The vigilante military restructured

In addition to the publication of the address of the Committee of Vigilance, which clearly showed its determination not to disband until its work was done, and probably because of the ill-advised positions taken by Governor Johnson, the committee rescinded the conciliatory resolutions adopted before the meeting of the citizens of San Francisco with the governor in Benicia. This was done, not because peace was undesirable, but because those who advised Johnson had misconstrued their overtures as evidence of weakness and timidity. Meanwhile action was taken to strengthen the organization and put it into a better position to fight. Marshal Doane had already been instructed to report on how the committee could secure the arms known to be in possession of the law and order party, now referred to as the enemies of the people of San Francisco.

Vigilance committee military units, 1856

Military units of the Committee of Vigilance, 1856

In view of the expectation of Volney E. Howard, the new general of the militia, to drive the “sour flour and salt pork merchants,” as he called the committee, into the bay at short notice it was determined to fortify committee headquarters. A fire bell was obtained from the Monumental Engine Company number six for use as an alarm. A completely new military organization was adopted with three regiments of infantry, each of two battalions of four companies; one battalion of artillery, one of cavalry and one French legion. One regiment would be detailed for active duty each twenty-four hours in rotation and all other members should keep themselves in readiness at all times.



  1. Good grief! The Vigilance Committee at war with the (corrupt) authorities? Can’t wait for the next installment, John!

    • Thanks for your great comment in FB today, Carol. You were spot on. But yes, Governor Johnson is determined to get rid of the vigilantes anyway he can in spite of the resignation of his militia leader, General William T. Sherman, who seems torn between loyalty to his commander and his sense of what is right. Most of the militia and their arms have found their way to the vigilantes, but all Gov. Johnson has to do is find enough men to refill the ranks and enough weapons to rearm them and he will go to war.

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