California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Franklin Light Infantry
(Franklin Light Guard)


Military Unit Designation: Franklin Light Infantry, Company E, 1st Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade, California Militia (After 1866, National Guard of California)
Date of Organization: 31 August 1861
Date of Disbanding: continued
Inclusive dates of units papers: 1861-1873
Geographical Location or Locations: San Francisco, San Francisco County
Armory: 1871: Mozart Hall, 1353 Market Street
Papers on file at the California State Archives:
Organization Papers none
Bonds 1 document (1862)
Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 24 documents (1862-1873)
Election Returns 19 documents (1861-1873)
Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 20 documents (1861-1873)
Oaths Qualifications 33 documents (1862-1873)
Orders none
Receipts, invoices 10 documents (1862-1873)
Requisitions 4 documents (1861-1870)
Resignations 10 documents (1862-1873)
Target Practice Reports 7 documents (1866-1873)
Other Public Property, 5 documents (1868-1871)
Commanding Officers

 Name  Date of Rank  Date of Commission  Remarks
 John McComb, Captain  August 31, 1861  September 5, 1861  
 James J. Ayers, First Lieutenant  August 31, 1861  September 5, 1861  
 John McComb, Captain      Reelected March 18, 1863
 H. H. Thrill, First Lieutenant  March 18, 1863  March 24, 1863  
 John McComb, Captain      Reelected March 31, 1864
 Edwin Hunt, First Lieutenant  March 31, 1864  April 9, 1864  
 John McComb, Captain      Reelected October 9, 1865
 Lewis Cohn, First Lieutenant  October 9, 1865  October 20, 1865  
 John McComb, Captain      Reelected October 9, 1866. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, October 30, 1867)
 James Ware, First Lieutenant  October 9, 1866  October 23,1866  
 William O'Breyfoge, Captain  October 30, 1867  March, 21, 1868  
 James Hand First Lieutenant  January 21, 1868  March 21,1868  
 Frederick Pierce, Captain  November 19, 1869  December 4, 1869  
 James K. Phillips, First Lieutenant  November 19, 1869  December 4, 1869  
 Frederick Pierce, Captain      Reelected December 24, 1872
 Albert D. Arper, First Lieutenant  December 24, 1872  December 30, 1872  
 Richard Orton, Captain  January 6,1875  January 2, 1875  
 James Parkinson, First Lieutenant  January 6,1875   January 25,1875  
 Eugene Allen, Captain  November 20,1878  December 31,1878  
 Fred Wentworth, First Lieutenant  July 8, 1878  August 12, 1878  
 Fred Wentworth, Captain  June 11,1879  July 25, 1879  
 Vincent Hallowell. First Lieutenant  June 11, 1879  July 25, 1879  



On August 31, 1861, a volunteer military company was organized in San Francisco, San Francisco County, under the command of Captain John McComb. This company was composed of sixty five men, most of whom were printers by trade, and for that reason the company was designated as the Franklin Light Infantry in honor of Benjamin Franklin. This unit was organized during the Civil War for the purpose of entering the United States service, but later the organization decided to remain as a Home Guard.

In 1866 the military system of the State was changed. The militia force was reduced to eighty companies in all. The remaining uniform troops of the State were to be designated and known as the National Guard. The State Legislature created a Board of Location and Organization, having the power to reorganize or disband various companies with reference to the military needs.[1] The Franklin Light Infantry was one of the units the Board reorganized on August 23, 1866, and became known as the Franklin Light Infantry, Company C, also referred to as the Franklin Light Guard.

For the next few years there were no records of any unusual activities concerning this company other than participating in the usual company drills. However, on April 29, 1870, the application of the officers and members of the unit was approved and the company transferred to the First Regiment. Hereafter, the company was to be known as the Franklin Light Infantry, Company D, First Infantry Regiment, Second Brigade.

On July 23, 1876, the various companies of the Second Brigade, including the Franklin Light Infantry, were ordered under arms in anticipation of a riot that was expected to result from mass meetings held in San Francisco denouncing the Chinese. The San Francisco Chief of Police requested that the troops be held in readiness and be prepared for any emergency. Several times during the night word came that the number of rioters were increasing and , the militia was asked to stand by. The police force seemingly was riot able to cope with the situation for they made no arrests, although Chinese wash houses and places of business were burned and destroyed and the Chinese intimidated. This riotous condition existed for several nights until culminated at seven o'clock in the evening of July twenty ninth, when the Chief of Police requested the militia troops to halt the disorder. At eight o'clock the militia companies fully armed were on their way to the various destinations assigned to them. After remaining on duty until 5:00 A.M. of the following morning, the troops were dismissed at the request of the Chief of Police. The Infantry Battalion of which the Franklin Light Infantry was attached were very useful on this occasion of riot and disorder and performed good service during the outbreaks.[2]

The Franklin Light infantry in 1878, attended an Encampment held in connection with the State Fair at Sacramento. The State Agricultural Society together with various citizens of Sacramento offered prizes for drill, and marksmanship to the attending companies. Governor William Irwin, accompanied by a number of National Guard officers visited Camp Irwin, named in honor of his Excellency, and reviewed the troops there.

The following day D. M. Key, Postmaster General of the United States, was present, and that day the military exercises were witnessed by an unusually large assemblage of people. The Franklin Light Infantry was one of the several companies that participated in the competitive drill, which was judged by officers of the United States Army. First place was won by this unit and M. D. Boruck, President of the State Agriculture Society, presented Captain Orton with $300.00 and a gold medal. The Judges united in the statement that they had rarely if ever observed a series of drills so uniform in excellence. The contesting companies displayed a very thorough knowledge of the tactics as embraced in the scheme of competition, and it was evident that careful and conscientious work had been expended on them by their commanders.

With a graceful generosity, highly creditable to recipients, the Franklin Light Infantry resolved to donate their winnings to the fund for the relief of the yellow fever sufferers in the South.[3]

A law was passed in the State Legislature in 1872, stating that each company of the National Guard could adopt a distinct name, but if attached must be known by a particular letter or number in the Regiment or Battalion to which it' belongs.[4] This law was not enforced until March 26, 1880 when Adjutant General Samuel Backus issued General Order No. 12 which stated that hereafter, in all official correspondence, companies would be recognized only by company letter. The Franklin Light Infantry was one of the companies designated by letter. For further information concerning this unit refer to Company D, First Infantry Regiment Second Brigade, National Guard of Californian.[5]

1. California Statutes 1865-1866. Chapter DXLI page 722
2. Adjutant General Report 1875-1877, page 73.
3. Adjutant General Report 1877-1879, page 11.
4. Political Code of California 1872, Section 1958.
5. Adjutant General Report 1880, General Order No. 12, page 63
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
Dress Uniform of the Franklin Light Infantry

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Updated 8 February 2016