California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
California Rifles
Military Unit Designation: California Rifles, Company C, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, National Guard of California
Date of Organization: 27 July 1871
Date of Disbanding: 3 November 1871
Inclusive dates of units papers at State Archives: 1871
Geographical Location or Locations: San Francisco, San Francisco County.
Unit papers of file at the California State Archives:

a. Organization Papers none
b. Bonds none
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 4 documents (1871)
d. Election Returns 1 document (1871)
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 5 documents (1871)
g. Oaths Qualifications 1 document (1871)
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices none
j. Requisitions none
k. Resignations none
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none

Commanding Officers:

Charles C. O'Donnell, Captain: Elected 10 August 1871
P. Flood, First Lieutenant: Elected 10 August 1871
Official History:

The California Rifles was mustered into the service of the State on July 27, 1871. Charles C. O'Donnell was elected as Captain of the company and P. Flood as First Lieutenant. The unit was designated as Company C, Second Infantry Regiment, Second Brigade. It was unfortunate that the company elected Charles C. O'Donnell as their Captain, as his commission was withheld by the Commander-in-Chief, and O'Donnell refused to resign, thereby preventing the complete organization of the company.

The records show that Captain-elect O'Donnell was a licensed physician, who gained state-wide criticism because of illegal practices and was indicted by a Grand Jury, but the indictment was dismissed because of insufficient evidence. The military authorities believed that to commission O'Donnell might be construed that moral reputation did not enter in the final decisions regarding officers of the National Guard. Then again Dr. O'Donnell was in 1867, Captain of the
Sarsfield Guard, and was subjected to a Court of Inquiry, charging him with incompetency and conduct unbecoming an officer of the National Guard and a gentleman. The charge of incompetency involved the unnecessary expenditure of company funds; and the Captain's inability to properly drill or instruct the members of the company in military tactics. The second charge of conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman was that he, Captain O'Donnell, had on May 9, 1869, conducted himself in a disgraceful manner by ordering a detail of twelve men of his command to "fix bayonets", to take and hold possession of a gate to a public thoroughfare, thereby depriving citizens of their just right to pass through said gate, and that he, Captain Charles C. O'Donnell, at the same time drawing and brandishing his sword and declaring in a loud voice and boisterous manner that he'd "be damned if any person should go through that gate, unless they passed over his dead body".[1] His conduct brought ridicule and disreputable notice to the company he commanded in most of the newspapers in the city.

It is not surprising that the authorities refused to commission Dr. O'Donnell, and finally on November 3, 1871, the California Rifles were mustered out of service after a little over three months existence in the National Guard.
For further information refer to Sarsfield Guard, Company F, San Francisco 1868 .
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 23 June 2017