda, in fact, was a close adviser to dictator Porfirio Díaz, who ruled the country for nearly thirty-five years from 1876 to 1910.  It was about the time that Díaz was overthrown that William finally came back to Los Angeles.

William wrote some published essays on woman suffrage, which he was emphatically against (we’ll cover that document in this blog next year as we commemorate the centennial of the 19th Amendment), and the Japanese in California, of whom Temple was also very much against.  He had some very serious health problems and spent his last few years as an inmate at the Los Angeles County Hospital.

When William’s brother, Walter, discovered he had oil on his Montebello-area ranch, William wrote several lengthy and very difficult-to-read letters from the hospital, giving him pointed legal advice.  On 1 February 1917, just about five months before the first well came into production at the Temple lease, William died at the county hospital at age 65.  He was buried at the Mission San Gabriel cemetery and then, once Walter purchased the Workman Homestead, he reinterred William’s remains at El Campo Santo and then did so again when the Walter P. Temple Memorial Mausoleum was completed in 1921.

WWT obit The_Los_Angeles_Times_Sat__Feb_3__1917_
Los Angeles Times, 3 February 1917.

Notably, in a fairly lengthy obituary about William published in the Los Angeles Times, while information was given about his education, his work as a lawyer, and the fact that “for many years he was a great traveler, spending much of his time in Mexico and the East,” noting at all was mentioned about his years in the Army.

So, on this Veterans Day, we pay this belated tribute to the military service of Sergeant William Workman Temple of the 4th Artillery Regiment, United States Army from 1880 to 1884.





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