California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
National Lancers
Mission San Francisco de Asis (also known as Mission Dolores) in the 1850s. Home of the National Lancers. (San Francisco Public Library)
Assigned to: National Lancers, 2nd Brigade, California Militia
Location: San Francisco, San Francisco County
Armory: Mission San Francisco de Asis (also known as Mission Dolores)
Mustered in: June 4, 1852
Mustered out: 1859
Inclusive dates of units papers: 1852-1861
Unit papers on the file at the California State Archives:

a. Organization Papers none
b. Bonds 1 document (1853)
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 2 documents (1853-1861)
d. Election Returns 2 documents (1854)
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 2 documents (1852-1855)
g. Oaths Qualifications none
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices 3 documents (1853)
j. Requisitions 1 document (1853)
k. Resignations none
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none
Commanding Officers
J.R. West, Captain, Date of Rank: July 10, 1852
Thomas Hays, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: July 10, 1852

Thomas Hays, Captain (Elected 1855)
M. Fennel, First Lieutenant

The distinction for being the first cavalry company organized in California belongs to. the National Lancers. They were organized on June 4, 1852 ,in San Francisco. J.R. West was their first Captain, and Thomas Hayes, First Lieutenant'

The company's initial public appearance was the at the Independence Day celebration of July 4, 1852, one month after their organization. The First California Guard, Eureka Light Horse Guard and Marion Rifles also participated in the celebration. After the parade, the four militia units held a 45 minute exhibition of drilling and military maneuvers. The Lancers, dressed in their new uniforms of buff fronts and facings and their bright steel lances glittering in the sun, made a very striking appearance. (1)

The same companies on August 10 1852 in conjunction with Civic Orders and Clubs; participated in a memorial pageant in honor of the-great; statesman, Henry Clay, when news of his death reached the west coast. The military companies turned out in.all their flash of .color and in erect precision preceded the hearse, which which was drawn by four gray horses, led by four boys The coffin was ornamented by silver clasps and plates, aid was attended by thirty-three of.the most prominent men of the time Following came the Civic Orders and Clubs. After parading over the principal streets of the city, the procession assembled at the Plaza where oration was delivered by Judge Hoffman. (2)

On July 4, 1853, the military companies held another celebration that honored Major General John A. Sutter. After a brief exercise, the Battalion made ready to receive the General and his.Staff. The beloved old pioneer was received with acclamations by the crowd which blocked the avenue around the Plaza.

After passing in review before General Sutter and his staff, the procession proceeded down Washington Street to Kearny and out to the Camp Ground. On reaching the Camp, the companies were drawn up in battalion formation and the colors were presented by Mrs. Catherine Sinclair, who said in part:

"Seventy-seven years ago this day your Patriotic Fathers of the thirteen Colonies unfurled from Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, the flag of this Union., and borrowed its emblems from the stars of heaven. Today I tender you this flag. It tells of the energy and sublime courage of the men who established your independence; it tells of the suffering and trials of heroes of 1812; it tells of those brilliant achievements of American arms which have added California as one of the brightest stars in your constellation."(3)

The National Lancers participated in the inauguration of Governor J. Neely Johnson on January 10, 1856, at Sacramento. The event was the.occasion for dress parades and drills on the part of the militia. On the afternoon of the tenth, several companies paraded to the home of Governor-elect Johnson and escorted him to the Capitol where he took the oath of office. On the evening of the ninth,an elaborate Ball was given in honor of the San Francisco companies, by the Sutter Rifles at the Orleans Hotel in Sacramento. The military balls were always well attended and were noted for their color and brilliance." (4)

During the Vigilance Committee reign in San Francisco in 1856, the National Lancers was one company that responded to the Governor's call when ordered to do so. While some members undoubtedly refused to report for duty, the Sheriff said that the Lancers sent a squad to his aid. During the three months that the militia was under arms in San Francisco under the Proclamation of..Governor Johnson, that declared San Francisco in a "state of Insurrection", the Lancers served faithfully till their services were no longer required.

They were relieved from active service on September 11, 1856, by order of Governor Johnson. (5)

Among the military companies of the State who had volunteered to serve during the Mormon War, in the event of a call being made by the Government on California for troops was the National Lancers of San Francisco. This company had rapidly filled its ranks under the command of Lieutenant Hayes, and was one of the most efficient corps to enter on the anticipated campaign. The Lancers were determined to earn for themselves the honor of being one of the fighting corps of the Western army of Utah. There are no records that indicate whether the National Lancers offer was accepted by the United States Government.

Amid military pomp and splendor, Governor-elect John B. Weller, was inaugurated as Governor of.California on January 9, 1858. Six military companies took part in the events preceding and leading up to the inauguration. The National Lancers was one of the companies participating in an elaborate dress parade in front of the Orleans Hotel in the morning. The afternoon was devoted to the inauguration ceremony, while the evening was the occasion for a number of brilliant social affairs given in honor of the visiting soldiers from San Francisco. (6)

Since the Adjutant General's Report did not show the National Lancers in existence in 1860, it is assumed they were disbanded some time during the year of 1859.


(1) San Francisco Daily Herald, July 7, 1852, page 2, column 2.
(2) San Francisco Daily Herald, August 11, 1852, page 2, column 2
(3) Daily Alta California, July 6, 1853, Page 2, Column 1.
(4) Sacramento Union, January 10, 1856, Page 2, Column 2.
(5) San Francisco Daily Herald, May 16, 1856, Page 2, Column 2.
(6) Sacramento Union, January 10, 1858, Page 3, Column 1.
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