The Wolfe Tone Guard in Civil War California

Kudos to the California State Department of Military History for posting this on their Facebook Page. 

Historic California Militia
and National Guard Units:

The Wolfe Tone Guard

Military Unit Designation:

Wolfe Tone Guard, Company D, 2nd (Irish) Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, California Militia

After 20 July 1866, Wolf Tone Guard, Company C, 1st Infantry Battalion, National Guard of California

After 17 May 1871, Wolfe Tone Guard, Company C, 3rd (Irish) Infantry Regiment, National Guard of California

After 1 June 1881 consolidated with Company A to form Company A, 3rd Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade, National Guard of California
22 March 1882 to 3 April 1883, Wolfe Tone Guard functioning as an independent unit outside state control

3 April 1883, reconstituted in the National Guard of California as Company E, 3rd (Irish) Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade.
Date of Organization: 15 February 1862

Inclusive dates of units papers: 1862-1880
Geographical Location or Locations: San Francisco City & County
Armory: 567 Market Street, San Francisco

Papers on file at the California State Archives:
a. Organization Papers 1 document (1862)
b. Bonds none
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 24 documents (1862-1879)
d. Election Returns 20 documents (1862-1879)
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 35 documents (1862-1880)
g. Oaths Qualifications 67 documents (1862-1879)
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices 6 documents (1865-1875)
j. Requisitions 3 documents (1862-1868)
k. Resignations 3 documents (1862-1874)
l. Target Practice Reports 10 documents (1868-1880)
m. Other Public Property, 2 documents (1868-1871)
Certificate of Commission, 1 document (1868)

In response to a petition signed by fifty-four citizens of San Francisco and in accordance with the laws of the State of California, the Wolfe Tone Guard was organized and mustered in as aunit of the State Militia in San Francisco on the 15 of February, 1862. The company was attached to the 2nd (Irish) Regiment of Infantry, 2nd Brigade. Within a month from the date of organization, the members of the company had equipped themselves with new uniforms consisting of regulation United States Army coats faced with green, red trousers, and regulation hats with green feathers .

On September ninth of that year, they participated in a parade in San Francisco and caused much favorable comment from civilians and military authorities for their spirited, imposing, and soldierly appearance. The company attended the 2nd Brigade Encampment held at Camp Allen, Alameda County in October 1863. This was the largest encampment ever held up to that time, and again the company caused much favorable comment from officials and spectators by their unusual and brilliant appearance, and their skill in executing difficult maneuvers of a military character.

The organization continued to take part in parades and receptions, in fact all public functions ·where opportunity offered, as well as acting as military escort at inaugural ceremonies. A steady growth was manifested also, the membership having increased to 73 in September 1865.

Under the new military regulations of 1866, the company was mustered out of service on the 12th day of July of that year [1], immediately reorganized and was mustered in as Company C of the 1st Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade, California Militia. The year 1867 was uneventful in the history of this company except that it continued to participate in parades and other public demonstrations .On the 21st of February, 1868 the company was again mustered out of the service under the reorganization program of that year. Again it was reorganized and on February 25, 1868, was accepted and mustered in as part of the National Guard of California, designated as Company C, First Infantry Battalion, Second Brigade. On February 17, 1871, the unit was transferred as directed in Special Order No. 8, and became Company C, 3rd (Irish) Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, National Guard of California.[2]

Parades, encampments, and other public appearances occupied the attention of the National Guard in San Francisco from 1871 to 1875. On February 28, 1876, on the occasion of the fire at San Quentin State Prison , the Wolfe Tone Guard and other companies of the Second Brigade were called upon for active service in response to a request from the civil authorities of the State. The conduct of the troops on this occasion was prompt and satisfactory in every respect.

On October 20, 1876, the company was under arms in San Francisco when rioting was feared due to the prevailing feeling against the Chinese in that city. At that time, however, the disturbances did not reach the stage where military aid was required. About the 20th of July, 1877 rioting again broke out in San Francisco. The riots were incited by sympathizers with labor strikers in eastern cities and were directed against the Chinese as before. Fearing that the local authorities would be unable to Quell the disturbance, assistance was asked from the State and the entire Second Brigade was placed under arms ready 1'or action at a moments notice. The troops were placed under arms July twenty-third, but were not called upon until July twenty-ninth and then only for a few hours, as the riots subsided almost immediately after the appearance of the soldiers.

On the Fourth of July, 1877 what was described at the time as the most brilliant parade in which the company had ever participated took place in San Francisco. The entire 2nd Brigade marched in uniform and the Wolfe Tone Guard was as usual one of the most attractive and colorful companies in the line.

During 1878 and 1879, the activities of the company were limited to drill practice and other routine military duties. The company continued to a dd to its enrollment and in September 1879, the unit numbered eighty-three men. In conformity with the amendments to the military laws of the State enacted at the Legislative session of l879-1880, the company was reorganized and continued as a unit of the military force of the State.

On June 1, 1881, Company C was consolidated with Company A and the consolidation was redesignated as Company A, 3rd Infantry Battalion. Less than a year later on March 22, 1882, the Third Infantry was mustered out of the service of the State. The Battalion was reorganized and continued as an independent regiment until April 2, 1883, when the regiment was again mustered into the National Guard as the 3rd (Irish) Infantry Regiment. Company C, organized as the Wolfe Tone Guard, reentered the 3rd (Irish) Infantry Regiment as Company E. For further activities of this unit refer to Company E, 3rd (Irish) Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade.


1. Adjutant General Report 1865-1867, page 91.
2. For further details refer to Historical Records Second Brigade 1869-1880, page 121. Adjutant General's Office.

This history was completed in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the California National Guard and the California State Library.

Wolfe Tone:

Theobald Wolfe Tone, posthumously known as Wolfe Tone (Bhulf Tón in Irish) (20 June 1763 – 19 November 1798), was a leading Irish revolutionary figure and one of the founding members of the United Irishmen and is regarded as the father of Irish republicanism. He was captured by British forces at Lough Swilly in Donegal and taken prisoner. Before he was to be executed, it is believed that Wolfe Tone attempted suicide. He subsequently died from mortal wounds eight days afterwards, thus avoiding being hanged as a convicted traitor to the British Crown for his involvement in the 1798 Irish Rebellion.

Views: 318

Tags: American Civil War, California, Military History, United States, Wolfe Tone

Comment by Gerry Regan on January 6, 2015 at 8:56am

Thanks for this, Jim. BTW, have you joined our Irish Military, Living History and Blue, Gray and Green groups, all focused on the Irish military experience? Let us know if you need the links to these.

Comment by Patrick J. O'Leary on January 12, 2015 at 12:29am

Excellent  writeup !!  Very  Very interesting  and  informative -  constant turmoil and changes on the status of the unit.  Many of us did not know of this unit, amongst the  very many  we do not know anything about. Great military history where the Irish are involved.  More!! >>


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