California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Monroe Guard

Official or Other Titles:
Monroe Guard, Second Division, Second Brigade
Location: San Francisco, San Francisco County
Mustered in: June 17, 1856
Mustered out: September 11, 1856

Commanding Officers

John A. Monroe, Captain, Date of Rank: June 17,1856.
James T. Quinn, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: June 17,1856.

Official History

The occasion for the organizing of the Monroe Guard was the strife which existed in San Francisco, during the reign of the Vigilante Committee in June 1856. The entire company of forty-two men appeared before the clerk of the United States District Court in San Francisco and took and subscribed to the oath that mustered them into the service of the State. Their Captain was John A. Monroe and James T. Quinn was their First Lieutenant.

On May 15, 1856, when James P. Casey fatally wounded James King, the popular and fearless editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, he was promptly arrested and placed in jail under heavy guard. The Sheriff called upon the militia for aid in keeping under control a mob of angry citizens that sought to immediately lynch Casey. The militia responded promptly and preserved order for several days. Meanwhile the Vigilance Committee was organizing and already had laid plans to rid San Francisco of the crooked politicians connected with the lawless class of citizens. The ranks of the Vigilantes grew rapidly, because the citizens finally realized to what extent the lawless element had gone in order to gain control of the affairs of the city.

The militia companies were placed in the awkward position of having to decide whether to abide by their oath and support the constituted authorities, or refuse to obey their Commander-in-Chief, when the Governor issued his Proclamation declaring San Francisco in a "state of Insurrection". Their predicament was fully illustrated in the words of one captain who said: "It would be almost impossible to bring ourselves to fire into the ranks of our friends, even though in the wrong." Wholesale resignations of members of the militia continued until Governor J. Neely Johnson doubted whether out of ten companies of militia he could depend on more than fifty men to stand by him.

Realizing the impossibility of enforcing his Proclamation, the Governor very wisely proceeded to organize new militia companies and add recruits to the remnants of the older units. Governor Johnson ordered the troops to guard the arms and ammunition that belonged to the State, in order to keep it from being seized by the Vigilantes. The Monroe Guard was one of the new companies organized, and for three months this company loyally performed the tedious task of guarding the armory and its contents.

Meanwhile the Vigilance Committee was slowly bringing the undesirables before their committee and either ordering them out of the State, never to return under penalty of death, or some other sentence that was compatible with justice. Their work finished, the Vigilance: Committee disbanded in the latter part of August. With the disbanding of the Vigilantes, there was no further necessity for guarding the arms of the State, Therefore, on September 11, 1856, Governor Johnson ordered the militia companies mustered out of service, having served their State well and faithfully.

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