Watching California Joe starring Don Barry I got the feeling that Herbert J. Yates had much bigger plans for this film, but that for whatever reasons probably financial it got reduced to just another B western for one of his Republic cowboy heroes. The scope of the story demanded a bigger treatment, something on the order of the bigger budgeted westerns he later gave to Wild Bill Elliott and was giving to John Wayne. This might have originally been meant for Wayne.
Don Barry of the Union Army is sent on detached service with sidekicks Terry Frost and Wally Vernon to foil a plot by the Confederate underground organization the Knights Of The Golden Circle. But what Jefferson Davis and the rest of the Confederacy don't know is that the ones stirring things up in California are planning to double cross the Confederacy as well and set up their own Pacific Empire with the same French backing as Maximilian over in Mexico had.
That fact plus the murder of a loyal union telegrapher makes getting information to stop these plans that much easier.
It is war and I suppose Barry could be forgiven for doing a most un cowboy hero thing of shooting one of the Confederates down in cold blood after he confessed to being part of the group that murdered the telegrapher Karl Hackett. That also left young Twinkle Watts an orphan.
A lot of this was clearly left on the cutting room floor or never filmed in the first place. Not a bad B western but it was never meant to be in the B category. Watch it and I think you'll agree.