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Sarsfield Grenadier Guards
 
Captain W. H. Ashton, Jr. and the ceremonial guard of the Sarsfield Grenadier Guards, circa 1870

The Sarsfield Grenadier Guard

By Private Oscar R. Fones
Company B, 184th Infantry

The following article was originally published in the March 1939 issue of California Guardsman

July 29, 1870, in Sacramento, there was mustered into service an organization that was destined to give to the present-day 184th Infantry Regiment one of the symbols on its regimental crest, the battle axe that appears in the upper left corner. This organization was the Sarsfield Grenadier Guard.

Today the same organization flourishes in Sacramento under the leadership of Capt. Royal G. Brooke as Company B of the184th Infantry, California National Guard, although the heavy axes that were once symbolic of the company are now semi-forgotten relics in the capital armory.

The Sarsfield Grenadier Guard was mustered into service as a part of the National Guard of California at the hall of the Knickerbocker Engine Company with Maj. W. A. Anderson presiding. The number of men sworn in was thirty-three. After this had been concluded Capt. Joseph Davis, Light Artillery, took the chair and presided at the election of officers.

The first officers of the organization were Capt. W. H. Ashton, Jr., 1st Lt. Charles Brady, and 2d Lt. Thomas Nolan.

The company, with the invited guests, then adjourned to the lower hall, where a table had been spread with refreshments. Here good feeling and mirth prevailed to the fullest extent. In keeping with the custom of the day, toasts were drunk to the President of the United States, the Bar, the guests of the evening, the Sarsfield Guard, the National Guard of California, the Ladies, Liberty, the Governor of California, the Old Guard of California, and the early settlers. These toasts were followed by songs and speeches.

The following quotation is from the Sacramento Bee Newspaper of July 30, 1870:

"It is safe to say that the Sarsfield Grenadier Guards will make one of the finest companies in the state. The men are finely formed, athletic fellows, and are well officered. Success to them."

The Sarsfield Grenadier Guard went to work in earnest immediately, in spite of the fact that the men had no uniforms and had difficulty in getting their equipment and a hall to use as an armory.

The following paragraph appeared in the Sacramento Bee of August 14, 1870:

"The following persons have been appointed as non comissioned officers of the Sarsfield Guard: 1st Sgt. C. V. Kellogg; 2d Sgt. Terrence McMahon; 3d Sgt. John Donovan; 4th Sgt. James Dil lon; Color Guard-Sergeant, P. Ford; Corps. J. Domingos, Andrew Black, Joseph Breen, John Ireland, and Henry Johnson. Dr. J. Tomasi has been appointed medical advisor of the company."

The first armory was a room in the Agricultural Hall, but October 25, 1870, the company was given a room in the basement of the Pavilion.

Captain Ashton was commanding officer for only a short time. He left the state the same year and was compelled to resign his command. Henry C. Johnson was elected to be his successor. He in turn was succeeded by Capt. Henry Lewis March 16, 1871.

As was the custom in the Guard even into the twentieth century, commissioned officers of the Sarsfield Grenadier Guard were elected by popular vote of the men of the unit. It is recorded of this organization, however, that the members always attempted to select the men best qualified for the positions of command.

May 19, 1871, the Sarsfield Grenadiers presented a gold medal to the St. Augustine Cadets of Benicia as a token of friendship. This medal was a wreath encircling a Cadet and Grenadier at `present arms'. The medal was a very beautiful piece of workmanship and was valued at $75.

One of the first and best loved officers of the Sarsfield Grenadier Guard was Capt. T. W. Sheehan. Captain Sheehan was a native of Maine. When the Civil War broke out he ran away from home to enlist. Even though he was under age he saw active service, being stationed at Fort Sumpter.

Following the war he came to Cal ifornia and was active in military life. He rose through the ranks from private in the Civil War to brigadier general in 1890. While a colonel in Sacramento he decided to retire, but he was begged to remain in the serv ice. The entire regiment marched from the armory to his home, where the band serenaded him. He was presented with two handsome bronze statues of the 'Crusader and the Saracen', while Mrs. Sheehan received three sets of very beautiful china.

In 1880, while still a captain, this early commanding officer of the Sarsfield Guard was presented with some very handsome silver serving dishes by his friends and the members of his company. This silverware, incidentally, is still in use by the captain's daughter, Miss Rose Sheehan, who is prominent in legal circles in Sacramento.

Still further evidence of the esteem with which Gen. Sheehan was regarded is seen in the fact that the camp at Santa Cruz attended by the Grenadiers was called Camp Sheehan.

February 19, 1872, the Sarsfield Grenadier Guard was attached to the 4th Regiment of Infantry, 4th Brigade, and was designated as Company G. Five years later, March 31, 1877, the 4th Infantry was disbanded, and the Sarsfield Guard was attached to the 1st Infantry Battalion, 4th Brigade, National Guard of California.

The Sarsfield Guard and other companies were formed into an artillery regiment March 19, 1880, and were designated as the 1st Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade.

As part of this regiment its members participated in many events, among which were paying homage to President Garfield at his death September 19, 1881, and at the death of Vice-President Hendricks in December of 1885. They were also an escort for President Harrison's visit to Sacramento in 1891. Acting as escort to the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Day, 1892, was one of the last events in which the Sarsfield Grenadier Guard took part as a component of the 1st Artillery Regiment.

July 1, 1893, the designation of the unit was changed from Battery G, 1st Artillery Regiment, to Company G, 2d Brigade. At this time the company met only once a month. During this period of its history the company members were active in the railroad strike of 1894.

The number of brigades in the state was reduced December 7, 1895, to three, thereby eliminating the 4th Brigade. Company G, as a unit of this brigade, was accordingly redesignated Company G, 11th Battalion, 3d Brigade. Two days later, December 9, 1895, General Order No. 18 was issued organizing the battalions into regiments, and Company G, 11th Infantry Battalion, 3d Brigade, under this ruling became Company G, 2d Infantry, 3d Brigade.

It was with the last named designation that the company saw active duty in San Francisco at the time of the disastrous earthquake and fire, the period of this public service extending from April 20 to May 19, 1906.

June 27, 1916, still as Company G, 2d Infantry, the company was mustered into federal service for duty on the Mexican Border. Less than a year later, April 9, 1917, the unit was again called to the national colors for World War service. At the close of the World War the regiment was demobilized.

Following the World War the Sarsfield Genadier Guard was reorganized and was called the 5th Separate Company, later being redesignated Company B, 1st Separate Battalion of Infantry, July 22, 1919.

Soon came the formation of other units and regiments of the National Guard in California, and October 1, 1921, the company was redesignated Company G, 159th Infantry. Following only three years later was the organization of the 184th Infantry. At this time the company changed its regimental designation but retained its title of `Company G'. The next year, however, September 30, 1925, Company G became Headquarters Company of the 184th Infantry. Bringing the history of the organization up to the present day was the final redesignation, that from Headquarters Company to Company B, which took place November 16, 1936.

The oldest known surviving member of the Sarsfield Grenadier Guard is Michael Holland, now eighty-five years of age, who lives in Sacramento in retirement. Holland has a, retentive memory and recalls many interesting and amusing facts concerning the Sarsfield Guard.

Holland, served with the Guard fifteen years as a private. He was unable to accept the many ratings that were offered him because of business interference. He operated a dairy and therefore could not attend drills regularly. He was considered a valuable addition to the company personnel, however, and his necessary absences from drill were excused.

During Holland's time in the Guard, the men were not paid for their services at regular drills or for the summer encampment. They were paid on some occasions when they were called out to suppress trouble or to preserve order.

The discipline of the Sarsfield Guard was very rigid, according to Holland, and there were few infractions of the regulations. Offenders were given sentences to be served in the guardhouse.

The Guardsmen were given eight days' encampment at Camp Sheehan, Santa Cruz, or at another camp near Grass Valley, where they were trained in military drills and tactics. These camps were tent camps, and meals were furnished by Pete Flaerty, manager of the old Wilton Hotel, who had a contract to feed the men. The mess hall was known as `Flaerty's Boarding House', and there were many jokes and comic songs about it.

As part of their training the Guardsmen had sham battles at night.

The heavy battle axes were used entirely for ceremonial purposes and had no place in the regular training schedule of the company. In parades they were carried by four specially selected men in the forefront of the company. These men, Gillis, Mike Brite, Mose Drew and another Guardsman whose name Holland does not recall, ranged in height from six feet four to six feet six inches and always made a spectacular appearance in their tall white hats as they led the company along the line of march.

The Sarsfield Grenadier Guard always paraded the Fourth of July over K Street's hot cobblestones, the men under full packs. The uniform was very striking as well as neat. The coat was dark blue with red trimmings. The trousers were sky blue with a red stripe and yellow trimming. The cap, of the McClellan type, was dark blue with red and gold trim.

During Holland's service with the unit , the Guardsmen boasted an excellent rifle team, of which Holland himself was an outstanding member. He usually shot a score of 409 x 500. He believes a six-inch bull's-eye was used, although he is not sure on this point. Training was carried on at a range of 200 yards, using a .45 caliber rifle.

And, although the original members have passed on, the original name of the company is now only a matter of history, and the symbolic battle axes are only relics out of the past, the Sarsfield Grenadier Guard lives on in Sacramento today in Company B of the 184th Infantry, an excellent personnel ably led by Capt. Royal G. Brooke.
Patrick Sarsfield

When the Sarsfield Grenadier Guard was organized in Sacramento most of the members were Irish by birth or extraction. This being the case, it was only natural that, in selecting a name for the company, they turn to an illustrious figure in Irish history. And so it was.

Patrick Sarsfield, the titular Earl of Lucon, Irish Jacobite and soldier, and member of an Anglo-Norman family long settled in Ireland-entered Dongan's regi ment of foot in 1678 and during the last years of Charles II served in the English regiments which were attached to the army of Louis XIV of France.

He served with distinction under King James. In 1689 he secured Connaught for James and was promoted to brigadier and then to major general. He gained popularity with the Irish by capturing a convoy of military stores near Tipperary, thus delaying an English seige.

Sarsfield later went to France, where he received a commission as lieutenant general (marschal de camp) from King Louis XIV and fought with distinction in Flanders until he was mortally wounded at the battle of Landen, August 19, 1693. He died at Huy several days after the battle.


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