2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, Company A - "The California Hundred"
Many patriotic young men on the West coast followed the war in the newspapers and were anxious for a chance to join in the fight. However, they knew that if they joined a California unit they would be stationed in the West - fighting Indians, guarding wagon trains, or doing garrison duty. And so, in the late summer of 1862, a group of Californians, all, but one, originally from the East Coast, contacted Governor Andrew of Massachusetts and proposed to raise one hundred volunteers to form a separate company in a cavalry regiment that was being raised in Massachusetts. The Governor readily agreed, with the condition that the Californians would provide their own uniforms and equipment. Officially they became Company "A" of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, but they were more popularly known as the "California Hundred”.
The Californians used their enlistment bounty to pay for their passage and set off by sea from San Francisco, December 11, 1862. Their journey took them via the Isthmus of Panama and thence up the eastern seaboard to New York and on to Boston, arriving at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts (just outside Boston) on January 4, 1863. After spending several weeks of basic training at Camp Meigs, the Company was transported to Fortress Monroe, VA., and placed on active duty at Gloucester Point on February 22, 1863.
This first contingent of Californians was so successful that 400 more volunteers, under similar terms, followed it. They arrived at Camp Meigs during March and April of 1863, and soon after receiving their basic training were assigned to the defenses of Washington, D.C. They became Companies E, F, L and M of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.
On July 27, 1863, Company A, the California Hundred, left Gloucester Point and on August 19, 1863, joined up with its fellow Californians at Centreville. There, they maintained a role in the defenses of the Capitol as well as countering the guerrilla raids of Mosby. They participated in the defenses of the Capitol during the siege by Jubal Early in July of 1864. In August they were assigned to Sheridan's Army of the Shenandoah, and participated in the sweep of the Confederates from the Shenandoah Valley during the fall and winter of 1864. They fought with distinction in the battles of Winchester, Luray, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek. They were part of the long march from the Shenandoah to Petersburg in February and March of 1865 and later participated in the battles of Dinwiddie Court House, Five Forks and Sailors Creek. At wars end they were present at the surrender of Lee at Appomattox Court House. They took part in the Grand Review at Washington, D.C. on May 23, 1865.
They were mustered out of the U.S. service at Fairfax Court House, VA., July 20, 1865, and on August 3, 1865, having returned to Camp Meigs, the men were paid off and the regiment disbanded.
CAL 100/Co A numbers: Deserted: 9; Killed in Action: 9; Died of wounds/disease: 6; Mustered out: 66; Discharged for disability: 10; Transferred: 14; Total: 104
Frederick Quant, Corporal, Cal 100. 1863
CAL 100 Quotes: “Our citizens have done well to give the excellent cavalry company from California a fitting welcome. The members of the company are fine fellows, every inch men, and true lovers of their country, for the service of which they have left remunerative employment in California, which is entirely out of the draft, and buckled on the harness of war.” --the Boston Transcript, Feb. 10, 1863
“We expect to hear well of the gallant boys; and the country will particularly watch the California One Hundred, as fine a body of soldiers as has gone forth to aid the Union Cause.”—Boston Journal, Feb. 14, 1863
“With the exception of the Californians the men are a disgrace to the name of soldiers and to the state which sent them.”—Col. Caspar Crowninshield, Commander, 2nd Mass. Cav., Feb 18, 1863
“The men composing my present Cala Battalion are of the class which our first Eastern regiments were made up--all young, vigorous and zealous-all hating a rebel--too good for hunting horse thieves (as Major Thompson suggests for them), but on that or any other duty worth three of the ordinary recruits now picked up in our Eastern Cities. This is my deliberate opinion after experience.”--Major C. R. Lowell, Battalion Commander, 2nd Mass. Vol. Cavalry, Aug. 22, 1863
“Get ready to fight like devils, boys, they are Californians!”—Remark reportedly made by Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby, upon seeing his opponents were the CAL 100, not Pennsylvania cavalry.
“They are a fine body of men and the most cheerful fighters I ever met.”—John S. Mosby, in a post-war interview.
Why Join the CAL 100? We represent the ONLY Californians who fought as a distinctly identified unit in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War. One of the three battalions of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment were all Californians, and Company A, the California 100, was the first company to be mustered. Our “impression” is cavalry fighting dismounted. Which means we don’t have horses. Otherwise, we are armed and uniformed as Union cavalry. We fight on foot as skirmishers, in open order—we move quickly and hit the enemy hard. We welcome everyone to our club. No matter your age or physical condition, we still would like you to check us out. We are family oriented, and we are NOT “hard core.” Also, we have plenty of loaner gear, and can initially uniform and equip you if you want to try reenacting with us.