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Siskiyou Guard

Official or other titles: Siskiyou Guard, Sixth Division, Second Brigade

Location: Humbug City, Siskiyou County

Mustered in: December 6, 1655
Reorganized: September 15, 1859 (1)

Commanding Officers

William Martin, Captain, Date of Rank: December 6, 1855
James B. Hollaway, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: December 6, 1855; Commissioned: December 6, 1855 (2)


Official History

One of the many prospecting parties that roamed the region of Humbug City on Humbug Creek in Siskiyou County found gold in the Creek as early as the month of May 1851. A short time later a prospecting party going over to the newly opened territory from Yreka met a disillusioned party of miners returning from the stream who said the place was a "humbug", but the third group of prospectors proved this was not so. Therefore, in deference to the opinion of the unlucky miners, the new location was named Humbug Creek and the settlement Humbug City. There was a great deal of mining excitement during the year of 1855 drawing large crowds to the district. (3)

The history of Indian difficulties in Siskiyou County was confined to the Shasta, Klamath River, and Modoc tribes, as the wars with the Pit River and Rogue River tribes were carried on beyond the county limits, although they were participated in by citizens of the county.(4) July 24, 1855, was the beginning of Indian difficulties in what was termed the Humbug War. Although the Indians did commit atrocious deeds, there were times when innocent ones paid with the death penalty for no other reason than that they had been born Indians, a misfortune that was fatal.(5)

General Cosby wrote to Governor J. Neely Johnson, setting forth the defenseless condition of the people who had only a Battalion of Generals, Majors, and Colonels to protect them, but no privates. (6) James B. Hollaway communicated with Brigadier-General D. D. Colton, commanding Sixth Division, Second Brigade, November 12, 1855, regarding the proper procedure for the organization of a volunteer company of riflemen at Humbug City. His letter was forwarded to Adjutant-General Kibbe and immediately thereafter, Major John D. Cosby, veteran of the Mexican War, was authorized to raise a force and so afford the people such protection as their needs required. Steps were taken to promote this military company as it eras deemed necessary not only to enable the settlers to be protected from the hostile Indians, but to maintain discipline among some of their own men. In moments of relaxation occasionally men imbibed too freely of the "tanglefoot" dispensed in the saloons, and allowed themselves to become part of a mob that created exhibitions of most unjustifiable and cruel treatment to the innocent Indians.

The first militia company of Siskiyou County was formed after Royal L. Westbrook, County Judge, gave permission on November 26, 1855, for the organizing of a volunteer company. He appointed A. M. Jones to enroll names in a book opened for that purpose, and set the day of Thursday, December 6, 1855, as the date for the organization meeting. At this meeting William Martin, who had been Captain over a volunteer company of sixty men who were in the Indian campaign of August 1855, was elected Captain and J. B. Hollaway, who was the instigator for the forming of this militia company, was elected First Lieutenant. The rank and file of the corps numbered seventy men. A resolution was also adopted at this meeting which contained: that the newly formed company be known and hailed as the Siskiyou Guard, that a committee of five be selected to draft a Constitution and By-Laws for government of said company, and that this corps would meet at the forks of Humbug Creek on the first Saturday of January 1856, at one o'clock P. M. to receive the report of the committee.

The Siskiyou Guard was bonded for three thousand dollars as a unit for their arms, but each man who was armed placed himself personally in bond for his own guns. When arms were issued to the corps, they received but forty stands in place of the seventy as requisitioned. Captain Martin communicated with Adjutant General Kibbe on June 16, 1856, regarding the deficiency of arms, as it was the desire of the Captain to have enough arms for each man in order to keep the ranks from diminishing. Some members had already dropped out, and as the Indians had killed eight men within the last fourteen days, it was necessary to keep up the membership to be ready if needed for active duty. The Captain also assured Adjutant General Kibbe that every effort would be exerted to see that the Sheriff of Siskiyou County performed his duty in collecting the commutation tax levied on citizens in lieu of performing military duty.

After the company had disbanded, Captain martin again communicated with General Kibbe, September 15, 1859, in an endeavor to have the bond canceled explaining to the General "That twenty guns had been forwarded to State Arsenal; six guns to pay for the one lost included in this number; six guns on hand without any boxes or belts; two guns were burned in cabins of members while the company was, in existence; two guns loaned to Joseph Rodgers in Pit River expedition during the Winter of 1856, who now says the guns were lost in the turning over of a canoe in Pit River; six guns never been able to get clue to, supposed to have been taken to Frazier River." The Adjutant General's reply to Captain Martin requested that sixteen rifles be paid for at fifteen dollars each, amounting to $240.00, and when the six unaccounted guns were found and returned, the money that had been paid for them would be refunded. The bond for these arms would be canceled upon settlement of the bill.

In August of 1856, the Siskiyou Guard was combined with two other volunteer companies, one from Hawkinsville under Captain Robert Williams and the other from Greenhorn under Captain Thomas Ballard, in order to check the Indian hostilities in the Tule Lake region. The whole force amounting to about 200 men furnished their horses and some of their own guns. Headquarters for the campaign were established at Clear Lake. While enroute to their destination one man, by the name of John Alban, familiarly known as "Greasy Jack", was killed by Indians from ambush and his gun was found broken beside his body. A detachment which went out from camp was waylaid by Indians and before they succeeded in extricating themselves from the ambuscade, Lieutenant H. H. Warmas was killed and several were wounded. (7)

One of the numerous expeditions against the hostiles was headed by General Cosby in person, who discovered signs of Indians on an island in Tule Lake. Captain Martin of the Siskiyou Guard took a detachment to investigate. On this venture all Indians escaped with the exception of one woman, who was killed by Private Riley while she was in the act of aiming an arrow at Captain Martin. This was the only known Indian to have been killed or wounded; yet reports were published "That enough warriors had been killed in the battle to have annihilated the tribes of Northern California; the 'millennium' of good Indians seemed to be at hand." During this campaign, one soldier was killed, Corporal John Bond, who was accidentally shot by a trooper named Madden.

After campaigning all fall Major Cosby and General Colton led their victorious volunteers back to Yreka without having secured immunity from future depredations. The net results of the three months campaign were a large bill of expenses and stacks of glory for the epauletted commanders at the cost of the death of three volunteers and one Indian woman. Major Cosby later became a member of the Senate, and presented a bill for the issuing of bonds to the amount of $200,000 to defray the expenses of this campaign, wherein 185 Indians were supposed to have been killed. A motion was made to reduce the sum to $100,000, but Senator Cosby delivered an effective speech ending with, "There are some men who have come from those fields maimed for life, some lie upon the fields now, and will never be removed. Some of them had wives and children, and if their services are worth anything let their children have it." The effect was electrical and the bill passed. Later the general government made an appropriation and those who held the proper vouchers received their money.

After the 1856 campaign, Siskiyou County was free of Indian troubles until the Modoc War of 1873. Volunteers from the county however, did participate in Indian difficulties in adjacent territories. (8)

Soon after the return of the Siskiyou Guard from the 1856 campaign, the company was disbanded, as the -work or which they had been organized was finished.


Footnotes

(1) Letter from Captain Martin, September 15, 1859, Yreka, to Adjutant General Kibbe on file Adjutant General's Office.

(2) Original commission on file Adjutant General's Office.

(3) History of Siskiyou County, California, D. J. Steward & Company, Oakland, 1881, page 209.

(4) History of Siskiyou County, California, D. J. Steward & Company, Oakland, 1881, page 120

(5) History of Siskiyou County, California, D. J. Steward & Company, Oakland, 1881, page 138

(6) History of Siskiyou County, California, D. J. Steward & Company, Oakland, 1881, page 141.

(7) Sacramento Union, August 11, 1856, page 1, column 7.

(8) History of Siskiyou County, California, D. J. Steward & Company, Oakland, 1881, page 141-144.


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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