Civil War Encounters Touring the West: Part Five – Fort Klamath, Oregon

Part of a Series

The last part of my summer 2023 road trip was from the redwoods in California into Oregon. Crossing the border, Oregon became both my wife Brittany and I’s 50th state visited! Besides simply saying we have been to Oregon, and thus all 50 states, our main visit in the state was Crater Lake National Park. However, we also had a chance encounter with one last Civil War era site, Fort Klamath.

Brittany and I entered Oregon, making it our 50th and last state to visit!

Before visiting Crater Lake, we stopped for the night at Chiloquin, Oregon. Early the next morning, we set off to see Crater Lake. On the way, we passed through the small town of Fort Klamath. On the road through we saw a sign at the side of the road for Fort Klamath Park Museum, with an established date of 1863. Brittany must have seen the look on my face as we drove past and I simply said, “It says it was established in 1863…” She replied with words to the effect of “We will see if we have time after visiting Crater Lake.”

Brittany taking a picture of the beautiful Crater Lake National Park.

We made our way to the national park and I must say, wow! The views are stunning of the volcano crater, with a newer volcano on an island in the middle of the lake. The water is exclusively rainfall and snowmelt, and signs at the park said they get dozens of feet of snow each year. It was most certainly picturesque and well worth a visit.

Crater Lake’s northern entrance was still closed from snowfalls, so we had to backtrack through Fort Klamath to get to the highway to continue to our last stop of Eugene, Oregon. As we went through the town, we began approaching the historic park, deciding to make a brief stop to see if we could get more info and some pictures.

Fort Klamath lies near Crater Lake National Park.

Fort Klamath was established in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War. Oregon joined the United States as a territory following the Oregon treaty in 1846, and statehood followed in 1859. There was actually a vote in Oregon over whether to allow legal enslavement in 1857. The vote failed, though it is worth noting that there were enough Southerners that 25% of the vote was in favor. Regardless, approximately 35 enslaved personnel are known to have been forcibly brought to Oregon before the Civil War. The state also implemented exclusion laws, forbidding African Americans from entering Oregon. Those laws remained in place until 1926.[1]

In the 1860 election, Abraham Lincoln won the state, but only defeated second place candidate Democrat John Breckenridge by 264 votes! After Lincoln’s election, Oregon Senator Joseph Lane (born in North Carolina) addressed the U.S. Senate expressing a desire that “everyone of those great North West States shall become a portion of that southern confederacy.”[2]

Graves from the four men executed for the killing of E.R.S. Canby during the Modoc Wars

Nothing of substance developed however, and Oregon remained firmly in the United States. When Fort Klamath was established in 1863, it was not to halt Confederate advances, but to safeguard settlers from the nearby Modoc peoples. The fort became an important position during the Modoc Wars in the 1870’s, and after General Edward R.S. Canby was killed during a peace negotiation with several Modoc, four tribesmen were executed at Fort Klamath. Their graves are still at the historic park. The site also includes a small museum and artifacts in a recreated building based on the fort’s original guardhouse. Fort Klamath was abandoned in 1889 and the site officially opened for visitors in 1983. It is open from June to Labor Day each year.


ECW’s own chief historian, Cecily Zander, has written of General Canby’s death in the ECW 10th Anniversary Series book Fallen Leaders. Check it out to learn more on that fascinating topic.

That wrapped up our summer road trip. We made it to Eugene, Oregon, that evening and flew back to Texas the next day. We finished with many national parks added to our list, the last of the states on our list to visit, as well as five Civil War sites, some expected, and some encountered by chance.



[1] R. Gregory Nokes, Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory, (Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2013), 15, 30-31, 47-48, 54, 64, 141-143, 164-165; Charles H. Carey, General History of Oregon: Through Early Statehood (Portland, OR: Binfords & Mort, 1971), 342-343.

[2]Joseph Lane, “State of the Union,” December 17, 1860, Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session, 144.

2 Responses to Civil War Encounters Touring the West: Part Five – Fort Klamath, Oregon

  1. Congrats on 50 states! One more piece of Oregonian civil war history is the namesake of Oregon’s eastern community named “Baker City.” It is named after one of Oregon’s first U.S. Senators, Edward Dickinson Baker. Senator/Colonel Baker was a close friend of Abraham Lincoln. He died at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in Virginia in 1861. Baker is featured in my historical novel “California Blood at Gettysburg.” Oh, a bonus for visiting Baker City is touching the largest salt lick that I’ve ever seen.

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