California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Klamath Rifles
(Rifle Rangers)

Official or Other Titles:
Klamath Rifles, 2nd Brigade, 6th Division, California Militia. The first two recorded papers on file at the State Archives designate the company as Rifle Rangers, all others carry the name Klamath Rifles.
Location: Young's Ferry, Klamath County
Mustered in: January 11, 1855
Mustered out: May 26, 1855
Inclusive dates of units papers: 1855
Commanding Officers
William M. Young, Captain
John T. Carey, First Lieutenant
Unit papers on file at the California State Archives:
a. Organization Papers 1 document (1855)
b. Bonds 2 documents (1855)
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 9 documents (1855)
d. Election Returns none
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns none
g. Oaths Qualifications none
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices 3 documents (1855)
j. Requisitions none
k. Resignations none
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none
Official History
The citizens of Young's Ferry on the Klamath River who were desirous of military protection for the immediate vicinity, organized themselves into a volunteer company on January 11, 1855, taking the name of Rifle Rangers.

On March sixteenth of the same year Governor John Bigler wrote to Adjutant General William C. Kibbe, instructing the General to issue arms to Captain Young, who had organized the volunteer militia unit. A Bond of $2, 000 was drawn up in favor of Governor Bigler for the arms which were then delivered. One month later on April fourteenth; another Bond for the sum of $2,500 also signed by Captain Young personally, was.sent to Adjutant General Kibbe. In this second Bond the company was designated as the Klamath Rifles.

It was necessary to carry two Bonds for this unit, as the Indians had been causing considerable trouble and a large quantity of arms was needed for the settlers, in addition to the company's activity in attempting to suppress the hostilities. Two letters from Captain Young to Adjutant General Kibbe give the only information available for activities in Indian warfare by the Klamath Rifles. The first letter was dated April 14, 1855, it the Captain complies with a request of the Adjutant General's in giving a brief report on the status of the company. He stated,
"That the company had been organized under adverse circumstances, owing to the want of proper means of subsistence, besides the lack of arms.

The Captain had been compelled to use his own individual credit in order to obtain considerable supplies, for which he was held responsible to complete the organization. That money was absolutely necessary to carry operations, not only to procure a supply of provisions for their future use, but to assist them in retaining their Indian allies, was emphasized by the captain."


In fact, Captain Young explained to the Adjutant General that he had neither the ability or disposition to make himself personally responsible any further in this matter, and requested of the Adjutant General that funds be forwarded to him at the earliest moment so as to enable them to continue the company's activities in protecting the district from the hostiles, at the same time to give his men some confidence in the resources of their commanding officer. It was feared by the Captain that unless funds were forthcoming so the company could carry on operations with more energy, that a general Indian War might be anticipated. He also informed the General that it was impossible to give an intelligible idea of the state of affairs in that section. The ordnance stores had arrived and the company, which then was fully armed, was already campaigning. He concluded this communication with a request for the necessary printed supplies and documents for the Quartermaster and Commissary Department and also a copy of the Militia regulations.

The second letter of May third, reported to Adjutant General Kibbe that the Klamath Rifles were "in a state of efficiency and still in active service." The Captain had been necessitated to divide the command in order to thoroughly scour the mountains and guard the different exposed sections of the river. A number of hostiles had. been killed, and the United States Regulars with whom they were cooperating, had under guard some twenty prisoners together with a large number of women and children belonging to the captives. Every effort had been and would continue to be made to settle this feud as speedily as possible." Captain Young informed General Kibbe that he had not received any communications from Headquarters since March sixteenth, but that his Muster Roll and Bond had been forwarded sometime back, and it was his presumption that the delay was to be attributed to the irregularity of the mail. The question of lack of funds was again taken up by the Captain when he requested that Lieutenant Carey, Assistant Adjutant Quartermaster, be issued funds to meet the current expenses of the command and to take care of the freight bill. When the ordnance stores had been sent up from the State Arsenal, the agents of the vessel had refused to deliver the same at Trinidad unless the freight bill was paid. A citizen of Trinidad, who was not connected with the militia company paid the bill of $77.05, otherwise they would have been without these supplies.

Apparently the necessary funds were not forthcoming, as this volunteer company was only in active service approximately four months.. However, the arms remained in their custody until January 1856, when Adjutant General Kibbe directed that S. G. Whipple (active in the civic affairs of the community) receive and be in receipt for the same. This step was taken on the earnest solicitation of the citizens of Klamath County so as to retain the means of defense in that vicinity. The territory on the Klamath River was entirely unprotected and the emergency, which existed, fully warranted this action.

An Indian War, if it can be properly so termed, was brought on by the whites under the most aggravated circumstances. About December 10, 1854, a ruffian had.attempted to molest an Indian woman who was accompanied by an Indian boy. The bully killed the boy and the Indians retaliated by killing an ox which had formerly belonged to this ruffian. (1) Perhaps it was this difficulty which led to the organization of the Klamath Rifles in an effort to maintain law and order for the settlers.

The Klamath Rifles were formally mustered out May 26, 1855, and Captain Young noted on the Muster Roll that the members of the unit had not received pay or "emoluments" (2) of any kind for their services.This document was approved by the commissioners who had been appointed to examine Indian War Claims, and it is assumed that the members of the Klamath Rifles were reembursed for the expenses incurred after the final mustering out took place.
(1) History of Humboldt County Wallace W. Elliott & Company, San Francisco, 1881, page 153, 154.
(2) Emoluments--remuneration connected with any office, occupation, or service, whether as salary, fee,. or perquisite compensation.
This history was compiled in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the California National Guard and the California State Library.
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Updated 8 February 2016