Of horses and history

Rob Wangberg

PHOTO Courtesy of Rob Wangberg

Rob Wangberg makes a living as a field representative for Rental Guys and Bobcat of Chico, but about a dozen times a year he finds himself traipsing through the back country of Northern California as part of a “living history” re-creation of the Sacramento Rangers, a cavalry regiment that patrolled Butte County and the Sacramento Valley for the Union during the Civil War. Riding horseback and in full uniform, the company treads the same ground the original outfit covered, using the same equipment and eating the same food as would have been available in the 1860s. For the 47-year-old Wangberg, the re-creation combines two of his passions—horses and history. For more information on the cavalry, visit www.californiacavalry.us.

Who were the Sacramento Rangers?

The company formed under President Lincoln’s second call for volunteers in August of 1861. Their mission was to do whatever was ordered of them by the War Department in the Pacific. Their company stayed in California for the entire duration of the war, helping local law officials go after and arrest Confederate sympathizers. One time they went to the town of Snelling and arrested the newspaper editor for publishing untold things about the Union.

Where and how far do you ride?

We go out and do maybe two or three nights, and then upwards of a week. We patrol anywhere where you’re still allowed to ride horses on the ground where the original Sacramento Rangers patrolled. A good day’s ride will be about 10 miles, so we’re not endurance riders by any stretch of the imagination, but once you get the full gear on it’s still a pretty good ride.

What kinds of people are attracted to the club?

They have to be someone who owns a horse and is interested in history. A lot of people are skeptical about the whole thing, until you get them to come out and see how fun it is.

How do you make sure it is an authentic experience?

We go as far as to repackage the food we bring so there is no plastic or tinfoil out on the trail with us and we try to get as close to period food as possible. Probably the thing that gets the most attention, particularly with other horse riders, are the saddles. We use McLellan military saddles. There’s no padding on them, but they were designed so you can ride in them for long periods and they’ll still be fairly comfortable. Riding 50 or 60 miles a day wasn’t uncommon.