California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Southern Rifles

Official or Other Titles:
Southern Rifles, First Division, First Brigade
Location: Los Angeles, Los Angeles County
Mustered in: March 26, 1857
Mustered out: 1862
Commanding Officers

W. W. Twist, Captain, Elected: March 26, 1857; Commissioned: July 18, 1857
W. D. Brown., First Lieutenant, Elected: March 26, 1857; Commissioned: July 18, 1857

W. W. Twist, Captain, Reelected September 5, 1857
Henry King, First Lieutenant, Elected: September 5, 1857

W. W. Twist, Captain, Reelected January 10, 1859
William Moore., First Lieutenant, Elected January 10, 1859; Commissioned January 20, 1859

S. H. Wilson, Captain, Elected March 14, 1861, Commissioned April 2, 1861
William Moore., First Lieutenant: Reelected March 14, 1861
Papers on file at the California State Archives:
a. Organization Papers 3 documents (1857)
b. Bonds 1 document (1857)
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 12 documents (1857-1858)
d. Election Returns none
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 1 document (1858)
g. Oaths Qualifications none
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices 4 documents (1858)
j. Requisitions 1 document (1858)
k. Resignations none
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none
8. Miscellaneous:

Official History

During the period between 1850 and 1860 the southern portion of the State was infested by roving bands of Sonoran and California outlaws who were continually harassing and preying upon the numerous bands of stock which grazed upon the ranchos. The civil authorities seemed to be unable to cope with the situation, and in order to furnish protection for the people many volunteer militia companies were organized. A petition signed by several residents of Los Angeles was presented to County Judge W. G. Dryden, requesting that he appoint some suitable person to superintend the meeting to form a volunteer company of cavalry. Judge Dryden appointed W. W. Twist to supervise the meeting, and on March 26, 1857, in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County the company known as the Southern Rifles was organized and mustered into the service of the State under the command of Captain Twist.

Although the Southern Rifles was an organized unit, the company encountered considerable difficulty in obtaining the necessary rifles, sabers and accoutrements, despite the fact that they had posted the penal Bond. Numerous letters of complaint were sent to Adjutant General W. C. Kibbe, but to no avail causing much dissatisfaction among the members. In addition, none of the officers had received their commissions, up to July 1857, although the money for them had been sent in over three months previous. The First and Second Lieutenants blamed Captain Twist for the delay -in receiving their arms and commissions and there were considerable hard feelings between the two and the Captain. The Lieutenants felt that some understanding existed between Captain Twist and the State authorities therefore, they went to the editor of the Los Angeles Star and voiced their suspicion. The editor in turn wrote to the Adjutant General setting forth their complaint and asked that the matter of their commissions be straightened out. Prompt action was taken, for shortly afterward Adjutant General Kibbe was informed by a letter from the editor that the commissions had been received and everything was satisfactory.

Lieutenants Brown and Albright still harboring ill feelings, tried to have Captain Twist voted out of the company. Their efforts were in vain, however, for he was reelected to the Captaincy, and a resolution was passed giving him the entire confidence of the members of the Southern Rifles.

On November 17, 1857, the Southern Rifles received their long awaited arms when General Kibbe ordered Captain Cames of the disbanded Santa Barbara Mounted Riflemen to turn over all that company's arms and accoutrements to Captain Twist. The General also notified Captain Cames that his bond would be cancelled upon the presentation of a receipt at the Adjutant General's Office showing that the Southern Rifles had received the arms.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Los Angeles County was a stronghold of Secessionists and southern sympathizers. Many militia companies were compelled to disband due to lack of members and it is assumed that the Southern Rifles was one of these companies. In 1862 no muster roll, or company returns of the Southern Rifles had been received by the Adjutant General's Office and it was believed that the unit was disbanded in 1861.(1)


(1) Adjutant General Report 1862-1863, page 142.

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