Historic California Militia and National Guard Units
Ellsworth Rifles
 
 
Military Unit Designation: Ellsworth Rifles, Company K, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, California Militia (after 1866, National Guard of California)
Date of Organization: 22 October 1861
Date of Disbanding: 5 June 1872
Inclusive dates of units papers: 1861-1872
Geographical Location or Locations: City and County of San Francisco
Armory: 729 Market Street

Papers on file at the California State Archives:
 
Commanding Officers:
 
C. McDonald, Captain, Elected 22 October 1861, commissioned 24 October 1861, reelected 29 October 1862, resigned 11 May 1863
C. H. Williams, First Lieutenant: Elected 22 October 1861, commissioned 24 October 1861.
C. C. Keene, First Lieutenant: Elected 29 October 1862, commissioned 14 November 1862.
 
T. J. Dixon, Captain: Elected 18 May 1863, commissioned 12 June 1863.
Edward Newhoff: First Lieutenant: Elected 28 October 1863, commissioned 2 November 1863.
 
John Drum, Captain, Elected 24 June 1864, commissioned 2 July 1864, resigned 10 December 1864.
Charles Haskell, First Lieutenant: Elected 1 November 1863, commissioned 18 November 1864, resigned 20 April 1865.
 
Edward C. Newhoff, Captain: Commissioned 15 November 1865, resigned 10 April 1866.
James G. Carson, First Lieutenant: Commissioned 15 November 1865.
 
James G. Carson, Captain: Elected 5 November 1866, commissioned 9 November 1866, reelected 1 June 1869, 7 November 1870, and 16 January 1872.
John Sampson, First Lieutenant: Elected 5 November 1866, commissioned 9 November 1866.
Thomas Handly, First Lieutenant: 1 June 1869, commissioned 24 June 1869, reelected 7 November 1870.
James Brynes, First Lieutenant: 16 January 1872, commissioned 5 March 1872.
 
 
Offical History:
 
The Ellsworth Rifles was a volunteer military company organized in San Francisco, October 22, 1861, under the command of Captain McDonald. This company was composed of 59 members and high hopes were held of its future usefulness by officers of the 2nd Brigade.
With the close of the Civil War in 1865, the military system of the State was changed, and several of the various companies were either mustered out of service or reorganized. The Ellsworth Rifles was among the latter. On August 21, 1866, the unit was reorganized and became known as the Ellsworth Rifles, Company G, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade.

There are no records concerning this company's activities for the next few years with the exception of participation in the usual company drills and brigade encampments.

The State Legislature passed a Law in 1872, limiting the number of National Guard companies to 40 and appointed the Board of Location and Organization , created in 1866, to have the power to disband or reorganize the units with reference to military needs.[1] This Board recommended that the Ellsworth Rifles be mustered out of the State service which was done on June 5, 1872.
 
Footnote:

1. Political Code of California 1872, Sections 1912 and 1913
 
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
 
 
 
Ellsworth Rifles Uniform, circa 1870:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Updated 8 February 2016