A group of citizens residing in Placer County wished to form a volunteer company of militia, therefore, they sent a petition to the County Judge, and received his permission to call a meeting for such a purpose. Judge Van DeCar appointed and authorized C. W. C. Rowell to open a book for enrollment of volunteers. Notices were posted on June 6, 1861, in several public places for the required period of ten days.
The enrolled members held their first meeting in the Court House at Auburn on June 20, 1861. At the conclusion of the meeting it was decided the company should be designated as the Auburn Greys, Fourth Division, Second Brigade, under which title the company was known until the year of 1863, when it was redesignated First Infantry Battalion, Fourth Brigade. The company maintained that designation until reorganized under the Military Law of 1866 at which time it was given the name of Company D, Fifth Infantry Regiment, Fourth Brigade.(2)
The Auburn Greys were the first Company of Militia that trained a number of officers and men in the War of the Rebellion. The first commanding officers and almost the entire company went into Company A, Fourth Regiment of Infantry, California Volunteers. Soon afterwards the ranks were again filled and the Auburn Greys continued as an organization, electing A.S. Grant as Captain, and J. L. Browne as First Lieutenant.(3) The following month Captain Grant accepted a commission as Captain in the Volunteers and immediately tendered his resignation from the Auburn Greys, which was in turn accepted on October 31, 1861.
In a letter from the Adjutant General's Office, this company was commented upon as reflecting the highest credit upon both officers and men, not only in their loyalty to the Government, but for their great zeal in the country's cause, by rendering most efficient aid. Their patriotic acts and sacrifices gained for them full confidence of the Department of War and they were to receive honorable notice from the Commander-in-Chief.(4)
A third election for a commanding officer of the Auburn Greys was held within a few months of the company's organization, as within that time the company had furnished one full company and a half, two Captains, and two First Lieutenants to the Fourth Regiment of Infantry, California Volunteers. At this third election, C. J. Hillyer was elected Captain of the company and J. L. Browne retained his position as First Lieutenant. The men of this company showed a keen interest in the organization and drill. Captain Hillyer had sent in a requisition for sixty muskets and accoutrements, but due to the shortage of Government arms at that time, he received but forty of them. The company had been in existence only a few months when their enrollment numbered seventy-nine men and officers and a second call for arms was made.
Lieutenant Browne of this company was very much in favor of establishing Camps of Instruction for the militia. In a letter written to Governor Downey on September 22, 1861, he emphasized the advisability of instructing the non-transient residents. Quote:
"By so doing the Lieutenant felt the Home Guard companies would be recruited to full strength in far less time than to fore. There had been trouble enlisting men with the exception of transients, as the residents were fearful of leaving business or positions to take, the military examinations required as there was always the risk of being finally disqualified for failure to pass the required military test. These camps would enable the officers and men enlisted in the militia to receive valuable training for a certain number of days during each summer or fall with a rate of pay accordingly. By doing this, the Lieutenant felt the militia would be prepared to answer any calls from the Government in defending their country should they be needed, and also the men would be given adequate preparation to pass the necessary military examinations."
Adjutant General, William C. Kibbe, replied to this letter and asserted the had for years advocated the same plan, he regretted the fact there had been no provision made to pay any portion of the companies expenses incurred from such encampments, but assured Lieutenant Browne the matter would be introduced at the next meeting of the Legislature.(5) 0 n April 25, 1863, funds for an annual encampment of not more than ten days were appropriated by the State Legislature.
The Auburn Greys were among the first companies attending the 1863 Encampment, which was held at Camp Kibbe. This camp was located in Yolo County near the town of Washington and proved to be an ideal location for drills, target practice and all types of war maneuvers. There were twenty-nine men attended from this company and the following table of rations is the amount of food allowed these men for the ten day Encampment 6):
Meat: 310 lbs.
Bread: 231 loaves
Vegetables: 337 lbs.
Butter: 22 lbs.
Sugar: 47 lbs.
Coffee: 15 lbs.
Syrup: 1 gal.
Vinegar: 3 gal.
Salt: 2 lbs.
Soap: 3 lbs.
Pepper: 2 cans
Candles: 3 boxes
Pickles: 3 gal.
Rice: 15 lbs.
There are no further activities on record of this company except for the muster rolls showing that the company was existence subsequent to the close of the War of the Rebellion. On June 10, 1868, the organization disbanded and was mustered out of the service.
(1) At the first meeting of the Auburn Greys (June 20, 1861) Captain Woodin was elected as "fifer" of the company.
(2) This Military Law reduced the number of companies of militia according to their location. Those retained in the service, chosen by a Military Board as essential for national defense and known as National Guard instead of Militia.
(3) Election held September 14, 1861
(4) Extract of letter from Headquarters of the Adjutant General to Lieutenant Browne, dated November 7, 1861.
(5) Statutes of California, Chapter CCIX, Page 443, Section 43.
(6) Report regarding individual company subsistence allowance for Encampment of 1863. Papers on file Adjutant General's Office.