Fourth of July Stories

Researched by James R. Heintze. All rights reserved.

This section of the Fourth of July Database contains true stories about events, persons, and places. Each story has been selected based on its content, description, and unique or unusual information. Below is the first story I have researched, but there are others in progress. Please refer back to this page occasionally for updated information.


Union and Secessionist Families Clash in Sacramento, California

The following story concerns the display of Union and Confederate flags by two families in Sacramento, California, on July 4, 1864, and how those families almost came to blows. The event speaks to the significance of the flag as an important symbol and representation of patriotic sentiments, as well as the need for individual expression of those beliefs. Telling as well is the newspaper editor's decision to report this incident, which seems to us inconsequential if compared to other more noteworthy Fourth of July happenings. Yet, for Sacramentians it was newsworthy--two familes brawl over the flag, Union soldiers arrive, and a retraction by one of the participants occurs. The complete account was printed in two separate newspaper articles that are quoted in full below.

The day began with Sacramento residents waking up to the sounds of cannons firing and bells ringing. A sense of joy and excitement prevailed; everyone anticipated a full day's worth of parties, parades, and pandemonium. This was, after all, the 87th anniversary of the glorious Fourth and Sacramentians did up this holiday in grandier and style. The spectacle of the day was a parade consisting of both military and civilian participants. Among the notable officials processing was California Governor Frederick F. Low.

Coupled with this joy was an undercurrent of concern for the great war going on back East. The city's newspaper provided news about the conflict. Reading headlines as "The Great Contest--Army of the Potomac" and "The Trenches and Sharpshooting" on July 4 caused citizens to ponder just how the war would affect their future. Indeed, Sacramento was pro-Union; however, this story provides evidence that some residents had pro-Confederate leanings.

A Union and secession war on a small scale occurred on Monday afternoon on G Street, near Fourteenth. A double house at that locality is occupied by two families--those of John Drummond, Union, and John Clary, Secesh. Heretofore these familes have lived together in peace and quietness. On Monday morning [4th of July] Mrs. Drummond heard Mrs. Clary order her child, who had gone into the room with a small American flag, to leave, as she would not have the rag about the place. Mrs. Drummond at once called her child home. In the afternoon Mrs. Drummond put up the flag over the door. Mrs. Clary tore it down, stating that that was the only door which she could pass through, and she would not be compelled to walk under the Union flag. Mrs. Drummond put it up again, and procuring a small piece of board, which made a formidable weapon, threatened to strike Mrs. Clary with it if she attempted to tear it down again. Mrs. Clary then repaired to her room and improvised a Confederate flag, although it was not made according to regulation. This she pinned to the Union flag, when Mrs. Drummond again appeared and tore it down, leaving the stars and stripes afloat, of course. Before placing the Confederate flag up, Mrs. Clary was joined by her husband, who justified his wife in her course. Mrs. Drummond informed him that she would as soon strike him as his wife if he acted as she had done. When Mrs. Clary pinned up the flag Mrs. Drummond dealt a heavy blow at her, but Mrs. Clary dodged and escaped its consequences. Soon afterward Mrs. Drummond was joined by her husband, who, after learning what had occurred, went into Clary's room, Clary and two other men being present, took off his coat, said he could whip any Secessionist in the room, and gave them his views on the subject under discussion explicitly and without reserve. Clary defended his wife's course, and looked occasionally at a double-barreled shotgun in the room, but no blows were struck. Clary said his wife should put up a flag if she chose and he would defend it. Drummond responded that she could not put up a traitor flag on that house or any other in this city, and that he for one would shoot down him or any other man who would make the attempt. The Union flag was kept afloat until evening, when Mrs. Drummond took it down. (Sacramento Daily Union, 6 July 1864, 3.)

The second article provides some clarification and additional information. The correct address of Mrs. Drummond is cited and the fact that Union troops were summoned. It seems possible that Mrs. Drummond or her husband, upon reading the first article, contacted the newspaper and provided the following additional information-- in particular, the fact that she was the cousin of General Rosecrans, who was likely well known to readers..

That Flag.--Mrs. Drummond, the lady who persisted in keeping the Stars and Stripes afloat over her door on the Fourth of July is a cousin of General Rosecrans. Her residence is located on H street, above Fourteenth, instead of G street, as stated in a former article. The flag put up on the morning of the 5th still floats over the house, although Clary, on first seeing it, declared that it should come down. Soon after this declaration was made, several soldiers from Camp Union stopped at the house and were anxious to see the man who was going to tear down the flag. Clary, on seeing them, disclaimed being that individual, and declared that he was as good a friend to the Union as any other man. (Sacramento Daily Union, 8 July 1864, 3.)

This page last updated May 20, 2008.

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