San Francisco jail surrounded by vigilantes

The separate companies of the Committee of Vigilance, about fifteen hundred men in all, started out about noon and marched by different routes to their respective assigned positions, some by way of Kearny Street, others by Dupont, and more by Stockton Street. Most found themselves on Broadway in front of the jail or on streets directly adjoining it, while some wound up on the hillside north and east of the jail. They arrived with an almost mathematical precision, delivering an extraordinary spectacle to the many onlookers who gathered. The whole area was filled with armed men, bayonets flashing in the sunlight. All around, filling the streets, covering the summit and empty slopes of Telegraph Hill, atop the nearby roofs and filling every window and balcony around were dense masses of people eager to see what would happen.

Vigilantes surround San Francisco county jail

Vigilantes surround county jail

When all these military units were in position the artillery company, formerly the First California Guards, moved up Kearny Street onto Broadway. They passed between the opened ranks of soldiers and placed their cannon in the middle of the street, aimed directly at the front door to the county jail. Then they deliberately proceeded to load it. Meanwhile a written summons, issued by the Committee of Vigilance around noon and served on Sheriff Scannell soon after, required him to surrender possession of the jail to those who had served him so as to prevent the spilling of blood. The summons had not been obeyed but there were no signs of an attempt to defend the jail from the overwhelming force now brought against it.


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