California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Forest Rifles
Other or Official Titles: Forest Rifles, Company C, (Sierra Battalion) Fourth Division, Second Brigade
Location: Forest City, Sierra County
Mustered in: January 1856
Mustered out: August 20, 1866
Papers on file with the California State Archives:
a. Organization Papers 4 documents (1855)
b. Bonds 2 documents (1855-1864)
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 34 documents (1855-1865)
d. Election Returns 9 documents (1859-1865)
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 7 documents (1861-1866)
g. Oaths Qualifications 11 documents (1861-1865)
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices 17 documents (1856-1866)
j. Requisitions 3 documents (1855-1863)
k. Resignations none
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none
Commanding Officers
Alonzo Platt, Captain, Elected October 27, 1855
William Patterson, First Lieutenant, Elected October 27, 1855

Albert H. Breed, Captain, Elected September 24, 1859
John H. Hall, First Lieutenant, Elected September 24, 1859

John H. Hall, Captain, Elected September 29, 1860 (Re-elected January 20, 1861) Date of Rank: January 26, 1861, Commisioned June 28, 1861
Edward Doliver, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: January 26, 1861, Commisioned June 28, 1861

Romango Lyman, Captain, Date of Rank: March 27, 1863; Commissioned: April 24, 1863
Joseph Evans, First Lieutenant, Date of Rank: March 27, 1863; Commissioned: April 24, 1863

Romango Lyman, Captain, Re-elected April 4, 1864
H. C. George, First Lieutenant Elected April 4, 1864 Commisioned April 9, 1864

H. C. George, Captain, Elected April 15,1865, Commissioned April 28, 1865
A. M. Bixby, First Lieutenant, Elected April 15,1865, Commissioned April 28, 1865


Official History

Forest City, Sierra County, was originally known as Brownville (after one of its locators) then changed to Elizaville (after the wife of W. S. Davis), but on suggestion by Mrs. Davis the residents voted on their choice of Elizaville or Forest City. The town is situated in a dense oak tree section, hence the selection of Forest City.(1) In 1855 this little town was building up rapidly and with all the enthusiasm of newly developing settlements, the residents desired a military protection and also recreation for the male population.

Plans were perfected by the usual procedure of advertising the call for volunteers, and holding of an organization meeting and election of officers. This meeting was held on Saturday evening, October 27, 1855, in the Forest City Exchange by orders of General S. M. Miles, Inspector, (who had been authorized by P. C. Shaffer County Judge of Sierra County). The company was composed of men of fine discipline who expected to be more than usually permanent in their location, and men who would be a credit to the Volunteer Militia of the State.

Immediately upon the organization of the company, a Bond of $2,500 to cover expenses was filed and on November 19, 1855, a uniform was chosen by the men; the outfit to consist of green hunting shirts trimmed with black fringe, blue pants with black stripes down the leg and army caps with yellow bands. The Captain requested of the Adjutant-General black Rifle Belts instead of white, when the company was supplied with their equipment. Captain Platt was also desirous of obtaining Bass and Snare Drums and a Fife for the corps and this request was complied with. The Drums and Fife were purchased on May 5, 1856, from Dayliss and Hale, 155 J Street, Sacramento, for $70.00 and shipped to the Forest Rifles. The company had not as yet been uniformed, perhaps because it was about the time that the town commenced to decline, because of the rivalry existing between Forest City and Alleghany, the latter community drawing the population away to the other side of the hill. In June 1857, the uniform question was again taken up and plans were perfected to attire the men as cheaply as possible so the uniforms would be within the reach of all the members. The request was made of General Kibbe to purchase and ship the required materials. When Captain Platt asked the General to attend to the purchasing of the material for the company, he apologized for imposing on the Adjutant-General's time, to quote a part, "See this trouble comes of your being Adjutant-General and in having all the boys believe that you like to aid and encourage Militia Volunteer Companies". The uniforms now decided upon was to be a green frock coat, single breasted, black collar and cuffs, yellow buttons, and be trimmed with black fringe. Funds to cover the expense were raised among the members. The Bill of Goods requested was:


In 1864 the company was again uniformed and this time by the State under a Bond of $1,530.

The Forest Rifles were not armed immediately after organizing, and Captain Platt was considerably concerned about the matter. In April of 1856 he communicated with Adjutant-General Kibbe about the arms and asked for some of the musketoons(2) he had heard, from Major Hungerford, were on hand in the Arsenal and could be used for drilling purposes. He ended his letter to General Kibbe--"At all events for God's sake do something for us, for if I cannot get arms for the company, why in the classical language of California 'we are gone in' . "
A month later the Captain again corresponded with the Adjutant General regarding the arms and explained that Major Hurgerford had informed him (Captain Platt) that the Sierra Guard had more arms than they needed at the time, and stated it was possible to share the equipment if the Arsenal was unable to supply the company. Mr. Evans, Second Lieutenant, was in Sacramento with authority to receive either the new arms or order for the transfer of the Sierra Guard's equipment. Musketoons were furnished the company, and were found to be satisfactory only for drill work.(2) A year later, May 14, 1857, Captain Platt again corresponded with the Adjutant-General and stated "Unless arms were supplied to them he could no longer sustain his command, as soldiers without arms were of no account." The Forest Rifles had been ordered to Downieville for the Fourth of July Battalion Parade with orders to have thirteen rounds of cartridges. Yet they could not fire a gun for they had no ordnance stores or no caps for their musketoons. One week later arms were received, but they were dirty and in bad condition. Captain Platt reported on receipt of the same, that the men would put the equipment into as good a condition as possible. These arms and accoutrements were all destroyed in the fire of April 11, 1858, which razed a large part of the town; $150,000 was the estimated loss sustained by the residents.(3)
On January 19, 1861, a committee of three members communicated with Adjutant-General Kibbe requesting arms to replace those lost in the fire, for as yet none had been received. If possible they wanted them delivered before February twenty-second, as the company was holding its third Annual Ball on that evening and wished to Parade in the afternoon. On February fifth another communication was sent to Governor Downey explaining that the company was destitute of guns and accoutrements, and also explaining the difficulties they had had with the first supply. It was the twenty fourth of June, 1881, before the request for arms was granted, and in May 1864 these same guns and accoutrements were exchanged for a new stand of arms. A second fire of 1865, which destroyed the armory in Fashion Hall, sustained such a heavy loss to the residents that the town failed to rebuild as it had done in previous years.
A Board of Examiners was appointed after each fire to investigate into the loss of arms and, after due examination of witnesses, exonerated the officers from any blame for the destruction of the militia's property which was under the supervision of the Forest Rifles.
When the Indians were creating disturbances in 1860, Sierra Valley, lying partly in Plumas and Sierra Counties, was in great distress, and Lieutenant Hall telegraphed to Governor Downey in the hopes that the Forest Rifles might be sent to the aid of the residents of the valley. When requesting "arms and orders" to go to the aid of the settlers, he stated, "The people of Sierra Valley all left their homes and property having no means of defense, that is in California." Lieutenant Hall requested in this telegram that the company be armed with Minnie Rifles, and that a General Order be issued from Headquarters directing the company to go to Sierra Valley, as the men were in readiness to start immediately upon the receipt of the arms. He also informed the Governor that Indians were in the Long Valley territory. The Forest Rifles were not accepted as a company for the Indian War that was in progress, but men from the corps volunteered with members from other districts in Sierra County and went into the skirmish under the command of Major Hungerford as the Sierra Battalion.

There are but few records of activities participated in by this volunteer company. They attended the regular Battalion Parades of the Sierra Battalion, as Reports of Major Hungerford commended their rank and file for their military bearing and stated that the roll call of companies under his command was well attended. After Governor Downey issued a call for volunteers to go into the service of the United States to guard the Overland Mail Route, Captain Hall telegraphed to Adjutant-General Kibbe to ascertain the" Number of men required for Artillery and would men unacquainted with Artillery be accepted?" General Kibbeys answer was to effect that "Eighty or one hundred men were required and it was probable untrained men would be accepted." It is evident that they were unable to supply a full quota for the Artillery as twenty men were mustered into Company F, Second Cavalry, California Volunteers, and this unit was a part of the expedition that was sent to Oregon for Indian Service. The company itself was not in a very, flourishing condition during 1861 and 1862. Other activities which this company participated in that were recorded are two encampments: one when the officers of the Forest Rifles attended the Camp of Instruction which was held at Camp Stanford near Oakland in Alameda County from the twenty-first to the thirtieth of May, 1863, and the other when the company of twenty-two men under Captain Lyman, attended the encampment which was held at Camp Kibbe near Sacramento for ten days from September 19, 1863. The men at Camp Kibbe were attired in fatigue dress, a part of which was regulation caps and grey shirts.

After the town of Forest City had suffered its second disastrous fire, many of the settlers, as was usual in such predicaments, moved on to new locations, leaving behind too few men in numerical strength to maintain a militia. Circumstances, beyond the control of the members remaining in the Forest Rifles, forced them to admit defeat and the volunteer company was finally mustered out for inactivity on August 20, 1866.
(1) History of Plumas, Lassen and Sierra Counties. California, Fariss and Smith, 1882, page 473.
(2) Musketoons: A light short hand gun used by cavalrymen in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
(3) History of Plumas, Lassen and Sierra. Counties, California, Fariss and Smith, 1882, page 474.
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 8 February 2016