The Golden State in the Civil War

Thomas Starr King, the Republican Party, and the Birth of Modern California

The Golden State in the Civil War

This book breaks new ground, not only in its coverage of California, but also in its treatment of the role of cultural links in enhancing national loyalty, in its attention to many groups of people of color, including Chinese and Latinos, and what happened to them during the Civil War. In addition, the book devotes attention to the ebb and flow of the two political parties and to the little-known fact that nearly 17,000 California men and women volunteered for military service on behalf of the Union. Glenna Matthews broadens understanding of the Civil War era both in terms of geography and in terms of social groupings.


"In this new and welcome treatment of the experience of Californians during the Civil War, Glenna Matthews presents an insightful, and highly readable, social history based on extensive archival research, including sources never before used. While not ignoring military history, she focuses on the Civil War as accelerating California’s integration into the federal union and presents the Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King as the central figure for that process. Matthews also draws on previously untapped records to explain how and why California gave more than any other state to the Sanitary Commission. All in all, this is a must for anyone interested in the history of either California or the Civil War."
Robert Cherny, San Fransisco State University

"Far from the fields of battle, California and Californians nonetheless played critical roles in the coming, fighting, and meaning of the Civil War. This fine book reminds us that distance did not mean the same thing as unimportance. Glenna Matthews offers an entirely fresh vantage from which to see the war and its myriad legacies."
William Deverell, Director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West

"This impressive contribution to California and Civil War history interweaves in compelling prose the complex and conflicted story of the Golden State's emergence as a fully pledged loyal state in the midst of a terrible war. Matthews’s insightful and colorful volume highlights the many surprising ways that California contributed to the success of the Union Cause, despite a divided citizenry whose actions at times reflected a boldly pro-Confederate position."
Joan Waugh, University of California, Los Angeles

"The book is a worthwhile addition; her writing flows smoothly from chapter to chapter. While she focuses on Mr King, she does not ignore other areas of interest."
Kevin Winter, San Francisco Book Review


"… it can't be denied that in The Golden State in the Civil War we have the first truly worthwhile scholarly overview of the Civil War contributions and experiences of Californians. It is fervently hoped that Matthews's work will inspire others, as much remains to be done."
Civil War Books

"… Glenna Matthews has written a fine addition to the literature on California during the Civil War. Her attention to the issue of racial diversity in California during the Civil War is significant, and her highlighting of the role of Thomas Starr King adds an important dimension to our understanding of the state's Civil War politics."
John P. Lloyd, H-Net Reviews (

"Matthews’s re-telling of a familiar story in an unfamiliar place greatly enhances our understanding of the Civil War as a nationwide conflict that remade the West alongside the North and the South."
Stacey L. Smith, Journal of American History