Antietam National Cemetery
State by State - Nevada


NevadaNevada is known as the "Battle Born" state because it is one of only two states (the other being West Virginia) to attain statehood during the American Civil War.  Previously owned by Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican Government,  the United States attained this territory following its victory in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48.  The California Gold Rush of 1849-1850 led to the first white settlement of present-day Nevada at Mormon Station (later Genoa). In 1857, friction between Mormon and Gentile settlers forced the intervention of the U. S. Army to limit the threat of violence.   Two years later, the discovery of silver ore at Comstock Lode at Virginia City brought  scores of prospectors and settlers to the region in search of fortune.  The sudden influx of settlers brought on the brief but violent Paiute War of 1860 where Shoshones, Bannocks, and Paiute Indians allied themselves against U. S. forces.  Nevertheless, migration and trade continued to thrive.  This boom in industry and population led to the creation of the Territory of Nevada the same year the Civil War began.  Ultimately, the success of the Comstock Lode would finance nearly a half billion dollars to the Federal war effort. 

Despite the territory's strong economic ties to northern industry and financing, the area had its share of Confederate sympathizers since many Nevada settlers originally hailed from the South.  Throughout the conflict, there were hushed fears that the Knights of the Golden Circle or other informal branches of the Confederate Government would attempt to overthrow Federal institutions.  Those with southern sympathies were hopeful at the war's outset that their home would sway to the Confederacy since Albert Sidney Johnston (a veteran U. S. officer who later resigned to join the Confederate Army) commanded their military department.  This hope vanished, however, when General Edwin V. Sumner arrived on scene and took command of Federal troops in the Pacific Region.  In addition, Captain Tredwell Moore and a company of men were dispatched to Virginia City with reports of Confederate conspiracy within the mining communities.  Although civil unrest was rampant throughout the conflict, no serious threat of territorial seizure ever formulated.  During the war, a state branch of the U. S. Sanitary Commission  raised over $250,000 in funds for the care and well-being of Federal troops in the field and hospitals. The majority of Nevada was undeniably Unionist.  

During the war, Nevada sent approximately 1,200 men to fight for the Union, perhaps the most famous of which was the California Regiment commanded by Colonel P. E. Connor.  Based out of Fort Churchill and comprised of nearly one hundred men, these cavalrymen served on the frontier and guarded Federal interests against Indians and Confederate sympathizers alike.  Similarly, the Nevada Volunteer Cavalry was credited as having "been of the greatest importance in aiding to protect the great overland highway and also the settlements upon the frontier from Indian incursion and depredations...(Journal, 5)." 

On numerous occasions during the war, Nevada unsuccessfully attempted to introduce and ratify bills of statehood for entrance into the Union.  By 1864, Federal leaders in the territory yearned to be accepted as a state in order to take part in the all-important presidential election of that year.  Nevada's legislators barely succeeded in achieving their goal.  With their state constitution ratified on October 31, 1864 (just over one week before the election), leaders were fearful their work would not reach Washington until after the election if it were sent by courier or train.  Therefore, the constitution in its entirety was telegraphed back east - making the message the lengthiest telegram ever sent.  As a result, Lincoln won nearly sixty percent of Nevada's vote against Democratic opponent George B. McClellan. 

Nevada's role in the Civil War backed the Union war effort politically, financially, and helped give way to an era of westward expansion. Mining and industry in the American West continued at a fast pace after 1865.  Scores of veterans from both Union and Confederate sides took part in the mass westward migration.   Since land often proved insufficient for farming, many turned to prospecting.  The state's southern border expanded in 1867 thanks to large gold deposits discovered there.  Over the next several decades, a rollercoaster pattern of gold and silver discoveries created a boom and bust industry.  After tensions between natives and settlers exploded once again, the U. S. Military fought with the Bannock, Shoshone, and Paiute Indians in the Snake War, 1864-1868. The conflict claimed nearly 2,000 lives.  It became representative of the following twenty years of war and unrest on the frontier. 

Suggested Reading

Sam P. Davis. The History of Nevada, Vol. I, Chapter IX, Nevada and the Civil War, 1912.

James G. Scrugham.  Nevada: The Narrative of the Conquest of a Frontier Land, Vol. I, 1935.

Nevade State Legislature.  The Journal of the Senate.  The State of Nevada, 1866.

Thomas Wren.  A History of the State of Nevada: Its Resources and People.  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1904.

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