A vigil for James King

While crowds were gathered at the county jail and Mayor Van Ness attempted to speak there, Montgomery Street between Clay and Washington became more densely packed with mourners as the night wore on. Not only did the people want to know James King’s condition but also they wished to hear any news of a resurgence of the Committee of Vigilance. Ropes stretched across the entrance to the Pacific Express office where King lay. Doctors and friends passed in and out and most gave an account of how the great man fared at that moment. His wife arrived about seven and went right in.

James King of William at death

James King after the shooting

The excitement of the crowd, estimated at between seven and eight o’clock to be not less than ten thousand increased in size as the evening progressed. Several men made fiery speeches and urged vengeance. All were greeted with a roar of applause. One man urged everyone to arm himself and meet at the plaza at nine that night. While many did just this there was no clear leader and little happened, except for more rumors of a Committee of Vigilance that passed from mouth to mouth, but eventually the crowd dissipated.

The Navy Colt that killed James King

Navy Colt that killed James King

By ten o’clock around three hundred armed men were on guard at the jail. Some were prominent men, mostly lawyers, while other were friends of Casey, public officers and members of the military. The first official military unit to arrive was the San Francisco Blues under Lt. J. Martin Reese. About eleven-thirty a mounted battalion under Major Isaac Rowell, made up of the California Guards under Lt. James F. Curtis, The First Light Dragoons under Lt. J. Sewell Read, and the National Lancers under Capt. Thomas Hayes arrived and took up positions for the night. Soon after midnight, except for the guards on duty and a small crowd in front of the Pacific Express office, the people disappeared for the night.



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