Historic California Militia and National Guard Units
Placer Guard

Military Unit Designation:
Placer Guard, 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, California Militia
Date of Organization:
October 19, 1861
Date of Disbanding:
October 1862 [1]
Inclusive dates of units papers:
Geographical Location or Locations:
Iowa Hill, Placer County

Records Series Descriptions:
a. Organization Papers 2 documents (1861)
b. Bonds none
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 13 documents (1861-1862)
d. Election Returns none
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 3 documents (1861-1863)
g. Oaths Qualifications 4 documents (1861)
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices 2 documents (1861)
j. Requisitions 1 document (1861)
k. Resignations none
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none
Commanding Officers:

John P. Kavanaugh, Captain Elected October 19, 1861, commissioned October 26, 1861
William D. Lawrence, First Lieutenant October 19, 1861, commissioned October 26, 1861
Official Histories:

The citizens of Iowa Hill and vicinity wished to enroll themselves into a military company under the new State Militia Law passed May 9, 1861. On September 28, 1861, notices signed by J. B. Varnum, were posted "In more than three places for ten consecutive days".[2] At the first meeting of the Placer Guard the following officers were elected, John P. Kavanaugh, Captain; William D. Lawrence, First Lieutenant; John B. Currier, Second Lieutenant and J. B. Varnum, Brevet Second Lieutenant.

Immediately upon the completion of the organization the requisitions were duly filed for arms and accoutrements, but considerable delay was experienced in filling the order. In one of Captain Kavanaugh's letters to Adjutant-General William C. Kibbe, he remarked that "soldiering without arms was very dry business, and he would rather have an order for sixteen arms instead of twelve, as he would be able to drill the men in several very pretty maneuvers, marching by the flank in two ranks, etc."

One of the first duties assigned to Captain Kavanaugh by Adjutant-General William C. Kibbe, was the appointing of a Board of Examiners to inquire into the causes and circumstances under which t he arms and accoutrements issued to the Mountain Blues, Captained by D. G. Lake, March 2, 1856) were destroyed. This report exonerated the volunteer company in question, as it was found that the fire which occurred February 2, 1857, had burned out the entire city. Very little personal property was saved.

Captain Kavanaugh experienced considerable difficulty in holding his command together. As a result of t he fire many men had to spend their leisure time in rebuilding their homes and had no time for drill. Also some members were not able to attend drill as the roads were impassable for many months from the winter storms. Other reasons given for the inactivity of the unit were that some of the members dropped out because, "They did not like certain officers," and still others had left the community "for good".

Captain Kavanaugh tried to instill new life in his company by requesting more arms, but in reply to this request the Adjutant-General answered that it would seem the best policy to issue the arms to companies where more interest was shown for drilling and protection for the communities. Finally Captain Kavanaugh called a meeting of the Placer Guard by posting notices in conspicuous places at the different polls on t he day of election.

The purpose of this meeting was to disband the unit. The attendance was small but the few men attending refused to disband, and gave as their principle reason against such a step was "That it would look like cowardice to disband when the company would soon expire for want of officers."

Following the meeting Captain Kavanaugh wrote to General Kibbe explaining the unit's small membership and stating that "Unless called into active service prior to October nineteenth, the Placer Guard are practically disbanded." There is no record of the date this volunteer company was formally mustered out, and it is assumed they were mustered out by the Adjutant General's Office following the receipt of Captain Kavanaugh's letter to General Kibbe.
1. According to Captain Kavanaugh's letter it is assumed this company was mustered out on this date.
2. Original copy of these printed posters with enrollment and minutes of the meeting of the company, Adjutant General's Office.
This history was prepared 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