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.
Named 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.)
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
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