The Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Wilmington, California was the former US Army Headquarters for Southern California and the Arizona Territory from the years 1861-1871. It is housed in the last remaining wooden building of Camp Drum. First called Camp Drum, it was named after US Army Brigadier General Richard Coulter Drum. The building was set for demolition in the early 1960’s, but local citizens campaigned together to save and open the historic building as a museum in 1987.
Drum Barracks once covered sixty acres of land. It served as the main training, staging, and supply base for Army military operations in the Southwest. The Drum Barracks hospital boasted to be the best equipped and staffed medical facility west of the Mississippi River.
Liz, Denise, Maddie, and this writer were in the Long Beach area for a weekend visit to the majestic Queen Mary and stopped at the Drum Barracks Museum early Saturday morning. California investigation teams had recommended the visit since they had experienced eerie happenings in the past. The museum has also been featured on several TV programs including Britain’s “Most Haunted.”
The first stop on our tour was the parlor which is decorated in furniture of the 1860’s Civil War era. Officers would have gathered around the 1864 Steinway Box Grand piano to share music, read the newspapers, play cards or write letters to loved ones at home. The museum guide said that one evening a guest was playing Dixie on the piano which caused the lights to blink on and off in the house until the music stopped. When guests offer to play a melody on the piano, the spirit activity suddenly increases throughout the building. An apparition of a woman in a hoop skirt has been seen in the hallways and sensed by a strong odor of lavender.
There is a model room that displays a small-scale reconstruction of the sixty-acre site as it looked in 1863. The display features wooden models of the officer quarters’ buildings, hospital, barracks and support buildings. There is also a research library where Civil War buffs can study the Civil War period, especially the western states. We found the displayed belongings of a Civil War veteran most interesting. Along with his artificial leg, were stories and excerpts from is diary and several photographs. Guests hear footsteps and someone moving about the room only to look up and find they are alone.
We experienced the most activity in one of the upstairs bedrooms. The room featured a beautiful bedrooms suite of black walnut furniture reaching nine feet in height. The guides informed us that often the aroma of a cigar or sweet pipe tobacco smoke seems to fill the room and slowly dissipate. As if on cue, the room suddenly had a faint cigar odor in one corner of the room. Our guide assured us there was absolutely no smoking allowed anywhere near the building. We snapped a few photos and excited about our encounter with the Army Officer of the past!
If you go:
Follow Pacific Coast Highway east from the I10 Freeway or west from the 710 Freeway, to Avalon Blvd. Take Avalon south to L Street. Turn left on L Street and go three blocks to Banning Blvd. Turn right on Banning, drive one block and look for the white building on the left with the fenced-in parking lot.
Drum Barracks Civil War Museum
1052 Banning Boulevard
Wilmington, CA 90744