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Fort Tejon ~ Civil War Reenactment ~ Lebec CA

Fort Tejon is a fantastic living history site in the Grapevine, as Southern California melds into the fertile plains of Central California. About 70 miles Northwest of Los Angeles, headed up Interstate 5, it is a must see location.

Fort Tejon was a real fort, serving California from 1854 to 1864. Still set up as a fort, it is easy to see history come alive, imagining the soldiers lives who were stationed there to protect the Sebastion Indian Reservation and to fight off other Native American tribes that threatened them. It gives you a real taste of what an outpost would be in the newly forged state of California.

Living History programs at Fort Tejon feature the Dragoons, who were the actual historical figures of Fort Tejon in the 1850's and 60's. Dragoons traveled all over, patrolling all the way down to San Bernardino, CA, Los Angeles and up into the Central Valley. They were the peacekeepers amongst the Indians, protected the gold miners, and valiantly served the US Army. When Civil War came, life was suddenly quite different, and the outpost disbanded on September 11, 1964.

We attended many Civil War reenactments at beautiful Fort Tejon, which was a real historical fort during the War of Northern Aggression, but no battles were fought there. Nonetheless, Fort Tejon had one of the best living history programs in California and was a favorite with serious reenactors.

On a typical reenactment, Saturday would have a laid back day of various living history demonstrations, followed by a battle in the late afternoon. Throughout the day, one could visit the US Sanitary Commission tent, the famed group of women who gave aid, comfort and hand-sewn quilts to the US Army during the war.


Living History surgeon running to help a soldier, while President Lincoln visits the battle scene.

A surgeons tent was generally set up, showing cutting edge medicine during the Civil War. Sadly, cutting edge was what many of the doctors did, removing limbs hit by canon shots and gunfire, throwing them in large piles. Amputation was a huge part of the war. Shocking to our modern sensibilities, the physicians did what they knew to do at the time. They had not mastered the art of sterilization, or even washing hands or utensils between amputations and surgeries. This caused much of the disease and death during the war.

Fort Tejon is instrumental in teaching California History, with their Student Living History Overnights for school kids in 4th and 5th grade. The kids travel to Fort Tejon and spend a night immersed in history, learning about the fort and touring it. They meet the Dragoons and see what life was like at this California outpost. What a great way to learn about this important Fort, so integral to the survival of California after the burgeoning gold rush.

The Fort Tejon Historical Association is key in keeping the living history programs going strong at the fort and can be contacted about living history events. Join their newsletter for a paltry $5 a year, and you can keep up on all the great information and help suppot the Fort!

Fort Tejon is run by the State of California and has been threatened by budget cuts and closure, through the current financial crisis. Currently open, you can access more information here.

Fort Tejon State Historic Park, Fort Tejon Exit off I-5 at the top of the Grapevine, Lebec, CA 661-248-6692