With the formal transfer of Alaska from
Russia to the United States, the federal government sent Army officers
for a temporary government. From 1867 onward, military exploration and
presence has been a force in the territory's development, driving
communications and building projects, population surges, and economic
trends. The Department of Alaska was the designation for the
government of Alaska from its purchase by the United States of America
in 1867 until its organization as the District of Alaska in 1884. During
the Department era, Alaska was variously under the jurisdiction of the
U.S. Army (until 1877), the United States Department of the Treasury
(from 1877 until 1879) and the U.S. Navy (from 1879 until 1884). The
area later became the District of Alaska, then the Alaska Territory,
then the State of Alaska.
American Civil War, 1861-1865
A Confederate raider, the CSS Shenandoah, journeyed to Alaska,
where it preyed mostly on Yankee whalers. The last shot of the Civil War
was fired near St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea on June 22, 1865,
seventy-four days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered his
Confederate forces at Appomattox and nearly two months after the
surrender of the rest of the Confederate Army actually ended the war on
land. When Commanding Officer Lt. James Iredell Waddell learned of the
South’s surrender, he sailed to Liverpool, England and surrendered on
November 6, 1865. Spending a little over a year at sea, the
Shenandoah had captured 38 ships, two thirds of them after the
Confederacy had surrendered.
Military District of Alaska, 1867
President Andrew Johnson signed the treaty purchasing Alaska from
$7,200,000 on March 30, 1867.
On Sept. 6, 1867, Gen.
Jefferson C. Davis, U.S. Army, and no relation to the former head of the
Confederacy, formally took command of the newly created military division in
Alaska. In that capacity, Davis was the first U.S. official responsible for
administering the new U.S. territory, the Military District of Alaska. The Army
took possession of Alaska on October 18, 1867, in a formal transfer
ceremony held in Sitka, the Russian capital of Alaska. Garrisons were established at Sitka,
Wrangell, and Tongass
in Southeastern Alaska; on Kodiak Island, the Pribilof Islands and on
the Kenai Peninsula.
Thus began the U.S. history of military
service in Alaska.
Spanish-American War, 1898
FACT: Four ships from the Revenue
Cutter service patrolled the U.S. west coast from San Francisco to
Alaska "in order to protect the treasure-laden vessels from the Klondike
gold fields." These vessels mounted 12 guns, 30 officers, and 128
FACT: On January 28, 1915, the
United States Revenue Service became the United States Coast Guard.
World War I (The Great
Veterans of the Spanish American War from all over Alaska
- Haines, Anchorage, Seward, Cordova, Petersburg, Wrangell, Fairbanks and Dutch
Harbor - would became the nucleus of the Alaska Home Guard, a volunteer militia.
One of the least known fronts of the First World War---the Alaska
Territory because of its vast size and closeness to Europe via the Arctic