California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Jefferson Guard

Official or Other Titles:
Jefferson Guard, Second Division, Second Brigade
Location: San Francisco, San Francisco County
Mustered in: June 11, 1856
Mustered out: September 11, 1856

Commanding Officers

R. P. Hanna, Captain, Date of Rank: June 11, 1856
William M. Dowling., First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: June 11, 1856

Official History

One of the Militia companies organized and mustered into the service of the State in San Francisco, during the troublesome time of the reign of the Vigilance Committee, was the Jefferson Guard. This corps elected R. P. Hanna for their Captain and William Dowling as their First Lieutenant. The activities of the Jefferson Guard were confined to the period the Proclamation issued on June 31 1856, by Governor J. Neely Johnson, was in effect, which declared San Francisco in a "state of Insurrection."

The incidents leading up to that Proclamation are still debatable questions, as they involve the failure of the duly constituted authorities to speedily and justly enforce the laws of the land until too late to prevent an aroused and indignant people from taking the law in their own hands. During the period of unrest in San Francisco, there was no doubt but that the public sentiment was with the Vigilance Committee, which made it almost impossible for the militia to successfully gain control of the situation. Governor Johnson acted wisely in not forcing the issue too far, but after organizing new companies and adding them to the loyal guard units, he held the troops ready for any emergency, and at the same time utilized them for the protection of armories, arms and ammunition, and State property. For nearly three months the Vigilance Committee arrested undesirable characters and brought them before their court., where, if convicted, sentence was pronounced and then duly carried out by their members. By the latter part of August 1856, their work was completed and they then decided to disband. During this time they had tried and sentenced four men to hang, one of them being James P. Casey whose shooting of James King brought the Vigilantes to life again.

On the thirtieth of June 1856, Governor Johnson issued an Order to Adjutant General Kibbe authorizing him to obtain for the use of the State an amount of money not exceeding $3,000 to be used in the military service of the State. On the third of June a similar order for $25,000 had been issued. It is probable this amount was only about one third of what the State spent in quelling the Insurrection.

For three months, from June 11, 1856, the militia companies were under arms in San Francisco. With the disbanding of the Vigilance Committee the danger of seizure of arms ceased and accordingly on September 11, 1856, the Jefferson Guard was mustered out of service.

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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Updated 8 February 2016