Vigilantes humiliate new militia commander

The capture of almost the entire force of the law and order party must have humiliated their commander, Volney E. Howard, most of all. He had accepted the position of Major General of the militia after William T. Sherman resigned probably at the suggestion of his friend and Supreme Court justice David Terry. Like Terry, Howard had lived in Texas and knew the rough life of the frontier, but he was a more gentle and refined man than Terry. It likely was a rash decision to undertake a task that Sherman had found impractical but he did his best and deserved more credit that he would receive.

Volney E. Howard, California militia

Volney E. Howard

On the afternoon when Hopkins was stabbed and Terry, Maloney, Ashe and the others fled into the armory of the San Francisco Blues, he had hurried over but arrived a few minutes late. As soon as he did arrive he identified himself and demanded to be admitted but the vigilante guard was unfazed and refused him entry. He left the scene and showed up later, after the fall of the law and order forces, at vigilante headquarters where he demanded a meeting with the executive committee. William Coleman and several others met him at the store of Brewster & Co. on Front and Clay Streets. Here he informed the vigilantes that they were outlaws and would regret the actions they had taken. He would, he said, put them down within sixty days as he had sent to the federal government in Washington for aid that would be forthcoming soon. The executive committee, when notified of Howard’s request, resolved they would hold no communication with him except in writing and ordered that Howard be notified of this and then escorted beyond the lines of the special vigilance committee jurisdiction.

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