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:
1: The name and title of this company shall be the "Sacramento Guard", which shall not be changed except by a two-thirds vote of the company.
2: The company shall be organized and disciplined, as nearly as practicable, according to the regulations in the army of the United States.
3: The officers shall consist of a Captain, one First Lieutenant, two Second Lieutenants, one Third Lieutenant, four Sergeants and four Corporals.
4: The civil officers shall consist of a Secretary and Treasurer.
5: The election of officers shall be annual, at the stated meetings in August at which time shall be elected a Surgeon. All officers to be elected by ballot, and a majority of all the votes present shall be necessary to a choice. In case of a vacancy in any office the same shall be filled by election until the next annual election.
6: All applications for membership must be made through an active member, notice being given at a previous meeting. Every person so elected shall, before being allowed to exercise any of the privileges of a member, sign the By-Laws and pay the initiation fee, which shall be $2.50; and no person shall be eligible to membership who is not five feet three inches in height.
7: Any person on being elected who may neglect coming forward to sign the By-Laws and equip himself within one month, unless prevented by sickness or absence from the city, shall not be considered a member.
8: Every member shall contribute monthly the sum of one dollar, payable at the stated meeting; and any member who shall suffer his arrears to exceed five dollars, and refuse or neglect to pay the same within thirty days after having received a notice thereof from the Secretary accompanied with a copy of the Section, shall be liable to expulsion.
9: Any member who shall absent himself, without a reasonable excuse from three successive stated meetings, or six successive drills, or one parade, will be liable to expulsion unless absent on a furlough granted by the commanding officer.
10: The election of members shall be by ballot; any candidate, who shall receive less than three black balls shall be elected a member of the company. The ballot box shall be passed, by a non-commissioned officer, to each member present, and the chairman of the meeting shall declare the result.
11: No resignation of a member shall be accepted unless the application be clear of all demands against him in the books of the company, and he presents a certificate from the First Sergeant that all property belonging to the company held by him has been returned in as good condition as when received all reasonable wear excepted.
12: No member shall be expelled without having an opportunity of defending himself, and without the concurrence of two-thirds present, and when expelled cannot be reinstated but by the unanimous consent of those present.
13: The members of the company shall transact all ordinary business relating to the company, and a majority of the active members present shall decide upon all measures not otherwise expressly provided for, except when in actual service.
14: Assessment may be made, at any time by a majority of a quorum at a stated or special meeting of the company.
15: The stated meetings of the company shall be held on the first Saturday evening of each month.
16: One-fourth of the active members of the company, assembled at the time and place of meeting, shall constitute a quorum, and in all transactions not otherwise directed a majority of those present shall govern.
17: The commanding officer may call a special meeting at any time, and he shall also at the request of six active members call a special meeting of the company, due notice being given as hereinafter provided.
18: At each stated monthly meeting the Secretary shall collect the monthly dues and fines for the preceding month, and shall pay the same over to the Treasurer.
19: The Senior officer present shall preside at the meetings of the company. He shall put all questions when seconded to vote, and have power to fine any member for disorderly conduct during a meeting, in a sum not exceeding five dollars. An appeal, however, may be made to the company.
20: The Chairman in the determination of questions at a meeting,shall have only a casting vote except when a concurrence of two-thirds is necessary on a call of ayes and noes, or on a call for a division.
21: Any member wishing to speak during time of meeting shall rise and address the chair, and shall not be interrupted except by a call to order from the Chairman.
22: No member shall be allowed to speak more than twice on one subject unless to explain, without permission from the Chairman.
23: In case a quorum shall not be assembled within half an hour after the time appointed, the absentees being noted, those present may adjourn.
24: The order of business shall be as follows, viz:
1st Roll call.
2nd Minutes of preceding meeting read.
3rd Election of members.
4th Reports of committees, and considerations of resolutions attached.
5th Collection of dues.
6th Deferred business.
7th New business.
8th Roll call.
25: Any member who shall leave a meeting during, its session without the permission of the Chairman shall be fined three dollars.
26: The Secretary shall keep a correct roll of the members, which at the appointed time of meeting, he shall call over, noting therein the absentees, a list of which he shall hand to the Treasurer within twenty four hours after the meeting. He shall keep regular minutes of the proceedings of the meetings of the compare, which shall be open to the inspection of any member when required, and shall execute such other writing as the company may direct.
27: He shall within six days after the election of every member, inform him officially thereof, and notify every committee through their Chairman of their appointment within three days thereof, and transmit him any papers or documents that may be necessary for the transaction of the business referred to them. He shall carefully preserve all books, papers, and other documents which may be entrusted to him.
28: He shall file all notices for parades or drill, and have them delivered to the noncommissioned officers as soon as practicable. He shall keep correct minutes of all orders and parades of the company. He shall keep a correct roll of all the parade members and their place of residence, which shall be divided as regularly as possible among the non-commissioned officers for the delivery of notices.
29: The Secretary shall not lend any papers, books, or documents belonging to the company without permission of the commanding officer.
30: He shall cause notices to be published at least twenty-four hours previous to the time of each meeting, designating those at which elections for officers are to be held, or amendments to the By-Laws acted on.
31: The Orderly Sergeant shall form the company for drills and parades, when he shall call the roll of all the active members, noting thereon all the absentees, a list of whom he shall hand to the Secretary within three days after said drill or parade.
32: The Orderly Sergeant shall cause notices to be published at least twenty-four hours previous to each parade.
33: He shall issue a written notice to each active member who absents himself during the times specified in Section 9 of these By Laws, accompanied with d copy of the Section, and report the same to the Company.
34: He shall cause to have placed conspicuously in the armory a muster roll of the active members, and their rank when in service.
35: In the absence or inability of the Orderly Sergeant to perform any of the duties incumbent upon him, the Sergeant next in rank shall perform all said duties, and for this purpose each Sergeant shall, at all times, be provided with a copy of the roll. Any Sergeant failing in this respect when required to call the roll, shall be subject to a fine of five dollars, which fine he shall report within twenty-four hours to the Secretary.
36: The Treasurer shall receive in trust all money due or payable to the company, and pay all orders that have been signed by the commanding officer.
37: He shall keep his account in such a manner that the funds of the company at anytime may be ascertained, and at the stated meetings in August and February, present the company an accurate account of all money received and paid by him.
38: He shall, if unable to attend a meeting cause the necessary books and papers to be conveyed thereto.
39: At the stated meeting once in six months, dating from August, there shall be a Court Martial constituted consisting of one commissioned officer, one non-commissioned officer and three privates, for the trial of delinquents. They shall be elected by a vote of the company at said meetings, and shall have power to punish delinquents by expulsion or suspension from rank, and their decision shall be final unless upon appeal to the company it be reversed by a vote of at least two-thirds of all the active members present.
40: No person shall be eligible as a non commissioned officer at any election who has rendered himself liable to be Court Martialled at any time within three months previous to such election.
41: The commanding officer of the company, at drill or parade or any military duty, may place any member of the company under arrest whenever he shall deem the discipline of the corps to require it.
42: No alteration or amendment shall be made in the By-Laws unless proposed in writing at a stated meeting, which shall then be laid over for one month and require the concurrence of two-thirds of those present at the meeting at which it shall be acted upon, and can only be suspended by the unanimous vote of those present.
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.