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California State Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
First Light Dragoons
(San Francisco)

Other or Official Titles: First Light Dragoons, Company A, First Cavalry Battalion, Second Brigade

Location: San Francisco, San Francisco County

Mustered in: June 26, 1852
Reorganized: March 26, 1880 (1)
Consolidated and redesignated: June 1, 1881 (2)

Commanding Officers

M. Rowell, Captain
J. Sewall Reed, First Lieutenant (3)

J. Sewall Reed, Captain, Commissioned April 18,1856
A: McKendry, First Lieutenant, Commissioned April 18,1856
L. R. Mills, First Lieutenant

C. L. Taylor, Captain, Date of Rank: December 12, 1859, Commissioned: June 11, 1860
H. Dingley, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: December 12, 1859, Commissioned: June 11, 1860

J. Sewall Reed, Captain
David Moore, First Lieutenant.

C. L. Taylor; Captain
David Moore, First Lieutenant

David Moore, Captain. Date of Rank September 25, 1863, Commissioned October 12, 1863
Jacob Browning, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank September 25, 1863, Commissioned October 12, 1863

Jacob Browning, First Lieutenant. Date of Rank: December 11, 1865, Commissioned: January 3, 1866
Charles Collins, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: December 11, 1865, Commissioned: January 3, 1866

David Moore, Captain Date of Rank: December 10, 1866, Commissioned January 12, 1867
Francis Blake, First Lieutenant. Date of Rank December 10, 1866, Commissioned January 12, 1867 (Resigned September. 14, 1867)

Charles F. Robison, Captain Date of Rank: December 10, 1868, Commissioned December 28, 1868
Michael Doane, First Lieutenant

John R. Middlesworth, Captain, Date of Rank January 16, 1871. Commissioned January 20, 1871
Nathaniel H. Roy, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank January 16, 1871. Commissioned January 20, 1871

David Moore, Captain, Date of Rank: January 16, 1873; Commissioned January 31, 1873
Marcus 11. Cook, First Lieutenant. January 16, 1873; Commissioned January 31, 1873

John R, Middlesworth Captain, Date of Rank: January 4, 1875, Commissioned January 16, 1875 resigned April. 25, 1877
Henry W Grey, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: January 4, 1875, Commissioned January 16, 1875

Henry Grey, Captain, Date of Rank:: June 11, 1877; Commissioned: June 20, 1877
Marcus M. Cook, First Lieutenant Date of Rank:: June 11, 1877; Commissioned: June 20, 1877

Henry W. Grey, Captain (Re-elected July 7, 1879)
John Hey, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: July 7, 1879; Commissioned: November 5, 1879

Henry W. Grey, Captain (Re-elected August. 19, 1881)
John Hey, First Lieutenant. (Re-elected August. 19, 1881)


Official History

The First Light Dragoons claimed to be the first legally organized militia company mustered in under the first Militia Law passed by the first session of the California Legislature held in San Jose in 1850. This claim was disputed by the Eureka Light Horse Guard which was organized about the same time. Whether the First Light Dragoons were first or not, they were destined to stay in the service for twenty-nine years, many of which were turbulent ones calling for loyalty to the cause of law and order.

The first test came in June 1856 during the reign of the Vigilantes in San Francisco when all the troops in that city were called to arms during the period of "Insurrection". Captain C. L. Taylor tendered his resignation to the Governor who refused to accept it, but the Captain ignored the refusal, and was reported to have joined the Vigilantes taking some of the unit with him. This act by the Captain, of renouncing his affiliations with the guard during a time of stress was looked upon unfavorably by the Adjutant General's Office. The attitude of General Kibbe in regards to this matter is revealed in a letter which he wrote to the Governor when Captain Taylor was again re-elected to the Captaincy in 1859.

The General condemned the action of the Captain in refusing, through the expediency of attempting to resign, to perform his sworn duty to his superiors. The Governor, however, rendered a decision favorable to the Captain for he commissioned Captain Taylor from Captain to Lieutenant Colonel, and finally Taylor received the rank of Colonel.

This fine cavalry company, which was designated Company A, First Cavalry Battalion of the Second Brigade, was called to arms several times during the troublesome days of 1876 to 1878 when a wave of anti-Chinese feelings wept the country. The first call to arms was issued on October 20, 1876, when all indications seemed to point to an anti-Chinese demonstration in the Chinese quarters of the city, but no serious consequences resulted.

Then On July 23, 1877, tile smoldering anti-Chinese feeling came to a head in the form of a mob riot which was headed for "Little China," the mob was determined to intimidate and drive the Chinese out. The San Francisco companies of the Militia were ordered to their armories subject to duty and to be ready for the call by the civil authorities. However, those in authority were in sympathy with the objective of the mob although not openly approving of their lawlessness. The Chinese were persecuted and wash houses and Chinese business houses were burned and destroyed, yet no arrests were made for the arson and depredations committed. The militia was ready for action but the Chief of Police refused to call on these well drilled and fully armed soldiers to restore order. Undoubtedly the fact that the militia was ready prevented: the mob from taking too drastic measures in their attempt to drive out the Chinese.

Again on January 23 to 29, 1878, the militia 'was called, arms to be ready for further anti-Chinese disturbances. Some of the more out-spoken leaders of the disturbers, advocated rushing the armory and .taking the arms of the militia in an unguarded moment, but never carried out this action. Again the companies were held ready for the call of the civil authorities, but it was not until the evening of the twenty-ninth of January that the troops were called upon by the city government to patrol the streets during the riot. The following morning the Second Brigade, of which the First Light Dragoons was a unit, was disbanded.

When the National Guard was reorganized in 1880, the First Light Dragoons was designated as Company A. On June 1, 1881, Company A and Company C, First Cavalry Battalion were consolidated and redesignated Company A, First Cavalry Battalion. About four months later, September 23, 1881, Company A and Company B, First Cavalry Battalion were consolidated and redesignated San Francisco Hussars, unattached, Second Brigade.(4)


Footnotes

(1) Company A, formerly First Light Dragoons organized June 26, 1852, reorganized and designated Company A, First Cavalry Battalion, June 26, 1880. Adjutant General Report 1880, General Order No. 12, page 63.

(2) Company A and Company C, First Cavalry Battalion consolidated and redesignated Company A, First Cavalry Battalion, June 1, 1881. Adjutant General Report 1881-1882, General Order No. 11, page 81.

(3) Lieutenant (later Captain) Reed went on to command the famed California 100 (Company A, Second Massachusetts Cavalry) during the Civil War. He was killed near Drainsville, Virginia February 22, 1864.

(4) Adjutant General Report 1881-1882, General Order No. 21, page 87.


This history was written in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the Office of the Adjutant General and the California State Library

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