Ziba C. Hamilton’s Autobiography


Z. C. Hamilton was born in Sheldon, Genessee County, New York, January 3, 1832.  He followed the usual occupation of a farmer’s boy working on the home farm, up to the age of twelve, when his father passed away, February 21, 1844, leaving his mother, five sisters and himself.  With the aid of his mother he carried on the farm until six years later, when the mother passed away, October 26, 1850.  The estate was settled up and divided among the heirs.  The home was broken up after her death.   He worked six months tending toll-gate just outside of the City of Buffalo, New York.  In the fall of 1851 he went to Waukegan, Illinois and attended the Academy one year.  Taught school a couple of terms after leaving school.  In the spring of 1854 in the company of three others from Waukegan he left for California.  They sailed from New York the 20th day of April.  Going by railroad about twelve miles out from Aspinwall, then the passengers were obliged to use mules to convey them the rest of the way across the Isthmus of Panama.  There being about 1,500 people to get across in a couple of days, made things quite lively, both for the passengers and the mules.  All they had to do on arriving at their destination was to dismount and turn the mules loose and find a place to sleep, which was no easy thing.  The next day, they boarded a steamer for San Francisco and were about twelve days reaching the point, making only one stop, that being Acapulco, Mexico.  Measles broke out on the steamer and a good many being afflicted, Z. C. among them.


From San Francisco the party went by steamer to Stockton up the San Joaquin River.  From there they staged to the mining region to a town called Montezuma.  Here the miners life began in earnest, doing their work with pick and shovel, doing their own cooking and their own laundry work.  Their first mining was on Wood creek, in Tuolumne County making a dam.  Having no teams they had to cut their logs, trim them and get to the Creek the best way they could.  The dam was built fifty feet long and twelve feet high, in order to turn the current of the Creek around some sand they wished to work, using the water in the sluices also.  Upon completion of the dam and the getting of the sluices, they commenced digging for the yellow metal.  Working with varied success for about two months, one of the boys struck a small crevasse in the bed rock and after taking out a half pan or more of the dirt, upon washing found gold to the amount of $4,500.00.  Then they were all kings, but unfortunately the work after was without result and they concluded there were nothing to do but quit.


In 1854, October, stocked up with provisions and lumber for the winter, mined from then to 1860 without any large returns, but stayed until 1862 then went from San Francisco to British Columbia, up the Fraser River to Point Danger, returning by the way of Portland, Oregon, stopping there for 3 or 4 months, thence to California, mining once more.


In May 1863 I enlisted in the First California Cavalry Company L stationed at Stockton.  Was at Stockton, Sacramento and San Pedro, until February 1864 when we were sent across the desert to Tuscon and Tubac, Arizona.  Six men set out on what is called a vedette station remaining four months.  Then we were relieved and sent to Tubac on July 1864, remaining until January 1865, then I was sent in command of an escort of six men with Col. Bowie to Los Angeles.


On third day out a carbine was accidentally discharged, killing two horses, leaving six men with four horses to make the journey of 600 miles, which they did by relieving each other.  Returning to Tubac remained there for a time then went to Ft. Bowie.  On July 1st 1865 twenty men started on a scouting expedition.  Near Apache pass on the east of the Chiriqui Mts. to Fort Goodwin on the Gila River the range was broken and we went thru the gap to the west side.  On July 4th we discovered signs of Indians.


Starting up the ravine we came to an Indian camp, the Indians retreating.  We camped on a flat place in ravine, overlooking the entire Sulphur Springs valley, giving a view of the entire ravine.  This gap was used as a trail from Tuscon to Ft. Bowie and for all the transcontinental traffic of the southern part of the country.


The Indian village or camp was destroyed, tepees burned, stock and horses captured and then we returned to Ft. Bowie.  On July 12, the Colonel and escort going north to build new fort when fifty miles from Ft. Bowie, broke a wagon wheel and sent word to Ft. Bowie for a new wheel and stuff for repairs.  Myself and three other men were detailed, I in charge of the escort, to relieve.  Went thru the pass and upon finding signs of Indians, reported to the commanding officer that four men were insufficient, and were given two more men.  Went 25 miles and camped for the night.  Next a.m. fixed wagon, had dinner and started home about 3 p.m.  It was nearly sundown when we came to a long grade up hill.  Told teamster to go slow up the hill and were walking the team, six mules, with the escort riging behind, chatting no thinking of danger, and with no signs from either horses or mules, when suddenly the whole outfit started.


In the high grass of the water-way next the trail, about forty Indians raised up and shot at our party.  Teamster was killed, the team ran away, the Indians capturing it.  Two other men wounded, one with poisoned arrow, my horse was shot five times and I wounded in both arms, but did not know it until I tried to pull my carbine with the right, and then my pistol with the left, and failing in both, realized then I was shot in both arms I was stunned and looking around saw our men going over the hill.  Joe Angell left with me said, better get out of this, and we followed the others over the hill.  Indians got all our supplies, blankets etc. and we 40 miles from home.


I rode my horse as far as I could then the boys put me on one of the other horses turning mine loose.  At a spring shortly after we got a drink, then I became very sick and begged them to let me off the horse but they would not.  I rode until eight the next morning when we rode into camp and then seemed to feel as well as ever.  Dismounted at orderly’s tent and got a drink.  Dr. examined my arms and said right one would have to come off.  I said, “No it won’t and will see later.”  On the way to the hospital I thot I could walk, and did for a few steps then fainted and when I became conscious, three or four days later, my arm was off.  I had lost a great deal of blood and they thot no show for me.  But after that I never had any trouble.  It rained thru the roof and had to put ponchos over my head to keep us dry.


Operation was July 18, 1865.  I stayed in Ft. Bowie until the next spring.  I was not satisfied with the taking off of my arm and asked the Dr. about the condition of the bone.  Said the elbow was shattered.  I found from the man that buried the arm where it was and got it up to see what condition the bone really had been in and found only a splinter off one side of the round part of the joint.


Our enlistment having expired and the other boys going home I went also.  We had 600 miles to get to Los Angeles and getting half way there at a Pima and Maricopa village on the Gila river, we met the company which was to replace us.  They being short of horses the General said he had an order for our horses.  We denied his right to take them, we being Cavalry could not deliver our horses until we were mustered out.  The General insisted and we gave up the horses.  We then debated whether to go home or camp and let the Gov’t take care of us.  Finally decided to go on, met a team carrying goods 12 miles out, and went with that some of us riding all the time.  We traveled 35 miles the next, but it was pretty hard on us, not being used to walking.  Some came thru some fell by the wayside and others were carried in the wagon all the way.  After leaving Fort Yuma we were furnished transport to San Pedro.  From there we were taken to San Francisco and were mustered out.


June 12, 1868 we reached New York, via the Nicurauga route and were discharged.  Then I went to the western part of New York thence to Waukegan and Berlin, Wisconsin.