The history of the Sacramento Guard is written with a view of illustrating.the procedure adopted and followed in the organization of early State militia companies. The main source of information is taken.from the original Record Book of the Sacramento Guard and the Independent City Guard.
In Sacramento, on July 14, 1855, several citizens met in the office of Adjutant General W. C. Kibbe to discuss the matter of forming a volunteer military company in Sacramento. The subject was discussed to the satisfaction of those present and the formation of such a company was declared practicable. On motion, those composing the meeting were requested to sign a call for the organization of said company, which was done and the meeting was then adjourned until the following day. On July 15, 1855, the following named citizens signed the book to become members of the proposed company:
On July 25, 1855, the name Sacramento Guard was selected by the members of the newly organized unit to designate their company, and a committee was formed to draft By-Laws for the Sacramento Guard. The committee on August first, returned the following which were approved by the company:
The first election of officers for the Sacramento Guard was held on August 11, 1855. Henry Meredith was unanimously elected Captain and D. S. Woodward, First Lieutenant. The uniform selected by the men is described as follows: A dark blue dress coat, collar trimmed with gold lace, and corded with buff, the shirt and sleeves were trimmed with the same material. The coat was double breasted with double rows of buttons, and white epaulets. The trousers were the same color as the coat with stripes of gold lace and corded with buff. The caps were bell-shaped, trimmed with white braid, and had as an emblem the rising sun with an eagle of silver inserted. A white plume tipped with blue to match the coat. completed the cap. The cross belts were of white patent leather and on the belt connecting with the bayonet was a plain white brass breast-plate. A black patent leather waist belt completed the uniform.
The Sacramento Guard on May 10, 1856, acted as an escort and guard when Ah Chung, a Chinese immigrant, was taken from the prison brig to the site of his execution on the gallows near Fort Sutter. The man was put to death for the murder of a countrywoman, Ah Lei. The Sacramento Guard took their places around the wagon in which the condemned man was being taken to the scene of his death. More than 1,000 persons accompanied the group to the gallows' site.
On May 12, 1856, about thirty members of the Sacramento Guard went on a pleasure excursion to Folsom. The company assembled at their armory in full uniform under the command of Captain Baker, accompanied by General Kibbe and Colonel Butler, and paraded to the railway station and then embarked by train to Folsom. After the company drills they were invited to be the guests of Paterson and Waters Hotel.
They left Folsom about 5:30 on their return trip to Sacramento and that evening held a party at the Orleans Hotel. The affair was one of the utmost festivity and with the Guardsmen resplendent in their uniforms and the ladies gowned to the minute, the day turned out to be memorable one for the Guard.
During the months of May and June 1856, there arose one of the most serious situations ever to confront the California Militia. It begun with the shooting and fatally wounding of James King by James P. Casey in San Francisco on Slay 14, 1858. The affair was one of the most sensational of its kind in the early history of San Francisco, and for days after the shooting the streets were a seething mass of turbulent humanity, held in check only by the militia companies and the Sheriff's deputies. The members of a dormant Vigilance Committee called a meeting and in addition to the hundreds of old members who attended, about 1,000 new members were a added to their enrollment.
King who was editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, and at that time known as the greatest crusading newspaperman in the State had published several very derogatory statements about a number of political henchmen, and friends of James Casey. Included in these statements was one to the effect that Casey had served a term in Sing Sing Prison, New York.
Casey visited King in the latter's office and demanded a retraction which King refused to make, ordering Casey to leave the office. When a little later King departed for his dinner, he was accosted by Casey on Montgomery Street, who there shot him without giving the editor an opportunity to defend himself. Casey was immediately arrested and hurriedly sent to jail. James King was a popular editor because of his courageous fight against corrupt politicians. Casey had been in prison but a short time when people began to assemble and discuss plans to lynch him. The militia prevented such an act from being carried out.
On Wednesday, May 21, 1856, one week after the shooting, James King succumbed to his wounds. Meanwhile, the Vigilantes had increased their ranks to 2,600 members, and divided into companies of one hundred each and were drilling day and night in preparation for a "clean-up" of all undesirables in the city. News of the death of King was followed by a visit to the City Jail by a large delegation of the Vigilance Committee headed by William Coleman, commander of the group, who demanded the surrender of Casey and Charles Cora, also charged with murder. The Sheriff held a consultation with the Mayor and Governor Johnson, who had gone to San Francisco shortly after the shooting, and it was decided to turn the prisoners over to the Vigilantes. Casey and Cora were tried before the Vigilance tribunal and convicted and hanged by the officers of the committee.
On June 2, 1856, Judge Terry issued a writ of Habeus Corpus for the release of a man named Mulligan who was being held by the Vigilance Committee. Judge Terry assigned an officer to serve the writ, but he was refused admittance to the committee rooms. This act of flaunting the law resulted in Governor Johnson issuing a Proclamation on June 4, 1850, declaring San Francisco in a "state of Insurrection", and ordering all militia companies to active duty.
On June 4, 1856, a. special meeting of the Sacramento Guard, was held. The object of the meeting- was to take into consideration the motion to disband as an alternative rather than leave for active duty in San Francisco as the company had been ordered to do by Governor Johnson. Upon balloting it was found that the company voted seventeen to one for disbanding which they did on June 4, 1856.