California Militia and National
Guard Unit Histories
Military Unit Designation:
Benicia Guard, Company
G, 2nd Brigade, California Militia (CM)
After the Fall of 1862,
Sarsfield Guard, Company G, 2nd Brigade, CM
Date of Organization: 21 June 1862 Date of Disbanding: 16 August 1866 Inclusive dates of units papers at State Archives: 1862-1866 Geographical Location or Locations: Hayward, Alameda County
Unit papers on file
at the California State Archives:
a. Organization Papers 4 documents (1862)
b. Bonds 1 document (1862)
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 22 documents (1862-1864)
d. Election Returns 6 documents (1862-1865)
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 6 documents (1862-1866)
g. Oaths Qualifications 6 documents (1862-1863)
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices 4 documents (1862-1863)
j. Requisitions 2 documents (1862)
k. Resignations 3 documents (1863)
l. Target Practice Reports none
T. G. McDonald, Captain:
Elected June 21, 1862, commissioned July 8, 1862, Resigned December
B. G. McGee, First Lieutenant: Elected June 21, 1862, commissioned
July 8, 1862, Resigned 1862.
Laurence J. Ryan, Captain: Elected May 16, 1863, commissioned
July 16, 1863, resigned October 21, 1863
Michael · Egan, First Lieutenant: Elected May 16, 1863,
commissioned July 16, 1863
James Barry, Captain:
Elected May 21, 1864; commissioned June 7, 1864; reelected April
John Ryan, First Lieutenant: Elected May 21, 1864; commissioned
June 7, 1864; reelected April 27, 1865.
Fifty-four citizens signed
the call for the formation of a military Company and on June
21, 1862, the Benicia Guard, Benicia, Solano County, was organized.
T. G. McDonald was elected Captain and B. G. McGee, First Lieutenant.
Late in the Fall of 1862, the company changed its name to the
Although the bond was approved and the requisition for arms sent
to Brigadier General Ellis, the Benicia Guard did not receive
their arms and accoutrements until August 1863. This delay was
undoubtedly responsible for the company's listless attitude in
connection with military activities later on. Before Captain
McDonald's resignation, December 1862, he expressed the fear
that the members would become discouraged and resign from the
company if the unit was not adequately equipped. A special election
was called May 16, 1863, to elect officers to fill the vacancies
due to the resignations of Captain McDonald and First Lieutenant
McGee. Laurence J. Ryan was elected Captain and M. Egan, First
At the time the Sarsfield
Guard was organized the nation was engaged in the War of the
Rebellion and reports of sedition among the members of the company
were first made known to General Kibbe by the Sheriff of Solano
County. The Sheriff stated that the company's rank had dwindled
down to ten men and these were suspected of disloyalty to the
Union cause, and in view of such circumstances suggested the
company's arms be recalled.
On the strength of Brigadier-General Ellis' Report, November
19, 1863, which confirmed the Sheriff's statement that the Sarsfield
Guard was a useless and an inefficient unit, a Conditional Order
of disbandment was given .that the corps be mustered out of service
of the State, January 21, 1864.
Evidently the Sheriff's charges of inefficiency aroused the company
to such an extent that they elected James Barry as their new
Captain and John Ryan as Lieutenant, proceeded to drill and prove
that they were not as useless as the Sheriff intimated. Captain
Barry and Lieutenant Ryan were reelected in 1865. The unit continued
in existence until the sweeping reorganization law of 1866. This
resulted in the mustering out of many militia companies that
while they were efficient, were not located geographically to
fit into the new plans of the Board of Location and Organization.
It was decided that the Sarsfield Guard was not necessary for
defense purposes, and therefore, the company was mustered out
of the State service August 15, 1866.
was completed in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA)
in conjunction with the California National Guard and the California
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
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 regiment 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.
vs. secessionists: Battle between states mostly a war of words
By Ian Thompson
SUISUN CITY The Civil War in Solano
County was a war of verbal recrimination between Union supporters
and secessionists that only occasionally spilled over into arson
Much of that sparring occurred between
Union papers such as The Solano Press of Suisun City and
secessionist papers such as the Banner of Liberty in Silveyville,
Surviving newspapers from then show a
county that largely continued to go about its business while
the war raged in the east.
Letters from Solano County residents who
went east to join the military, social events and drilling of
local militias, and accusations between those local leaders who
supported the Union and those who didnt fill the papers.
By 1863, several Solano County residents
had made their way east to fight as part of Company L, 2nd Massachusetts
Cavalry, which was part of the Norths Army of the Potomac.
Letters back home were published in the paper, usually starting
with the notation all the Suisun boys are well.
At that time, the unit was stationed around
Centreville, Va., and dealing with the depredations of the Confederate
guerillas commanded by Col. John Mosby.
John McKinney (of Suisun City) was
slightly wounded in the back of the head by a pistol shot while
bringing in horses, one letter said.
The first California man to be drafted
in the Civil War was John Hutchinson of Suisun City, who got
a letter in late July telling him to report for duty to Portland,
Maine, by Aug. 10.
Maine is a good Union state, but
she must be hard up for soldiers to send 3,000 miles away for
men who have been citizens of California for over three years,
The Solano Press reported. Local political figures had no problem
declaring themselves patriots defending the Union while slandering
their opponents as secessionists and copperheads. Copperheads
were Northerners who supported a negotiated end to the war.
Napa, Vallejo and Green Valley were particularly
singled out for printed abuse.
In one August 1863 editorial, The Solano
Press warned Union men to be prepared against possible rebellion
by secessionists who have not the slightest hope of carrying
The traitors are speaking to rouse
the Copperheads to resistance of legal authorities and involve
the state in war and blood. It is a stated fact all or nearly
all the rifles that have been sold for a year past in Suisun
and immediate vicinity have been sold to secessionists,
the paper warned.
It also stated that the traitors
are sorely troubled about the organization of a cavalry company
in this place.
That cavalry company was the Suisun Light
Dragoons, which numbered about 80 people and were armed with
40 rifles and 50 colt revolvers, according to another article.
It was one of a half-dozen such militias
that were sprinkled through the county from Maine Prairie to
Vallejo. The militias were pro-Union, but some members were suspected
of having secessionist sympathies.
The Vacaville Rifle Company met and held
regular drill under Frank Drake, their captain. The Vallejo
Rifle Company and the McClellan Guard called Vallejo home,
while the Sarsfield Guard was located in Benicia.
Most of their activities involved weekly
drills and organizing an ongoing series of balls and social events.
The Suisun Light Dragoons was described
as having a high military ambition and were a credit to
their officer, according to state militia reports listed
in a 1939 History of the California Militia.
The dragoons were disbanded after the
war in 1868, a move its commander, Capt. D. Ramsey, deeply resented.
When the order to disband came, Ramsey
simply left town without telling anyone about the orders to assemble
at the armory for mustering out. It took the second-in-command,
Lt. Gilbert Wright, to get the men together to bring in their
equipment and end the dragoons history on a good note.
Two other militias, the Sarsfield Guard
and the McClellan Guard, were suspected of disloyalty.
The Solano County sheriff wrote in 1863
that the McClellan Guard had dwindled to 18 men and was suspected
of being disloyal to the Union. That didnt keep the
small unit from drilling for the next three years.
The Union League of Vallejo accused the
McClellan Guard of disloyalty in 1863 and in 1864, saying arming
the unit would be a serious mistake and detrimental to
the Union cause. By October 1864, the state militia commander
ordered the unit disbanded and its weapons collected, a difficult
task because the weapons were in private homes scattered across
the county. Union men and secessionists werent ones to
keep their feelings to themselves.
One Dixon paper carried the news about
a fight on Christmas Day between a Union-supporting Suisun City
man and a Silveyville local known as Secesh Smith, who verbally
rounded on the Suisun City man.
Not getting a reaction, Smith armed himself
with an ax only to be hammered to the ground by the Unionist,
who kicked him several times for good measure, according to the
article. The office of Silveyvilles secessionist newspaper,
the Banner of Liberty, was broken into and type stolen
at least once during the war.
One of the owners, publisher William Pierce,
and his son Joe Pierce assaulted Dr. J.C. Ogburn (a strong Union
man) in 1862, nearing killing him before fleeing the area. They
were captured two years later.
The divide between the Union and Southern
rights split the congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church
in Rockville before the Civil War.
The minister was a staunch advocate for
the South and he was driven out of town. By 1863, the pro-Union
portion of the congregation attended church in Fairfield and
the remaining congregation dwindled to almost nothing.
The Rockville church fared better than
other Methodist-Episcopal churches. The Southern-leaning one
in Dixon was burned to the ground.
The assassination of President Lincoln
on April 14, 1865, generated more violence in the county than
the war itself.
We hear it is reported that some
foolish individuals have even ventured to publicly rejoice at
the assassination of President Lincoln. Such damnable wretches
should have the benefit of a little judicious hanging,
The Solano Press reported.
Charles Ramsey and his sons may have been
some of those, and the Benicia Arsenal sent a detachment of mainly
Mexican-American soldiers to their Green Valley home to arrest
In the resulting heated verbal exchange
and gunfire, two soldiers were wounded, Ramsey and his family
were arrested and put in the military prison in Benicia only
to later be released and file suit for damages.
A man named Balaam Davis near the now-vanished
town of Maine Prairie voiced his joy and said Lincoln should
have been shot some time ago. He was arrested by the Maine Prairie
The towns justice forcibly administered
the oath of allegiance to Davis and then ordered him kicked into
the street, The Solano Press reported.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or email@example.com.
This article appeared in the
April 14, 2011 edition of the Fairfirld-Susuin Daily Republic
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