The Origin of One of Several California Civil War Place Names

Alfred Pleasonton was born in 1824 in Washington D.C. He graduated from West point in 1844 was commissioned a second lieutenant and served with the 1st Dragoons, a heavy cavalry unit, on “frontier duty” in Minnesota, Iowa and Texas.

He fought with the 2nd Dragoons in the Mexican-American War and was promoted to captain in 1855.

508px-APleasontonNamed a general in 1862, he commanded a brigade of cavalry in the Army of the Potomac and was wounded by an artillery shell at Antietam.

His performance as a cavalry commander was not stellar although he did appoint First Lieutenant George Custer to brigadier general.

He ended the war commanding the District of Missouri, defeating Gen. Sterling Price, and putting Confederate threats in the west to rest.

(Gen. Sterling Price is, of course, the name of Rooster Cogburn’s cat in True Grit.)

He became major general in 1865, served as an Internal Revenue commission under President Ulysses Grant.

Pleasonton died in his sleep in 1897 insisting there be no military honors at his funeral. He refused to be buried in his uniform.

Although he appears never to have visited California, Pleasonton’s friend, John W. Kottinger, an Alameda County justice of the peace, named a town after him in 1867.

The Postal Service misspelled his name as Pleasanton.


Filed under: California History


  1. There is so much rich California history. It’s especially of interest to people like me whose family came here in 1890. That’s one of the reasons I’m fighting to restore CA to a financially and politically at least moderate (preferably conservative) state as it was when I was growing up.

    Comment by Gwengen — 1.28.2011 @ 8:44 pm

  2. Greg
    Not sure what the new internet frontier i but your input on the future is priceless. Don’t stop all the best
    Michael T. Jarvis

    Comment by East Coast Westy — 1.28.2011 @ 10:14 pm

  3. Nice piece of fun history! Knowing the origin of Rooster Cogburn’s cat’s name is worth the read alone. I will win bar bets on that one! Cliff Clavin lives!

    Comment by Ken — 1.29.2011 @ 10:46 am

  4. Hey, Gwengen — my family got here 40 years earlier and that’s one of the reasons I am fighting to restore California to what is was when I was growing up in the 1950’s – ’60’s: a place where people proudly passed school bond after school bond, took pride in providing tuition-free community (then called “junior”) college and virtually free state college(now CSU)and university education to its children, and took civic pride in contributing to the cost of the (then) best infrastructure in the world!

    Comment by Celtic Snake — 1.29.2011 @ 2:52 pm

  5. Nice read that rasies 3 questions:

    1. Was the artillery shell that wounded him at Antietum, fired by the Confedeate Army or “friendly” fire?

    2. Where did the battle where he defeated Gen. Sirling Price take place—Missouri?

    3. Was reference to the cat named Stirling Price in True Grit, only in the John Wayne movie or did it also appear in the novel and the recent Coen brothers film (I don’t recall it in the current film)?

    Here’s a fourth: How did you come to know this?

    Comment by Curious Fred — 1.29.2011 @ 6:57 pm

  6. hummmm…..cat as vanquished threat…..

    Comment by Smokey's Gal — 1.30.2011 @ 3:16 pm

  7. The Wikipedia post about the good General isnt too kind. Apparently he inflated his importance to his superiors at various battles including Gettysburg where McClellan kept him in camp fearing he’d screw up in the field. Unclear from what I read whether it was friendly fire. Yes, Stirling Price was defeated in battles in Missouri and both the book and the John Wayne True Grit feature a cat named Stirling Price. Haven’t seen the new flick because I’m not convinced they can improve on the original which is very close to the book.

    As to how I came to know all this: Trade secrets, my son. xoxox

    Comment by admin — 1.31.2011 @ 4:50 pm

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