California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
San Bernardino Rangers
(San Bernardino Mountain Rangers, San Bernardino Mounted Rifles)

Other or Official Titles: San Bernardino Rangers, First Brigade (1)
Location: San Bernardino, San Bernardino County

Mustered in: January 12, 1856
Mustered out: 1862

Commanding Officers

Andrew Lytle, Captain, Elected January 12, 1856
M. L. Shepard, First Lieutenant, Elected January 12, 1856

George Whitman, Captain, Elected March 29, 1859
John S. Hill, First Lieutenant, Elected March 29, 1859

Clarence Bennett, Captain, Elected October 10, 1861; Commissioned October 26, 1861
George Whitman, First Lieutenant, Elected October 10, 1861; Commissioned October 26, 1861
Papers on file at the Californa State Archives:
a. Organization Papers 9 documents (1856-1861)
b. Bonds 2 documents (1856-1859)
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 9 documents (1857-1862)
d. Election Returns none
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 2 documents (1861)
g. Oaths Qualifications none
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices 5 documents (1860-1861)
j. Requisitions 2 documents (1860)
k. Resignations none
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none

Official History

During the years between 1850 and the close of he Civil War, the Southern part of the State of California was infested with roving bends of outlaws The civil authorities seemed unable to cope with the situation and in order to protect themselves from the continual depredations of these thieves, many volunteer militia companies were formed. On January 12, 1856, in San Bernardino, San Bernardino County, a volunteer militia unit known as the San Bernardino Rangers was organized and mustered into the service of the State under the command of Captain Andrew Lytle. The necessary Penal Bond of $1,500 was posted and the company's requisition for arms and accoutrements was sent to the Adjutant General's Office. However, the records show that the arms were never received by the unit. It is probable that the failure of this company to receive assistance from Headquarters caused their morale to weaken, and many members to withdraw from the organization. The San Bernardino Rangers during the year of 1858 was in a state of virtual disbandment.

On March 29, 1859, the unit was reorganized under the command of Captain George Whitman, and the name of the company changed to the San Bernardino Mountain Rangers. Although a new Bond was posted the company did not receive any arms from the State. On October 10, 1861, the company was again reorganized with Clarence Bennett as Captain. New Bonds were again filed with the County Judge and a new requisition for arms was sent to the Adjutant-General. The reorganized company received recognition and the request for arms was promptly filled.

With the outbreak of the Civil War the southern part of the State became a hotbed of Secessionists. Many of the volunteer militia companies disbanded when the members left the State to join the Southern Army. The Adjutant-General in his Report stated that the San Bernardino Rangers would be an important aid to the civil authorities in combating the lawless bands of Secessionists and desperadoes that infested that section. (2)

On April 1, 1862, Captain Bennett wishing to be absent from the County for a few months tendered his resignation to Governor Leland Stanford. In a letter accompanying his resignation, the Captain described the treasonable conditions that existed in the Southern part of the State. The officer related that a large number of miners had suddenly located in and near the Bear Valley mines in which he held an interest. The miners had planned a meeting, and the Captain sent a friend of his to see what mischief they were planning. The friend learned that most of the professed miners were Secessionists bent on murder and planning to pillage that region. The Captain drilled his company who were true to the Cause of the Union and made ready to make a stand against the rebels. However, the invaders were too many for one company alone. Therefore, the Captain communicated with General Sumner who sent four troops to help break up the Confederates' plans. This was accomplished without blood shed and most of the would be miners left the region of San Bernardino and joined the Southern Armies. The Secessionists were in the majority in the County of San Bernardino having triumphed at the last election, but the Union men were kept
busy running down horse thieves, most of whom were Secessionists (3)

It is assumed that after Captain Bennett resigned, many members of the San Bernardino Rangers left the company for various reasons and the unit was compelled to disband in 1862, as the Adjutant General's Report stated that no returns or reports of this company had been received.(4)


(1) In official correspondence from 1859 to 1860 this company is referred to as the San Bernardino Mounted Rifles.
(2) Adjutant General Report 1861, page 76.
(3) Letter to Governor Stanford by Captain Bennett, April 1, 1862.
(4) Adjutant General Report 1862, page 141.
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