California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Mariposa Mounted Riflemen
Assigned to: Third Division, First Brigade
Location: Mariposa, Mariposa County
Organized: January 16, 1858
Commanding Officers
B. B. Harris, Captain; Commissioned February 26, 1858
G.C. N. Johnson, First Lieutenant; Commissioned February 26, 1858
Papers on file at thge California State Archives:
Organization Papers 1 doc (1858)
b. Bonds none
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 1 doc (1858)
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 none
j. Requisitions none
k. Resignations none
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none

The residents of the territory of Utah, or t
he "State of Deseret", were experiencing considerable difficulty during the year of 1857 with the Federal Government. The Mormons had moved to the West believing they would be beyond the jurisdiction of the United States. After the organization of the "State of Deseret" the residents elected Brigham Young as Governor. In 1855 and the following year there was a defiant attitude shown by this Church towards the Federal Government. Many outrages were committed by a Mormon band of desperadoes who called themselves "Wolf-hunters". The Mountain Meadow Massacre perpetrated by Indians and Mormons on September 11, 1857, against 120 emigrants, killed all but seventeen small children. In this same year President Buchanan appointed Alfred Cummings, Superintendent Indian Affairs of Upper Missouri, as Governor of the Territory of Utah in place of Brigham Young, also sending 1,500 men to Utah.(1) On September 15, 1857, Governor Young issued.a Proclamation forbidding all armed forces from entering their territory, calling to arms all forces in the territory and declaring martial law. On October fifth and sixth a mounted band of Mormons captured and burned three supply trains of the Federal Troops,and soon afterwards drove out of another supply train 800 oxen. The Federal troops under General Johnson made winter quarters near Fort Bridger after many hardships. (2)

This disturbance of the Utah Territory so alarmed adjacent states and territories that the Adjutant General of California reported in 1857:

"That at the time there was every indication that the people of the adjoining territory would have to be forcibly stopped and it necessary to make California the basis of military operations and to depend mainly upon this State for the required troops. In the early part of November last, I had the honor of tendering the services of from ten to twenty thousand volunteers for this campaign, and if they should be accepted, we should be able to furnish a sufficient number of competent men to fit and prepare the volunteers required for actual service, under a system which conforms entirely with that with which the regular troops are drilled." (3)

In many sections of California militia companies were organized to be ready for service if needed. Mariposa County was represented by a group of loyal men after J. M..Bondurant, County Judge of Mariposa County, issued the legal Proclamation on January 5, 1858, for the formation of the volunteer unit, and appointed John M. Moore as the officer to proceed with the organization of the company. Notice of this procedure was published in the Mariposa Gazette, calling the meeting for January 16, 1858, which was to be held, "to raise a volunteer company of mounted riflemen who would offer their services to the State or the United States in the military operations about to be carried on for the suppression of hostilities in the Territory of Utah. Some fifty-six men signed the enrolling list, then John M. Moore took the presiding chair and appointed J. H. Lawrence to act as Secretary. B. B. Harris, who was elected Captain, and G. C. N. Johnson as First Lieutenant, had both been instrumental in the organization of the former Mariposa Guard. Ten other officers were also elected at that time. After the election three resolutions were adopted. "First, that the company would hold themselves ready and offer their services to the State in case they were needed for any expedition to or against Utah, to be enlisted for during the hostilities." Secondly, "that for the present the volunteers would be called The Mariposa Mounted Rifle Company." Thirdly, "that the Governor and proper State authorities, if it be in their power,be and are hereby petitioned to use their influence to secure to the company the earliest participation in the objects desired."

The minutes containing these resolutions were attested to on January 16, 1858, by both J. M. Moore,presiding officer, and J. H. Lawrence, Secretary. An adjourned meeting of the Rifles was duly published and called at the Assembly Hall in Mariposa on Saturday evening, February 13, 1858, for the purpose of completing the organization. Mr. Moore presided and called for the reading of the minutes of the previous meeting and the adoption of the same. The company then proceeded to complete the unfinished business, and accordingly an election was *held for the trumpeter, the saddler and the farrier of the corps, making a list of thirteen officers.

The men of this corps were firm in their determination to perfect their organization in a 'businesslike way, so they unanimously adopted another resolution which would strengthen the set adopted at their first meeting; as follows:

RESOLVED, that we do hereby constitute ourselves a volunteer company of Mounted Riflemen under the 23, 24,25;- and 26 Section- of Article 2824 of an Act of the Legislature of the State of California entitled "An Act Concerning The Organization' Of The Militia" passed April 25, 1855, and hold our selves-subject to all the provisions of said act. That this Resolution be added to and incorporated in the-records of the .company,and that Colonel Samuel A.-Merritt, or anyone from him holding said records, be and is hereby requested to so add and incorporate the Resolution, and to file the whole of said records, including this Resolution, with the Quartermaster and Adjutant General of this State.

Upon the adoption of this Resolution the meeting adjourned.

According to historical records only the Federal Troops are listed as having participated in the Mormon trouble which was averted before more serious casualties could occur. Therefore, the Mariposa Mounted Riflemen were not eligible for service during the threatened Mormon invasion.

There are no further records for the company other than a note from State Headquarters dated February 26, 1858, wherein the four officers of the Mariposa Mounted Riflemen were formally commissioned. However the company must have maintained some sort of military standing as Captain Harris tendered his resignation to Governor Downey on the twenty-ninth of April 1861, (4) but as no printed reports for the years of 1858 and 1859 are available there is no way to determine how long the Mariposa Mounted Riflemen may have existed.


(1) Buchanan's message (December 8, 1857) stating that Young and his followers apparently intended "to come into collusion with the government of the United States", and his sending troops to Utah were considered by his critics as attempts to create an issue which would overshadow the slavery question and to draw away from the army an important force.
(2) Extract from Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 18, page 845
(3) Adjutant General Report 1857, page 5
(4) The Captain's request for the acceptance of his resignation was written from Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, and is on file in the State Archives, State Capitol.


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