Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Camp Independence

Inyo County, August 30, 1993

Heading south on 395 past Bishop and Big Pine to the next stop at Camp Independence, named so because it was dedicated on July 4th as a military base camp for the Owens Valley and the disputes between whites and Paiutes. We should remember that the war between the states was well underway and that most competent officers and trained enlisted had left for the conflict to the east.

The parade grounds (mid 1870's) CSMM photo

As is often the case, war may bear little influence on an inevitable outcome, over time. In this instance of battles between Paiutes and settlers, the Paiutes had retaken control of the Owens Valley by the spring of 1862 and this encampment was intended to be the base of operations to change the situation. The darkest days for Paiutes came a year later with the arrival of Captain Moses McLaughlin, an Indian fighter with a reputation of brutality, abuse of troops, and alcoholism. He rounded up 1000 Paiute men, women, and children, and force marched them from their native lands south to Fort Tejon in summer heat with inadequate provisions. 850 survived. The plan to relocate the Indians failed miserably and most had returned to the Owens Valley within a few months, and all had done so within a year. On other matters, McLaughlin was relieved of his command and faced a court martial.

CSMM photo

Living conditions at the outset of Camp Independence were primitive, with some troops living in hollowed out caves.

The officer’s quarters building was relocated to town and still exists today.

Plaque inscription: No. 349 Camp Independence
At the request of settlers, Colonel George Evans led a military expedition to this site on July 4, 1862. Hence its name "Independence." Indian hostilities ceased and the camp closed. War again broke out in 1865 and the camp was reoccupied as Fort Independence until its abandonment in 1877. This fort made possible the early settlements in the Owens Valley.
E of intersection of W Oak Creek Rd and Schabbell Ln, 3 mi NE of Independence.
Google: 36.833453,-118.218448

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