California, Frederick Low

President Abraham Lincoln’s Order to Take Over The Quicksilver Mine Almost Lead to the Secession Of The State Of California and Territory of Nevada

When recounting the history of the “War Between the States” within the western states, it’s fascinating to think that the state California and the Territory of Nevada almost seceded from the Union after President Abraham Lincoln ordered the U.S. Army, through a writ based on a law established in 1807, to seize the privately operated New Almaden Quicksilver Mine in San Jose, California. Lincoln had established the order because the Quicksilver Mine was a private entity operating on public land. The mine operators had a standoff with the U.S. Army soliders, once they arrived on the grounds of the mine, by stating that there were several sharpshooters around ready to take out the oncoming troops.

Had California and Nevada followed through with secession legislation, they would have been the only state and the only territory to secede from the United States Government, between 1860 and 1865, over a states rights issue not related to slavery.

Thousands of Americans from the eastern and mid-western states, with oxen pulling their wagons with all of their possessions, embarked on the Oregon Trail and the California Trail facing severe thirst within the forty mile desert of Nevada even when they only traveled by night, the death of oxen and people who drank sulfuric water from springs in Northern Nevada, starvation during the winter season such as what the Donner Party experienced, attacks from hostile native Americans, and the agony of losing loved loved ones to disease in unsanitary traveling conditions. Memories of men and women, who lost so much trying to strike it rich at the mines in the western states were still fresh to those who moved during the Gold Rush, as the U.S. Civil War raged on. Those individuals adamantly declared that they would not lose their jobs without a fight.

Photograph of Frederick Low.

Therefore, I believe that the difficulties tens of thousands of Americans faced to travel to the western states during the Gold Rush, compelled those individuals to call for succession from the union when a mine that they sacrificed so much to work in was threatened to be taken over by the federal government, even though the private company was operating on government owned land. Other miners, also working on public lands, who heard of the federal troops at Quicksilver mine had similar sentiments. This set of events ultimately compelled Frederick Low, the Port Collector of San Francisco and future Governor of California, to convince Abraham Lincoln to call off the federal takeover of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine.

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