California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Oakland Home Guard
(Oakland Guard)

Organizational Data

Official Name:

Location: Oakland, Alameda County
Mustered in: September 1, 1861
Mustered out: Continued
Inclusive dates of units papers: 1861-1880
Papers on file at California State Archives:

a. Organization Papers 1 document (1861)
b. Bonds none
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 35 documents (1861-1879)
d. Election Returns 18 documents (1861-1879)
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns none
g. Oaths Qualifications 160 documents (1861-1880)
h. Orders 18 documents (1878-1879)
i. Receipts, invoices 8 documents (1863-1879)
j. Requisitions 9 documents (1863-1879)
k. Resignations 7 documents (1864-1879)
l. Target Practice Reports 10 documents (1867-1879)
m. Other Public Property, 1 document (1867)


Commanding Officers

 Name  Date of Rank  Date of Commission  Remarks
 James Brown, Captain  August 31, 1861  September 28, 1861  Resigned July 23, 1864)
John Potter., First Lieutenant  August 31, 1861  September 28, 1861  
 H. N. Morse, First Lieutenant  August 30, 1862  September 3, 1862  
H. N. Morse Captain August 29, 1364  September 9, 1364  
 H. Hillebrand, First Lieutenant  August 29, 1864  September 9, 1364  
 H. N. Morse Captain      Reelected September. 13, 1866
 Myron E. Clough, First Lieutenant  September 13, 1866  September 28, 1366  
 William C. Little, Captain  September 9 1868  September 25, 1868  
 Charles P. McKay, First Lieutenant  September 9, 1868  September 25, 1868  Resigned February 1, 1870
 Alfred W. Burrell, Captain  November 1, 1869  March 10, 1870  
 John C. Orr, First Lieutenant  February 9, 1870  March 10, 1870  
 Alfred W. Burrell, Captain      Reelected March. 16, 1872
 Richard E. Harmon, First Lieutenant  March 16, 1872  March 29, 1872  
 Horace D. Ranlett, Captain  May 1, 1873  May 6, 1873  
 Henry Maloon, First Lieutenant.  November 11, 1873  November 24, 1873  
 Horace D. Ranlett, Captain      Reelected December 16, 1875
 Henry Maloon, First Lieutenan      Reelected December 16, 1875
 Horace D. Ranlett, Captain [2]      Reelected January 10 , 1878
 J. B. 0. Sarpy, First Lieutenant  January 10, 1878  January 19, 1878  
 J. A. C. MacDonald, First Lieutenant  April 24, 1879  May 9, 1879  


Official History

Upon the outbreak of the War of the Rebellion, the loyal citizens of Alameda County held meetings and organized several military organizations to aid the Union cause and to combat a secret scheme under way to give California over to the control of the Confederacy. With this object in view, on August 31, 1861 the citizens of Oakland organized an independent and volunteer corps with a membership of seventy, to be known as the Oakland Home Guard with Headquarters at Oakland, Alameda County. The commanding officers elected were James Brown, Captain and John Potter., First Lieutenant. In 1863 Captain Brown was elected Marshall of the city. A Bond was filed for the arms and accoutrements but due to the State's participation in the War of the Rebellion there was a shortage of such equipment and the Oakland Home Guard received their allotment from the Federal Government. These were replaced by sixty stand of modern type arms in October 1863.

A drilling camp was established at San Pablo Road and named Camp Downey. At this point over one thousand men assembled and prepared for service in the Union Army. Oakland at this time had a population of two thousand persons mostly loyal; however, like other cities of the county had a certain percentage who were in sympathy with the South.

Shortly after its organization the Oakland Home Guard was attached to the Second Artillery Regiment., but later became unattached. Some time later it was designated as Company C, of the 1st Infantry Battalion, Second Brigade of the National Guard.[3] In 1863 the company changed the name from Oakland Home Guard to Oakland Guard.

An Encampment of the troops of the organized militia of the State was held in October of the same year. The Second Brigade, to which the Oakland Guard was attached attended Camp Allen at Encinal. Alameda County for ten days, and Captain James Brown was in command of the company. The transportation and subsistence of the men were taken care of by the State. Tents, cooking utensils, and camp tools were also furnished, the members only the blankets. The members of the company supplying only the blankets. The Oakland Guard received their new arms while in camp and progressed favorably in the knowledge of elementary military science as well as duties of camp life. Brigadier General John Ellis was in command of the entire Encampment and the troops greatly benefited from his past military experience. [4]

An annual target practice was held at Oakland May 1, 1866, a short time before the reorganization of the company. Second Lieutenant George Chase was the best shot in the corps, scoring sixty two and one half points.

In 1866 a reorganization of the Oakland Home Guard occurred which was a result of the passage of the Military Bill of that year. This Law established a Board of Location and Organization to determine the companies to be disbanded or retained according to their importance as to location for defense purposes, and also the inability of the units to keep their organizations up to the required military standard, was considered. The Oakland Guard being an active and efficient corps was reorganized on August thirtieth and mustered in as an unattached company of the Second Brigade.

The company received eighty stand of arms consisting of rifled muskets, and eighty uniforms for which a new Bond was filed. The uniforms were in poor condition and unfit for wear. Captain Morse informed Brigadier General George S. Evans that the company possessed forty artillery uniforms three years old that were still in good condition, and only recently had expended two hundred dollars for eight additional ones, preferring to wear the artillery style uniforms as it was in order with the Military Law.

The reorganization of the company and the new armory improved the unit's attendance and efficiency in company and squad drills. The small quarters of the former armory did not provide sufficient space for drills. The size of the new armory with dimensions 50 x 75 feet, was an important feature in the inducement of new recruits to join the service, and weekly instead of monthly drills were then held.

In 1868 an order was issued to disband the Oakland Guard; at this time the National Guard as being materially reduced as an economic measure by the State Legislature. The members of the unit sent a petition, June B., 1868, to Governor Henry H. Haight, pledging themselves to bear all the expenses of maintaining their organization if allowed to remain as part of the National Guard, and to share all the privileges granted by law excepting the allowance of funds. W.M. Kenzie's, Colonel Commander of the Second Brigade, timely interference was an instrumental factor in having the disbandment order countermanded, pointing out, the company was as efficient and had complied with all military requirements of the law. The Oakland Guard was among the few companies which had no financial difficulties to retard their progress and efficiency.

Soon after organization, they owned $3,000 worth of property, including full arms and uniform equipment and also a fine armory. [5]

September 28, 1869, the corps was again given a letter and attached to the First Infantry Regiment to be designated as Company A.[6] Henry N. Morse a former Captain of the Oakland Guard applied for and was granted an exempt certificate on June first, having served in the company for seven consecutive years. He had made a good record enlisting as a private and in less than five years becoming Captain. A few months later First Lieutenant C. P. McKay, resigned his commission, stating that his duties as City Marshall occupied all his time.

Another reorganization took place in 1872 when the force of the National Guard was reduced. The Oakland Guard was mustered out of service August twenty second, but the same evening the company was mustered in as an unattached unit and remained so for several years. At the time of mustering in Captain A.W. Burrell reported the company's discipline good, instruction fair, military appearance good, and State property in first class order. A letter to the Governor, May fifth of the same year signed by (LAB) calls attention to the efficiency of this corps, stating the ranks were composed of young American men, mostly Republicans and that they had still retained the military spirit that imbued the company at the time of organization during the War.[7]

In 1876 labor disturbances which originated in the East earlier in the year reached San Francisco and Oakland, causing the civil authorities much concern. Public sentiment was diverted against the Chinese and violence was feared momentarily. As an act of preparedness, rounds of ammunition valued at $2,000 were issued July twenty third to the Oakland Guard. However, at this time no fighting occurred, although the corps together with other units of the Guard were called out one evening in anticipation of a riot, but with the exception of guard duty nothing of importance took place.[8] During the following two years, San Francisco and municipalities were never free from the apprehension that trouble would break out at any time as the county together with the labor situation was going through a dramatic political era. The military companies were frequently called upon during that time to assemble in their armories to be in readiness to quell the impending riots. The seriousness of the situation was evident when the Federal Government issued to Captain Ranlett, of the Oakland Guard one hundred stand of arms in January 1878 to replace the corps arms', which had been destroyed when the Unit's armory burned November 30, 1877, leaving Alameda County and Oakland practically defenseless. These arms were to be used for any emergency that would arise. [9]

The Oakland Guard participation in target practice showed an improvement over the years, from 1873 when the result was 44.4% to 1878 when the percentage reached 49.43.

The last outstanding event before the company's reorganization December 30, 1879, was the Encampment attended at Sacramento, the previous year. That year no appropriation was made by the Legislature for an Encampment, but the Oakland Guard together with other military companies decided to attend the State Fair and participate in the contests for drill, rifle, and marksmanship, as valuable prizes had been offered by the State Agricultural Society and prominent citizens. The corps was designated as Company A., and attached to the First Infantry Regiment, Second Brigade for this occasion. The members furnished their blankets and their full dress.. Their knapsacks were required to contain blouse, three pairs of white gloves and the necessary underclothing. The camp was named Camp Irwin in honor of the Governor. The Oakland Guard were unsuccessful contestants in the rifle contest. The Governor reviewed the troops in the Fair Grounds in the presence of 20,000 people. [10]

The application of the commissioned officers of the Oakland Guard and San Jose Zouaves, two unattached companies to have their respective commands formed into a Battalion, was officially approved December 30, 1879. The Oakland Guard was to be designated as Company A., of the Fifth Infantry Battalion, Second Brigade. For further particulars of this corps refer to Company A, Fifth Infantry Battalion, Second Brigade. [11]


1. August 30, 1866, designated as unattached company of the Second Brigade.

2. H. D. Ranlett promoted to Major of the Fifth Infantry Battalion in 1878. Historical Record, First, Second and Third Brigade, 1869 1880, page 75

3. History of Alameda County, Volume 1 Joseph E. Baker Editor, pages 131-140

4. Adjutant General Report 1863, page 29.

5. Letter dated June 8, 1868, from W. M. Kenzie, Colonel Commanding the Second Brigade, to Governor Henry H. Haight, on file State Archives, State Capitol.

6. Adjutant General Report 1867 1869, Page 168.

7. It is questionable whether the initials L. A. B. refer to the Captain of the company, letter on file State Archives., State Capitol.

8. Adjutant General Report 1875 1877, Page 6.

9 Adjutant General Report 1877 1879, Page 76.

10. Adjutant General Report 1877 1879. Page 11.

11. Adjutant General Report 1880, Page 72, Special Order No. 40.

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Updated 8 February 2016