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California State Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Wallace Guard

Official or Other Designations: Wallace Guard, Second Brigade

Location: San Francisco, San Francisco County

Mustered in: July 28, 1855

Commanding Officers

Charles E. S. McDonald, Captain, Elected July 28, 1855
R. J. McDonald, First Lieutenant, Elected July 28, 1855
Robert Munro, First Lieutenant, Elected September 26, 1855
 
Robert Munro, Captain, Elected October 3, 1856
William T. Ross, First Lieutenant, Elected October 3, 1856

Robert Munro, Captain Date of Rank:August 28, 1863; Commissioned September 29, 1863,
Charles D. Wallace, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank:August 28, 1863; Commissioned September 29, 1863,


History


Under date of August 2, 1855, Captain-elect Charles E. S. McDonald wrote a letter to Adjutant General Kibbe certifying that all particulars of the law having been complied with, he wished to be commissioned as Captain of the Wallace Guard R. J. McDonald was duly elected First Lieutenant. Thus began the history of the Wallace Guard, which, while short, was eventful.

Among the first public appearances of this company was at the military display given in honor of the Inauguration of Governor J. Neely Johnson in Sacramento, January 1856. Those included in the assemblage were the City Guard, Marion Rifles, Wallace Guard, California Guard, San Francisco Blues, Sarsfield Guard, and the National Lancers of San Francisco. The Sacramento contingent was composed of the Sutter Rifles and the Sacramento Guard. Several parades were held and outstanding among the troops and winning the plaudits of the spectators, was the Wallace Guard, their Highland costumes giving them an unusually picturesque appearance. The guardsman were guests at several social functions, the local companies providing much of the entertainment. The following day, the troops were assembled for dress parade an! wore reviewed by Governor Bigler, Adjutant General Kibbe, General John A. Sutter, and other dignitaries. That afternoon the militia paraded to the governor-elect 's home on F Street and escorted him to the State Capitol where he took the oath of office.(1)

A few months later these companies were destined to refuse to take arms and fire on their fellow citizens when a Proclamation was issued by Governor Johnson on June 3, 1856, declaring that a "state of Insurrection" existed in.the City of San Francisco and ordering all military companies to report to Major General William T. Sherman for further instructions.

This Proclamation was the result of the shooting of James King, editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, by James P. Casey, his arch enemy and reputed leader of the lawless element that had dominated the San Francisco area. The shooting took place on May 15, 1856, and caused much excitement. After an all night watch at the jail by the National Guard, to prevent mob violence against Casey, the militia was dismissed next morning. Evidently the time was at hand when an outraged citizenry through the organization of the Vigilance Committee. decided to "clean-up" the city and break the power and influence of the lawless element. The peculiar situation existing was that awhile one could not approve of any group taking the law in their hands, yet all agreed that the purpose sought after was right; that political corruption should be wiped out and that civil authorities had failed to mete out justice. The organized militia companies were placed in an.embarrassing position, having to choose between upholding the constituted authorities and shooting down their fellow citizens, or be guided by their sympathies and take no active. part therein.(2)

The manner in which the Wallace Guard.. met that situation can best be explained by the letter of resignation of Captain C. H. S. McDonald to Lieutenant Colonel J. R. West on June 9, 1856, as follows:

"My company met today and disbanded. We feel a great delicacy in attacking our best citizens, however, far in error they may be. Under all the circumstances I hereby most respect fully tender you my resignation as Captain of Company D, First Infantry. "

When the Vigilantes took possession of the arms of the Wallace Guard, Captain McDonald, true to the ethics of his calling as an officer of the State Militia, demanded that the arms thus seized be returned. What methods of persuasion he used were not made known, but his demand was complied with without much ado.

For some unknown reason, perhaps they were reorganized, the Wallace Guard was not disbanded, as when the celebration of the finishing of the laying of the Atlantic Cable in September 1858 was held, this company was one of the eight companies that took part in the event.(3)

The activities of the Wallace Guard, however, were not always marred by critical situations and unpleasant duties, for the unit was noted for the elaborateness of its social activities. One of its outstanding accomplishments was the staging of a grand ball given in the spacious and, at that time, exclusive International Hotel. The event was attended by the social elite of San Francisco, and here again the Highland costumes of the hosts offered a sharp contrast to the more orthodox garb of the members of other military companies that attended as guests.

The letters and correspondence of the Wallace Guard are very few and the only record of the disbanding of this company was found in the Adjutant General's Report of 1860, which stated that the company had been disbanded, giving no date. The Report further remarked that no arms or equipment had been returned to the State Arsenal.


Footnotes

(1) Sacramento Union, January 9, 1856, Page 2, Column 1.

(2) San Francisco Daily Herald, May 16, 1856, Page 2, Column 2.

(3) San Francisco Daily Herald, September 28, 1858, Page 2, Column 2.


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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