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Fort life depicted in cutouts.
Fort life depicted in cutouts.

Fort Humboldt - Lonely Ulysses S. Grant Army Post

Field review by the editors.

Eureka, California

Long before he became a famous Civil War general and U.S. President, Ulysses S. Grant served at Fort Humboldt, a military facility on a bluff overlooking Humboldt Bay. Stationed at the new military post as an Army quartermaster in 1854, Lieutenant Grant bought and managed supplies of food, ammunition, and equipment for the fort and its outposts, from Fort Bragg to the Oregon border. He performed well enough to be promoted to Captain of the infantry's Company F.

Grant was a solitary guy, with few friends, who would rather ride his horse or hang out in a nearby tavern. He's said to have developed his signature taste for whiskey in the drizzly fog of Humboldt. He left the Fort after five months.

Fort Humboldt 1940s postcard of General Grant statue.
Fort Humboldt 1940s postcard of General Grant statue.

The Army installation was abandoned after 1867. It fell apart (today only a few buildings survive), and eventually became Fort Humboldt State Historic Park.

Fort hospital.
Fort hospital.

With Grant's subsequent national accomplishments, Eureka embraced him as the town's most famous guy. He was enshrined with several commemorations at Fort Humboldt -- including a statue, and a bronze plaque on a boulder, courtesy of the Daughters of the American Revolution and dedicated in 1925.

The park at first cast the old army post as protector of the peace between Gold Rush enthusiasts, settlers and local tribes. But Grant was smart to get out ASAP. The Fort was used to assemble Native Americans for removal to reservations, and the troops weren't able to prevent horrible massacres by vigilante settlers. By the 1980s, the role of Grant at the site had been played down. The statue and cannon are gone; the DAR plaque remains.

There's a small history museum, and interpretive displays along trails describe fort life with cutouts of tents and troop silhouettes. We noticed the restored hospital building using an enlargement of a 19th century brain operation illustration as a window treatment.

Even when it isn't overcast and chilly, the Fort Humboldt vibe is vaguely unsettling.

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Fort Humboldt - Lonely Ulysses S. Grant Army Post

Fort Humboldt State Historic Park

3499 Fort Ave., Eureka, CA
US Hwy 101, right turn on Highland Ave., then left on Fort Ave.
Gates open daily 8-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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