Historic California Militia and National Guard Units
Ellsworth Guard Zouaves
(Pioneer Zouaves)
Military Unit Designation: Ellsworth Guard Zouaves, Company C, 1st Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade, California Militia
Date of Organization: 24 January 1862
Date of Disbanding: 12 July 1866
Inclusive dates of units papers: 1861-1866
Geographical Location or Locations: San Francisco City and County.

Papers on file at the California State Archives:
Commanding Officers

John T. Hill, Captain: Elected 25 January 1862, commissioned 24 February 1862, resigned 29 May 1862
W. H. Lentz First Lieutenant: Elected 25 January 1862
Harvey Lake, Captain: 18 June 1862, commissioned 3 July 1862, reelected 7 January 1863
George Birdsall, First Lieutenant: Elected 6 January 1863, commissioned 14 January 1863

George Birdsall, Captain: Elected 20 July 1864, commissioned 15 August 1864, resigned 10 November 1864.
John Middleton, First Lieutenant: Elected 20 July 1864, commissioned 15 August 1864.

Charles McMillan, Captain: Elected 11 November 1864, commissioned 15 November 1865, reelected 15 January 1865, resigned 38 September 1865.
John Middleton, First Lieutenant: Reelected 12 January 1865.
Hampton Hutton, Captain: 28 September 1865, commissioned 6 November 1865, reelected 5 January 1866.
Richard G. Robinson, First Lieutenant: 4 January 1866, commissioned 6 January 1866.

Official History:

On January 13 , 1862, County Judge M. C. Blake appointed Lieutenant Colonel J. W. McKenzie to open a book and enter the names of persons subject to military duty desiring to form a militia company. 53 members enrolled and formed themselves into a volunteer military company called the Ellsworth Guard Zouaves. Captain John T. Hill and W. H. Lentz , First Lieutenant were elected as comrnanding officers.

Due to a shortage of arms Captain Lake was forced to borrow the necessary equipment for a time from two companies, Company A, Union Guard, Captain Gorham; and Company E, Franklin Light Guard, Captain McComb. Later Captain Lake filed the proper Bond and received 35 muskets and the necessary equipment from the same two companies, as these units decided to move to different armories. After a few months the unit exchanged their old arms and equipment for new.

This company participated in an encampment at Encinal, Alameda known as Camp Allen. It was the largest encampment during the year, and although the majority of the troops present were inexperienced, the men made rapid progress in acquiring a knowledge of elementary military science, and of the duties of camp life. Aside from the military drills and parade routines of annual and special occasions, no further activities were recorded concerning the Ellsworth Guard Zouaves except that the company changed its name to the Pioneer Zouaves on September 26, 1865. [1]

However , in the Adjutant General's Report 1865-1857, the company was still officially recognized as the Ellsworth Guard Zouaves. Under a new Military Law of 1866, it was decided to reduce the existent, force of the State Militia, and this company with many others was mustered out of the State service, July 12, 1866.[2]

1. Daily Alta California, September 26, 1865, page l, column 1.
2. Historical Record, Second Brigade 1851-1868, page 45.
This history was completed in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the California National Guard and the California State Library.
Colonel Elmer Ellsworth:
Prior to his becoming the first conspicuous casualty of the Civil War, Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth led a short but interesting life. During his 24 years, he was a lawyer, a colonel, and a close friend of President Abraham Lincoln, whom he met in Springfield, Illinois after moving there to work in Lincoln's office and who he followed to Washington.
With an interest in military science that began well before the start of the Civil War - he would have gone to the U.S. Military Academy if he could have afforded it - Ellsworth responded enthusiastically to Lincoln's 1861 call for troops by raising of the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry, which he dressed in distinctive Zouave-style uniforms, fashioned after those worn by French colonial troops.
Ironically, perhaps, for all of his drills and militia training, Ellsworth's death came not in a battle, but instead inside the long-demolished Marshall House hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. The building's owner had a raised a large Confederate flag from its roof, which was visible from the White House. Offering to retrieve the flag for the president, Ellsworth led his 11th New York across the Potomac River and into Alexandria. Ellsworth succeeded in removing the flag, but as he descended the stairs from the building's roof, the hotel's owner, James W. Jackson, shot and killed Ellsworth with a single shotgun blast to the chest.
Lincoln had the body of Ellsworth, whom he called "the greatest little man I ever met," laid in state at the White House before it was taken to his home state of New York for burial. His memory lived on throughout the war as "Remember Ellsworth" became a rallying cry for supporters of the Union, regiments were named in his honor and artifacts related to his death became popular souvenirs.
Source: National Park Service
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Updated 8 February 2016