The Drum Barracks, also known as Camp Drum and the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum, is the last remaining original American Civil War era military facility in the Los Angeles area. Located in the Wilmington section of Los Angeles, near the Port of Los Angeles, it has been designated as a California Historic Landmark, a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1987, it has been operated as a Civil War museum that is open to the public.
Phineas Banning, the founder of Wilmington (then known as New San Pedro), wrote a letter to President Lincoln advising that the Union would lose California unless some provision was made to quell pro-Confederacy sentiment. Initially, the Union moved a garrison from Fort Tejon to Camp Latham near Culver City, California. Later in 1861, Banning and Benjamin Davis Wilson, the first mayor of Los Angeles, donated sixty acres in Wilmington to the government for one dollar each for use in construction of a Union garrison. By January 1862, the military command had moved from Camp Latham to Camp Drum in Wilmington, and by March 1862, all but one company of Camp Latham's troops had been moved to Camp Drum. The camp was built between 1862 and 1863 at a cost of $1 million and consisted of 19 buildings located on 60 acres in Wilmington with another 37 acres near the harbor. By March 1864, official letters and papers referred to the encampment as Drum Barracks rather than Camp Drum.
Camp Drum and Drum Barracks get their name from Col. Richard Coulter Drum, then Assistant Adjutant General of the Army Department of the Pacific, stationed in San Francisco, and not after a percussion instrument. There is no record that Col. Drum ever saw or set foot in the station bearing his name.
During the Civil War, Camp Drum was home to the California Column, commanded by Colonel James Henry Carleton. Between 2,000 and 7,000 soldiers were stationed at Camp Drum, and Wilmington became a thriving community with a population greater than Los Angeles during the war.
In 1862, Texas Volunteers had taken control of Arizona and New Mexico for the Confederacy, and Colonel Carleton was ordered to retake control of the territory. Approximately 2,350 soldiers from the California Column marched from Camp Drum and fought the Battle of Picacho Pass, the westernmost battle of the Civil War.
In 1864, privateers loyal to the Confederacy entered Catalina Island to try to sink ships carrying gold and silver from the Comstock Lode to aid the Union. Phineas Banning, then designated a general in the California militia, took Battery A to Catalina Island and subdued the rebels. A branch building of the Drum Barracks remains in the Two Harbors area of the island.
Camp Drum also served as a deterrent to Confederate sympathizers in the Los Angeles area, helped keep the territory loyal to the Union, and prevented Confederate use of the Los Angeles harbor.
After the Civil War, Camp Drum remained active for several years in the Indian Wars. By 1870, it had been deactivated and fallen into disrepair. In October 1871, the Los Angeles Star reported that all remaining troops at Drum Barracks had been ordered to Fort Yuma.
In 1873, the government returned the land to Banning and Wilson after auctioning off the buildings. Banning bought five of the buildings for $2,917, and Wilson bought one for $200.
In 1963, the owner of the property offered the property for sale, and concerns arose about its potential demolition. Under the leadership of Walter Holstein, local residents formed The Society for The Preservation of Drum Barracks, raising funds to purchase the property. In 1967, under the leadership of Oliver Vickery, curator of the Banning House, and Joan Lorenzen, the State of California purchased the Drum Barracks, with the Society retaining responsibility for maintenance and operation of the barracks as a historic site. In 1986, the State turned over the property to the City of Los Angeles on the condition that it be operated as a Civil War museum.
The surviving 16-room structure was the officers' quarters, which was once one of 19 similar buildings on the site. Today, the barracks is open as a museum which commemorates California's contribution to the Civil War. It holds a local reputation as the locale of various paranormal activity, with visitors and local residents claiming to hear the sound of rattling chains or wagon wheels and horses' hooves, seeing smoke (presumably from soldiers' pipes), spotting apparitions of a woman in a hoop skirt, and smelling a strong lavender violet perfume. In 2005 the Barracks was featured in an episode of Most Haunted.