California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Shields Guard
(Placer County)

Military Unit Designation: Shields Guard, 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, California Militia
Date of Organization: August 3, 1861
Date of Disbanding: March 28, 1863*
Inclusive dates of units papers: 1861-1863
Geographical Location or Locations: Forest Hill, Placer County
Papers on file at the California State Archives:

a. Organization Papers 2 documents (1861)
b. Bonds none
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 9 documents (1861-1863)
d. Election Returns none
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 2 documents (1861-1863)
g. Oaths Qualifications 4 documents (1861)
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices 2 documents (1861)
j. Requisitions none
k. Resignations 1 document (1863)
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none


Commanding Officers

 Name  Date of Rank  Date of Commission
H. Fitzsimmons, Captain
August 3, 1861
 August 29, 1861
M. Phelan, First Lieutenant
August 3, 1861
 August 29, 1861


Official History

The citizens of Forest Hill were desirous of having a military company for the protection of their community. Therefore, the Honorable E.H. Vandercar, Judge of Placer County authorized H. Fitzsimmons to open a book on July 20, 1861, to enroll members for a voluntary military company. These volunteers met. on August third at which time officers were elected. H. Fitzsimmons was elected Captain and M. Phelan was elected First Lieutenant. In December of that year Adjutant-General Kibbe reported that this, new organization of seventy-one men was making rapid progress in drill and military proficiency, and that the unit was well officered and equipped. Although the Shields Guard did not participate in any active service, the men endeavored to maintain a military guard for the protection of this part of the country from Indian depredations

When the General Order No. 29, relative to the Review to beheld October 3, 1862, was received, Captain Fitzsimmons answered General Kibbe, "that it not only was his duty, but also his pride to comply promptly to the command". The Captain assured the Adjutant-General he would exert every effort to report as many of the unit as was possible, although the members of this company were from various localities, most of them engaged in mining pursuits and had been severely dealt with by the past impropiteous season and many unable to meet the required expense of complying with the order. The General answered Captain Fitzsimnon's letter assuring the Captain that even though there were no State funds immediately available, he expected the next Legislature would provide a amount of money so that all proper expenses could eventually be met.

On February .10, 1863, Captain Fitzsimmons formally tendered his resignation to Governor Stanford, as he contemplated leaving the State. When J. L. Browne, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fourth Brigade, forwarded this letter of resignation to Adjutant-General Kibbe, February 12, 1863, he asked that "The resignation be accepted as speedily as possible so measures could be taken for an election of a new Captain, as there was some danger of this company disbanding and it was hoped the election of a new officer would revive the lost interest. However, should Colonel Browne's efforts prove futile and the unit disband, he (Lieutenant-Colonel Browne) would request that the arms of the Shields Guard be turned over to the Yankee Jim Rifles, who were anxiously awaiting equipment". A month later Lieutenant-Colonel Browne again wrote to General Kibbe, and at this time: he enclosed the resignation of the First Lieutenant, M. Phelan Of the Shields Guard, which virtually disbanded the company, and their arms being in good order they were turned over to Captain A. Davidson for the Yankee Jim Rifles. It is assumed the company was mustered out of service on the date of disbandment, March 28, 1863.

*From the contents of Lieutenant Colonel Browne's letter of March 28, 1863, it is to be assumed this date was the mustering-out date of the company.

This history was prepared in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the California National Guard and the California State Library.


Brigadier General James Shields

James Shields was born in Dungannon, County Tyrone, Ireland, December12, 1810. He was well educated and was fluent in four languages. Shields had numerous adventures as a sailor; he decided to settle in America after his legs were broken in a rigging accident in New York City. He emigrated to the United States in 1826, studied law and was admitted to the bar at Kaskaskia, Ill., when he was but twenty-one years old. He subsequently turned his attention to politics; Shields took part in the Black Hawk War and in 1836 was elected to the state legislature and in 1839 was made state auditor. While serving in the Illinois House, Shields met Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln was a Whig and Shields was a Democrat; the two clashed rhetorically and once even scheduled a duel. Initially in conflict with Abraham Lincoln, the two men eventually became good friends. In 1843 he was appointed judge of the Supreme Court and in 1845 was appointed commissioner of the U. S. land office.

James Shields served during the Mexican war, being severely wounded both at Cerro Gordo and Chapultepec, and for meritorious and gallant services on the former occasion was commissioned brigadier-general by President Polk, 1 July 1846, and brevet major-general He served under Gen. Taylor on the Rio Grande and under Gen. Wood at Chihuahua. After resigning from the army he was appointed governor of Oregon in 1848, which office he soon resigned to represent Illinois in the United States Senate as a democrat. After the expiration of his term he removed to Minnesota and was United States senator from that state from 1858 to 1860, when he moved to California.

Shields was in Mexico at the outbreak of the Civil War, engaged in superintending a mine, but at once went to Washington and offered his services for the cause of the Union. He was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers on Aug. 19, 1861 assigned to the command of Gen. Lander's brigade after the latter's death, and was placed at the head of a division of Gen. N. P. Banks' Army of the Shenandoah, March 29, 1862. He took a leading part in the battles of Winchester, though severely wounded the preceding day in a preliminary engagement, and Port Republic, where he was decisively beaten by General Jackson and resigned his commission, March 28, 1863.

Brigadier General Shields then settled in Wisconsin, whence he removed to Carrollton, MO., where he practiced law and served as a railroad commissioner. In 1874 he was elected to the Missouri legislature and in 1879 was appointed to the U. S. senate to serve out the unexpired term of Senator Bogg, thus becoming the only senator to have represented three states. He died at Ottumwa, IA., June 1,1879. A monument was erected to him in St. Mary's Cemetery at Carrollton, which was unveiled by Archbishop Glennon on 12 November, 1910.



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Updated 8 February 2016