Historic California Militia and National Guard Units
Stockton Light Dragoons
Military Unit Designation: Stockton Light Dragoons, 3rd Brigade, California Militia
Date of Organization:
June 17, 1862
Date of Disbanding:
July 19, 1866
Geographical Location or Locations:
Stockton, San Joaquin County

Papers on file at the California State Archives:
a. Organization Papers: 2 documents (1862)
b. Bonds: 1 document (1864)
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters): 47 documents (1862-1864)
d. Election Returns: 2 documents (1863-1864)
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for: none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns: 5 documents (1862-1866)
g. Oaths Qualifications: 7 documents (1862-1863)
h. Orders: none
i. Receipts, invoices: 5 documents (1862-1864)
j. Requisitions: 3 documents (1862-1864)
k. Resignations: none
l. Target Practice Reports: none

Commanding Officers

 Name  Date of Rank  Date of Commission Remarks
 O. M. Brown, Captain  17 June 1862 24 June 1862 Resigned 1 May 1862
P. L. Shoaff, First Lieutenant  17 June 1862 24 June 1862 Resigned July 1862
 Thomas K. Hook, Captain  25 March 1863 1 April 1863
  P. L. Shoaff, First Lieutenant Reelected 25 March 1863
 Thomas K. Hook, Captain Reelected 7 June 1864
Henry Lewis, First Lieutenant  25 February 1868 7 March 1868  

Official History:
The Stockton I.ight Dragoons were organized in the city of Stockton,San Joaquin County, and mustered into the service of the State of California June 17, 1862, as a cavalry unit, under the leadership of Captain O. M. Brown . This company was formed during the Civil War as a protective measure against any outbreak by the Secessionists in San Joaquin County, a purpose they fulfilled until the close of the conflict.

During the War of the Rebellion it was the intention of Governor Stanford to form a California Regiment of Volunteers for active service . The regiment was to be composed of seven companies of cavalry and one company of infantry. On December 26 ,1862, Captain Brown wrote to Governor Stanford, asking that he be considered as an officer in the new regiment, stating that his military education was acquired in a private military institute, and afterward put into practice in Mexico. He was as well acquainted with the infantry tactics as the cavalry, but the latter was his speciality, and if qualification was to be the test, he would be perfectly willing to abide by it.[1]
The Governor approved of Captain Brown 's qualifications, and on February 7, 1863, he was mustered into the First Regiment of Cavalry with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He held this position until November 6, 1863, when he was promoted to Colonel, commanding the Regiment.[2] In 1863, the unit attempted to follow the example of their Captain, and offered their services to the regular United States Army, but their request was refused by W. C. Kibbe, the Adjutant General, who did not wish to weaken the military strength of the State.

In 1866, the military system of the State was changed and the National Guard was formed from the old militia companies. The military strength was reduced to eighty companies in all. A Board of Location and Organization was formed with the power to reorganize or disband units with reference to the military needs.[3] This Board on July 19, 1896, ordered the Stockton Light Dragoons mustered out of the service of the State of California.

1. Letter from Captain Brown to Governor Leland Stanford from Stockton dated December 26 , 1862, on file State Archives.
2. Records of California Men in the War of the Rebellion, page 87.
3. California Statures 1865-1866, Chapter DXLI , page 722.
This history was completed in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the California National Guard and the California State Library.
The Stockton Dragoons

The Stockton Dragoons, organized June 17, 1862, were famous more for the amusement they caused the bystanders than for proficiency in drill. Many of the members had never before ridden horseback, and to see them drilling their horses upon the trot or gallop and their swords dangling at their sides, was very funny. The leaders in the movement were Oscar M. Brawn and R. S. Johnson. Johnson had been a member of the Guards, but he preferred riding to walking, and started out to form a cavalry company, and obtained forty-one signatures. The signers, assembling in the Eureka engine-house, were enrolled by John C. Byers, who was appointed as the enrolling officer by Judge Tyler. The following officers were elected: captain. O. M. Brown; first lieutenant, Phillip L. Shoaff; orderly sergeant, R. C. Johnson; second sergeant, I. V. Leffler; third sergeant, F. W. West; fourth sergeant, H. F. Horn; fifth sergeant, Edward Pennington; surgeon, Dr. Christopher Grattan; farrier, John Schreck. Their first appearance was July 12th, they on that occasion acting as escort to the Third Regiment of California volunteers on their way to Salt Lake. Again in October they acted as escort to Company A, Captain Ketcham, bound for Humboldt County. The Dragoons were then in full uniform, and rode in saddles designed by Thomas Cunningham. They were without a flag until October 8, at which time they were presented with a beautiful silk banner by the Stockton ladies. Mrs. Caroline E. Dunbar presented the flag, Captain O. M. Brown responding in a neat speech. He resigned in February, 1863, and so did R. S. Johnson, the former being commissioned as colonel of a regiment of cavalry, the latter as captain of Company K in the same regiment. Captain Johnson immediately opened a recruiting office and called for 100 volunteers. Captain Johnson served through the war, doing good work in Arizona among the Apaches. Captain T. K. Hook was Brown's successor, and, being displeased with the military law signed by Governor Haight, July 13, 1866, the Dragoons disbanded.

One of the most imposing impromptu celebrations of the Civil War was that of July 11, 1863, in honor of the victories of General U. S. Grant at Vicksburg, July 4th, and that of General Meade at Gettysburg a few days later. "The firing of cannon, the illumination of the public streets and the public buildings and many private residences, the waving of flags in every part of the city, and the music of the band combined to make it a scene unparalleled in brilliancy and seldom ever equalled in the enthusiasm it created." A procession was formed in front of Agricultural Hall comprising the Stockton Light Dragoons and citizens and led by the band of thirteen pieces, and citizens whooped and yelled. Every man carried an oil-burning torch and many carried transparencies. The procession after marching through the streets halted in front of the Weber House where a speakers' stand had been erected. The streets and balconies were literally packed as the meeting was called to order, and Charles H. Chamberlain selected as president and B. W. Owens. Charles T. Meader, Austin Sperry, Charles Grunsky, William Kierski, and Dr. Asa Clark, vice-presidents. The speakers were Rev. Charles R. Hendrickson of the Baptist Church, Thomas B. Shannon and Cornelius Cole, the latter still living and now past 100 years of age. The glee club was on hand and amid cheers sung the "Red, White and Blue," "John Brown" and the "Star Spangled Banner." From the stand a dispatch was read stating that the steamer Cornelia would arrive at 1 o'clock, decorated in honor of the great victories, and with fireworks. Soon after midnight the meeting adjourned and many hundreds then marched to the wharf, singing "John Brown" and "Marching Through Georgia," preceded by the band, there to await the steamer's arrival. Occasionally the band played a patriotic air, as the tired crowd anxiously gazed down the river for the approaching steamer. At last from the throng there came a shout, as a streak of fire was seen to shoot from earth to sky. This was answered from the wharf with rocket and shell, and the old gun on the bridge.

These signals were given and repeated at intervals of perhaps ten minutes, until the steamer's arrival at Rough and Ready. As she came up the channel, excepting the danger signals only, not a light was seen, and soon the dark shadows of the steamer's outline came in sight. In the still, quiet night, the crowd almost held their breath in excited anticipation, and upon the water, smooth as a mill pond, the paddle-wheels were distinctly heard as they struck the water.

Opposite Banner Island the bell was heard to strike, the wheels stopped, and as if by magic touch all around us was as bright as day. The steamer was in a blaze of light from bow to stern. Rockets went whizzing into air; the stars from the Roman candles fell like rain upon deck and water; the blue, red, white and green lights filled the air with smoke, and a deck hand dressed in navy costume, standing upon the pilot-house of the steamer, grasping in his right hand our country's flag, the living, breathing, central figure which completed the tableau, the most beautiful of any ever seen in California. Upon the wharf the excitement was intense. Rockets were fast sent into the air, the band played loud and strong, the cannon was rapidly fired, and the people shouted until they
could shout no more. The display has never been reproduced and many were the congratulations of citizens to Captain Conkling and his officers for their patriotic work.
Extracted from the History of San Joaquin County, 1923.


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Updated 8 February 2016