Californians and the Military
Brigadier General Henry M. Naglee, US Volunteers
Commander, First California Guard, California Militia
An undated image of "General" Henry Morris Naglee taken in San Francisco. This may be the officer's dress uniform of the First California Guard, the first official American militia unit in California



The California militia's initial formation occurred when officials of the City of San Francisco requested military governor, Brigadier General Bennett Riley, to aid them in combatting a criminal element that had been growing since gold was discovered in 1848. General Riley complied with the request and formed the militia, to be called the First California Guard.

It was to be an artillery company, whose members would be trained with cannon and musket. General Riley commissioned Henry M. Naglee, Captain and Company Commander. Other volunteers who received appointments were: First Lieutenants O.H. Howard, and Myron Norton; Second Lieutenants Hall McAllister, and David F. Bagley; Company Surgeon Samuel Gerry, and Company Sergeant R.H. Sinton. By September 1849, Captain Naglee had recruited 100 volunteers, outfitting them in deep blue uniforms with artillery red trim. And, in February 1850, a joint-stock company was formed for the purpose of constructing the first militia armory in California.

H.M. Naglee, United States Military Academy Class of 1835, resigned from the U.S. Army shortly after graduation. However, with the outbreak of the war with Mexico, he accepted an appointment as a Captain in Company D, 1st New York Volunteers. Additionally, he raised another company of regulars, which formed Company F of the 3rd U.S. Artillery. He, and the New York Volunteers were posted to California, under the command of General Stephen Watt Kearney With the war at an end, the regiment was deactivated, and Captain Naglee resigned and remained in California. He settled in the San Joaquin Valley where he became a vintner and cattleman, his renown as a vitaculturist gained him the reputation of "Father of California's brandy industry," while the military background established him as a militiaman. As the approach of the Civil War grew real, he accepted an appointment as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 16th U.S. Infantry Regiment. Within a short period he was breveted as a Brigadier General of U.S. Volunteers. He then commanded brigades and divisions within the Army of the Potomac, and eventually the VII Corps. Upon his own request, he transferred to the command of the Military Districts of Virginia, then Arkansas. Disillusioned with the progress of the war, he resigned his commission in 1864. He returned to San Francisco, and eventually returned to the San Joaquin Valley where he again took up the life of a vitaculturist.

The often controversial and headstrong officer, Henry M. Naglee nevertheless was known to be a most competent battlefield commander. And so, he too is added to a chapter in California's military history.

Source: 150th Anniversary of the California National Guard

Brig. Gen. Henry Naglee, US Volunteers.

Additional Online Information


Naglee Memorial, San Jose
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Posted 29 March 2016