Part 3 out of 3
strategic points about the jail and elsewhere. The Governor was
informally notified of a state of insurrection and was requested to send
in the state militia. By evening all the forces of organized society
were under arms, and the result was a formidable, apparently impregnable
Nor was the widespread indignation against the shooting of James King of
William entirely unalloyed by bitterness. King had been a hard hitter,
an honest man, a true crusader; but in the heat of battle he had not
always had time to make distinctions. Thus he had quite justly attacked
the _Times_ and other venal newspapers, but in so doing had, by too
general statements, drawn the fire of every other journal in town. He
had attacked with entire reason a certain Catholic priest, a man the
Church itself would probably soon have disciplined, but in so doing had
managed to enrage all Roman Catholics. In like manner his scorn of the
so-called "chivalry" was certainly well justified, but his manner of
expression offended even the best Southerners. Most of us see no farther
than the immediate logic of the situation. Those perfectly worthy
citizens were inclined to view the Vigilantes, not as a protest against
intolerable conditions, but rather as personal champions of King.
In thus relying on the strength of their position the upholders of law
realized that there might be fighting, and even severe fighting, but it
must be remembered that the Law and Order party loved fighting. It was
part of their education and of their pleasure and code. No wonder that
they viewed with equanimity and perhaps with joy the beginning of the
Vigilance movement of 1856.
The leaders of the Law and Order party chose as their military commander
William Tecumseh Sherman, whose professional ability and integrity in
later life are unquestioned, but whose military genius was equaled only
by his extreme inability to remember facts. When writing his _Memoirs_,
the General evidently forgot that original documents existed or that
statements concerning historical events can often be checked up. A mere
mob is irresponsible and anonymous. But it was not a mob with whom
Sherman was faced, for, as a final satisfaction to the legal-minded, the
men of the Vigilance Committee had put down their names on record as
responsible for this movement, and it is upon contemporary record that
the story of these eventful days must rely for its details.
THE STORM BREAKS
The Governor of the State at this time was J. Neely Johnson, a
politician whose merits and demerits were both so slight that he would
long since have been forgotten were it not for the fact that he occupied
office during this excitement. His whole life heretofore had been one of
trimming. He had made his way by this method, and he gained the
Governor's chair by yielding to the opinion of others. He took his color
and his temporary belief from those with whom he happened to be. His
judgment often stuck at trifles, and his opinions were quickly heated
but as quickly cooled. The added fact that his private morals were not
above criticism gave men an added hold over him.
On receipt of the request for the state militia by the law party, but
not by the proper authorities. Governor Johnson hurried down from
Sacramento to San Francisco. Immediately on arriving in the city he sent
word to Coleman requesting an interview. Coleman at once visited him at
his hotel. Johnson apparently made every effort to appear amiable and
conciliatory. In answer to all questions Coleman replied:
"We want peace, and if possible without a struggle."
"It is all very well," said Johnson, "to talk about peace with an army
of insurrection newly raised. But what is it you actually wish to
"The law is crippled," replied Coleman. "We want merely to accomplish
what the crippled law should do but cannot. This done, we will gladly
retire. Now you have been asked by the mayor and certain others to bring
out the militia and crush this movement. I assure you it cannot be done,
and, if you attempt it, it will cause you and us great trouble. Do as
Governor McDougal did in '51. See in this movement what he saw in
that--a local movement for a local reform in which the State is not
concerned. We are not a mob. We demand no overthrow of institutions. We
ask not a single court to adjourn. We ask not a single officer to
vacate his position. We demand only the enforcement of the law which we
This expression of intention, with a little elaboration and argument,
fired Johnson to enthusiasm. He gave his full support, unofficially of
course, to the movement.
"But," he concluded, "hasten the undertaking as much as you can. The
opposition is stronger than you suppose. The pressure on me is going to
be terrible. What about the prisoners in the jail?"
Coleman evaded this last question by saying that the matter was in the
hands of the Committee, and he then left the Governor.
Coleman at once returned to headquarters where the Executive Committee
was in session, getting rid of its routine business. After a dozen
matters were settled, it was moved "that the Committee as a body shall
visit the county jail at such time as the Executive Committee might
direct, and take thence James P. Casey and Charles Cora, give them a
fair trial, and administer such punishment as justice shall demand."
This, of course, was the real business for which all this organization
had been planned. A moment's pause succeeded the proposal, but an
instantaneous and unanimous assent followed the demand for a vote. At
this precise instant a messenger opened the door and informed them that
Governor Johnson was in the building requesting speech with Coleman.
Coleman found Johnson, accompanied by Sherman and a few others, lounging
in the anteroom. The Governor sprawled in a chair, his hat pulled over
his eyes, a cigar in the corner of his mouth. His companions arose and
bowed gravely as Coleman entered the room, but the Governor remained
seated and nodded curtly with an air of bravado. Without waiting for
even the ordinary courtesies he burst out.
"We have come to ask what you intend to do," he demanded.
Coleman, thoroughly surprised, with the full belief that the subject had
all been settled in the previous interview, replied curtly.
"I agree with you as to the grievances," rejoined the Governor, "but the
courts are the proper remedy. The judges are good men, and there is no
necessity for the people to turn themselves into a mob."
"Sir!" cried Coleman. "This is no mob!--You know this is no mob!"
The Governor went on to explain that it might become necessary to bring
out all the force at his command. Coleman, though considerably taken
aback, recovered himself and listened without comment. He realized that
Sherman and the other men were present as witnesses.
"I will report your remark to my associates," he contented himself with
saying. The question of witnesses, however, bothered Coleman. He darted
in to the committee room and shortly returned with witnesses of his own.
"Let us now understand each other clearly," he resumed. "As I understand
your proposal, it is that, if we make no move, you guarantee no escape,
an immediate trial, and instant execution?"
Johnson agreed to this.
"We doubt your ability to do this," went on Coleman, "but we are ready
to meet you half-way. This is what we will promise: we will take no
steps without first giving you notice. But in return we insist that ten
men of our own selection shall be added to the sheriff's force within
Johnson, who was greatly relieved and delighted, at once agreed to this
proposal, and soon withdrew. But the blunder he had made was evident
enough. With Coleman, who was completely outside the law, he, as an
executive of the law, had no business treating or making agreements at
all. Furthermore, as executive of the State, he had no legal right to
interfere with city affairs unless he were formally summoned by the
authorities. Up to now he had merely been notified by private citizens.
And to cap the whole sheaf of blunders, he had now in this private
interview treated with rebels, and to their advantage. For, as Coleman
probably knew, the last agreement was all for the benefit of the
Committee. They gained the right to place a personal guard over the
prisoners. They gave in return practically only a promise to withdraw
that guard before attacking the jail--a procedure which was eminently
practical if they cared anything for the safety of the guard.
Johnson was thoroughly pleased with himself until he reached the hotel
where the leaders of the opposition were awaiting him. Their keen legal
minds saw at once the position in which he had placed himself. After a
hasty discussion, it was decided to claim that the Committee had waived
all right of action, and that they had promised definitely to leave the
case to the courts. When this statement had been industriously
circulated and Coleman had heard of it, he is said to have exclaimed:
"The time has come. After that, it is either ourselves or a mob."
He proceeded at once to the Vigilance headquarters and summoned Olney,
the appointed guardian of the jail. Him he commanded to get together
sixty of the best men possible. A call was sent out for the companies to
assemble. They soon began to gather, coming some in rank as they had
gathered in their headquarters outside, others singly and in groups.
Doorkeepers prevented all exit: once a man was in, he was not permitted
to go out. Each leader received explicit directions as to what was to be
done. He was instructed as to precisely when he and his command were to
start; from what given point; along exactly what route to proceed; and
at just what time to arrive at a given point--not a moment sooner or
later. The plan for concerted action was very carefully and skillfully
worked out. Olney's sixty men were instructed to lay aside their muskets
and, armed only with pistols, to make their way by different routes to
Sunday morning dawned fair and calm. But as the day wore on, an air of
unrest pervaded the city. Rumors of impending action were already
abroad. The jail itself hummed like a hive. Men came and went, busily
running errands, and darting about through the open door. Armed men were
taking their places on the flat roof. Meantime the populace gathered
slowly. At first there were only a score or so idling around the square;
but little by little they increased in numbers. Black forms began to
appear on the rooftops all about; white faces showed at the windows;
soon the center of the square had filled; the converging streets became
black with closely packed people. The windows and doors and balconies,
the copings and railings, the slopes of the hills round about were all
occupied. In less than an hour twenty thousand people had gathered. They
took their positions quietly and waited patiently. It was evident that
they had assembled in the role of spectators only, and that action had
been left to more competent and better organized men. There was no
shouting, no demonstration, and so little talking that it amounted only
to a low murmur. Already the doors of the jail had been closed. The
armed forces on the roof had been increased.
After a time the congested crowd down one of the side-streets was
agitated by the approach of a body of armed men. At the same instant a
similar group began to appear at the end of another and converging
street. The columns came steadily forward, as the people gave way. The
men wore no uniforms, and the glittering steel of their bayonets
furnished the only military touch. The two columns reached the
convergence of the street at the same time and as they entered the
square before the jail a third and a fourth column debouched from other
directions, while still others deployed into view on the hills behind.
They all took their places in rank around the square.
Among the well-known characters of the times was a certain Colonel Gift.
Mr. Hubert H. Bancroft, the chronicler of these events, describes him as
"a tall, lank, empty-boweled, tobacco-spurting Southerner, with eyes
like burning black balls, who could talk a company of listeners into an
insane asylum quicker than any man in California, and whose blasphemy
could not be equaled, either in quantity or quality, by the most profane
of any age or nation." He remarked to a friend nearby, as he watched the
spectacle below: "When you see these damned psalm-singing Yankees turn
out of their churches, shoulder their guns, and march away of a Sunday,
you may know that hell is going to crack shortly."
For some time the armed men stood rigid, four deep all around the
square. Behind them the masses of the people watched. Then at a command
the ranks fell apart and from the side-streets marched the sixty men
chosen by Olney, dragging a field gun at the end of a rope. This they
wheeled into position in the square and pointed it at the door of the
jail. Quite deliberately, the cannon was loaded with powder and balls. A
man lit a slow match, blew it to a glow, and took his position at the
breech. Nothing then happened for a full ten minutes. The six men stood
rigid by the gun in the middle of the square. The sunlight gleamed from
the ranks of bayonets. The vast multitude held its breath. The wall of
the jail remained blank and inscrutable.
Then a man on horseback was seen to make his way through the crowd. This
was Charles Doane, Grand Marshal of the Vigilantes. He rode directly to
the jail door, on which he rapped with the handle of his riding-whip.
After a moment the wicket in the door opened. Without dismounting, the
rider handed a note within, and then, backing his horse the length of
the square, came to rest.
Again the ranks parted and closed, this time to admit of three
carriages. As they came to a stop, the muskets all around the square
leaped to "present arms!" From the carriages descended Coleman, Truett,
and several others. In dead silence they walked to the jail door,
Olney's men close at their heels. For some moments they spoke through
the wicket; then the door swung open and the Committee entered.
Up to this moment Casey had been fully content with the situation. He
was, of course, treated to the best the jail or the city could afford.
It was a bother to have been forced to shoot James King of William; but
the nuisance of incarceration for a time was a small price to pay. His
friends had rallied well to his defense. He had no doubt whatever, that,
according to the usual custom, he would soon work his way through the
courts and stand again a free man. His first intimation of trouble was
the hearing of the resonant tramp of feet outside. His second was when
Sheriff Scannell stood before him with the Vigilantes' note in his hand.
Casey took one glance at Scannell's face.
"You aren't going to betray me?" he cried. "You aren't going to give me
"James," replied Scannell solemnly, "there are three thousand armed men
coming for you and I have not thirty supporters around the jail."
"Not thirty!" cried Casey astonished. For a moment he appeared crushed;
then he leaped to his feet flourishing a long knife. "I'll not be taken
from this place alive!" he cried. "Where are all you brave fellows who
were going to see me through this?"
At this moment Coleman knocked at the door of the jail. The sheriff
hurried away to answer the summons.
Casey took the opportunity to write a note for the Vigilantes which he
gave to the marshal. It read:
"_To the Vigilante Committee_. GENTLEMEN:--I am willing to go before you
if you will let me speak but ten minutes. I do not wish to have the
blood of any man upon my head."
On entering the jail door Coleman and his companions bowed formally to
"We have come for the prisoner Casey," said Coleman. "We ask that he be
peaceably delivered us handcuffed at the door immediately."
"Under existing circumstances," replied Scannell, "I shall make no
resistance. The prison and its contents are yours."
But Truett would have none of this. "We want only the man Casey at
present," he said. "For the safety of all the rest we hold you strictly
They proceeded at once to Casey's cell. The murderer heard them coming
and sprang back from the door holding his long knife poised. Coleman
walked directly to the door, where he stopped, looking Casey in the eye.
At the end of a full minute he exclaimed sharply:
"Lay down that knife!"
As though the unexpected tones had broken a spell, Casey flung the knife
from him and buried his face in his hands. Then, and not until then,
Coleman informed him curtly that his request would be granted.
They took Casey out through the door of the jail. The crowd gathered its
breath for a frantic cheer. The relief from tension must have been
great, but Coleman, bareheaded, raised his hand and, in instant
obedience to the gesture, the cheer was stifled. The leaders then
entered the carriage, which immediately turned and drove away.
Thus Casey was safely in custody. Charles Cora, who, it will be
remembered, had killed Marshal Richardson and who had gained from the
jury a disagreement, was taken on a second trip.
The street outside headquarters soon filled with an orderly crowd
awaiting events. There was noticeable the same absence of excitement,
impatience, or tumult so characteristic of the popular gatherings of
that time, except perhaps when the meetings were conducted by the
partisans of Law and Order. After a long interval one of the Committee
members appeared at an upper window.
"It is not the intention of the Committee to be hasty," he announced.
"Nothing will be done today."
This statement was received in silence. At last someone asked:
"Where are Casey and Cora?"
"The Committee hold possession of the jail. All are safe," said the
With this simple statement the crowd was completely satisfied, and
dispersed quietly and at once.
Of the three thousand enrolled men, three hundred were retained under
arms at headquarters, a hundred surrounded the jail, and all the rest
were dismissed. Next day, Monday, headquarters still remained
inscrutable; but large patrols walked about the city, collecting arms.
The gunshops were picketed and their owners were warned under no
circumstances to sell weapons. Towards evening the weather grew colder
and rain came on. Even this did not discourage the crowd, which stood
about in its sodden clothes waiting. At midnight it reluctantly
dispersed, but by daylight the following morning the streets around
headquarters were blocked. Still it rained, and still apparently nothing
happened. All over the city business was at a standstill. Men had
dropped their affairs, even the most pressing, either to take part in
this movement or to lend the moral support of their presence and their
interest. The partisans of Law and Order, so called, were also abroad.
No man dared express himself in mixed company openly. The courts were
empty. Some actually closed down, with one excuse or another; but most
of them pretended to go through the forms of business. Many judges took
the occasion to leave town--on vacation, they announced. These
incidents occasioned lively comment. As our chronicler before quoted
tells us: "A good many who had things on their minds left for the
country." Still it rained steadily, and still the crowds waited.
The prisoners, Casey and Cora, had expected, when taken from the jail,
to be lynched at once. But, since the execution had been thus long
postponed, they began to take heart. They understood that they were to
have a clear trial "according to law"--a phrase which was in those days
immensely cheering to malefactors. They were not entirely cut off from
outside communication. Casey was allowed to see several men on pressing
business, and permitted to talk to them freely, although before a
witness from the Committee. Cora received visits from Belle Cora, who in
the past had spent thousands on his legal defense. Now she came to see
him faithfully and reported every effort that was being made.
On Tuesday, the 20th, Cora was brought before the Committee. He asked
for counsel, and Truett was appointed to act for him. A list of
witnesses demanded by Cora was at once summoned, and a sub-committee was
sent to bring them before the board of trial. All the ordinary forms of
law were closely followed, and all the essential facts were separately
brought out. It was the same old Cora trial over again with one
modification; namely, that all technicalities and technical delays were
eliminated. Not an attempt was made to confine the investigation to the
technical trial. By dusk the case for the prosecution was finished, and
that for the defense was supposed to begin.
During all this long interim the Executive Committee had sat in
continuous session. They had agreed that no recess of more than thirty
minutes should be taken until a decision had been reached. But of all
the long list of witnesses submitted by Cora for the defense not one
could be found. They were in hiding and afraid. The former perjurers
would not appear.
It was now falling dusk. The corners of the great room were in darkness.
Beneath the elevated desk, behind which sat Coleman, Bluxome, the
secretary, lighted a single oil lamp, the better to see his notes. In
the interest of the proceedings a general illumination had not been
ordered. Within the shadow, the door opened and Charles Doane, the Grand
Marshal of the Vigilantes, advanced three steps into the room.
"Mr. President," he said clearly, "I am instructed to announce that
James King of William is dead."
The conviction of both men took place that night, and the execution was
ordered, but in secret.
Thursday noon had been set for the funeral of James King of William.
This ceremony was to take place in the Unitarian church. A great
multitude had gathered to attend. The church was filled to overflowing
early in the day. But thousands of people thronged the streets round
about, and stood patiently and seriously to do the man honor. Historians
of the time detail the names of many marching bodies from every guild
and society in the new city. Hundreds of horsemen, carriages, and foot
marchers got themselves quietly into the line. They also were excluded
from the funeral ceremonies by lack of room, but wished to do honor to
the cortege. This procession is said to have been over two miles in
length. Each man wore a band of crepe around his left arm. All the city
seemed to be gathered there. And yet the time for the actual funeral
ceremony was still some hours distant.
Nevertheless the few who, hurrying to the scene, had occasion to pass
near the Vigilante headquarters, found the silent square guarded on all
sides by a triple line of armed men. The side-streets also were filled
with them. They stood in the exact alignment their constant drill had
made possible, with bayonets fixed, staring straight ahead. Three
thousand were under arms. Like the vast crowd a few squares away, they,
too, stood silent and patiently waiting.
At a quarter before one the upper windows of the headquarters building
were thrown open and small planked platforms were thrust from two of
them. Heavy beams were shoved out from the flat roof directly over the
platforms. From the ends of the beams dangled nooses of rope. After this
another wait ensued. Across the silence of the intervening buildings
could be heard faintly from the open windows of the church the sound of
an organ, and then the measured cadences of an oration. The funeral
services had begun. As though this were a signal, the blinds that had
closed the window openings were thrown back and Cora was conducted to
the end of one of the little platforms. His face was covered with a
white handkerchief and he was bound. A moment later Casey appeared. He
had asked not to be blindfolded. Cora stood bolt upright, motionless as
a stone, but Casey's courage broke. If he had any hope that the boastful
promises of his friends would be fulfilled by a rescue, that hope died
as he looked down on the set, grim faces, on the sinister ring of steel.
His nerve then deserted him completely and he began to babble.
"Gentlemen," he cried at them, "I am not a murderer! I do not feel
afraid to meet my God on a charge of murder! I have done nothing but
what I thought was right! Whenever I was injured I have resented it! It
has been part of my education during twenty-nine years! Gentlemen, I
forgive you this persecution! O God! My poor Mother! O God!"
It is to be noted that he said not one word of contrition nor of regret
for the man whose funeral services were then going on, nor for the
heartbroken wife who knelt at that coffin. His words found no echo
against that grim wall of steel. Again ensued a wait, apparently
inexplicable. Across the intervening housetops the sound of the oration
ceased. At the door of the church a slight commotion was visible. The
coffin was being carried out. It was placed in the hearse. Every head
was bared. There followed a slight pause; then from overhead the
church-bell boomed out once. Another bell in the next block answered; a
third, more distant, chimed in. From all parts of the city tolled the
At the first stroke of the bell the funeral cortege moved forward toward
Lone Mountain cemetery. At the first stroke the Vigilantes as one man
presented arms. The platforms dropped, and Casey and Cora fell into
THE VIGILANTES OF '56
This execution naturally occasioned a great storm of indignation among
the erstwhile powerful adherents of the law. The ruling, aristocratic
class, the so-called chivalry, the best element of the city, had been
slapped deliberately in the face, and this by a lot of Yankee
shopkeepers. The Committee were stigmatized as stranglers. They ought to
be punished as murderers! They should be shot down as revolutionists! It
was realized, however, that the former customary street-shooting had
temporarily become unsafe. Otherwise there is no doubt that brawls would
have been more frequent than they were.
An undercurrent of confidence was apparent, however. The Law and Order
men had been surprised and overpowered. They had yielded only to
overwhelming odds. With the execution of Cora and Casey accomplished,
the Committee might be expected to disband. And when the Committee
disbanded, the law would have its innings. Its forces would then be
better organized and consolidated, its power assured. It could then
safely apprehend and bring to justice the ringleaders of this
undertaking. Many of the hotheads were in favor of using armed force to
take Coleman and his fellow-conspirators into custody. But calmer
spirits advised moderation for the present, until the time was more
But to the surprise and indignation of these people, the Vigilantes
showed no intention of disbanding. Their activities extended and their
organization strengthened. The various military companies drilled daily
until they went through the manual with all the precision of regular
troops. The Committee's book remained opened, and by the end of the week
over seven thousand men had signed the roll. Loads of furniture and
various supplies stopped at the doors of headquarters and were carried
in by members of the organization. No non-member ever saw the inside of
the building while it was occupied by the Committee of Vigilance. So
cooking utensils, cot-beds, provisions, blankets, bulletin-boards, arms,
chairs and tables, field-guns, ammunition, and many other supplies
seemed to indicate a permanent occupation. Doorkeepers were always in
attendance, and sentinels patrolled in the streets and on the roof.
Every day the Executive Committee was in session for all of the daylight
hours. A blacklist was in preparation. Orders were issued for the
Vigilante police to arrest certain men and to warn certain others to
leave town immediately. A choice haul was made of the lesser lights of
the ward-heelers and chief politicians. A very good sample was the
notorious Yankee Sullivan, an ex-prize-fighter, ward-heeler, ballot-box
stuffer, and shoulder-striker. He, it will be remembered, was the man
who returned Casey as supervisor in a district where, as far as is
known, Casey was not a candidate and no one could be found who had voted
for him. This individual went to pieces completely shortly after his
arrest. He not only confessed the details of many of his own crimes but,
what was more important, disclosed valuable information as to others.
His testimony was important, not necessarily as final proof against
those whom he accused, but as indication of the need of thorough
investigation. Then without warning he committed suicide in his cell. On
investigation it turned out that he had been accustomed to from sixty
to eighty drinks of whiskey each day, and the sudden and complete
deprivation had unhinged his mind. Warned by this unforeseen
circumstance, the Committee henceforth issued regular rations of whiskey
to all its prisoners, a fact which is a striking commentary on the
character of the latter. It is to be noted, furthermore, that liquor of
all sorts was debarred from the deliberations of the Vigilantes
Trials went briskly forward in due order, with counsel for defense and
ample opportunity to call witnesses. There were no more capital
punishments. It was made known that the Committee had set for itself a
rule that capital punishment would be inflicted by it only for crimes so
punishable by the regular law. But each outgoing ship took a crowd of
the banished. The majority of the first sweepings were low
thugs--"Sydney Ducks," hangers-on, and the worst class of criminals; but
a certain number were taken from what had been known as the city's best.
In the law courts these men would have been declared as white as the
driven snow; in fact, that had actually happened to some of them. But
they were plainly undesirable citizens. The Committee so decided and
bade them depart. Among the names of men who were prominent and
influential in the early history of the city, but who now were told to
leave, were Charles Duane, Woolley Kearny, William McLean, J.D.
Musgrave, Peter Wightman, James White, and Edward McGowan. Hundreds of
others left the city of their own accord. Terror spread among the
inhabitants of the underworld. Some of the minor offenders brought in by
the Vigilante police were turned over by the Executive Committee to the
regular law courts. It is significant that, whereas convictions had been
almost unknown up to this time, every one of these offenders was
promptly sentenced by those courts.
But though the underworld was more or less terrified, the upper grades
were only the further aroused. Many sincerely believed that this
movement was successful only because it was organized, that the people
of the city were scattered and powerless, that they needed only to be
organized to combat the forces of disorder. In pursuance of the belief
that the public at large needed merely to be called together loyally to
defend its institutions, a meeting was set for June 2, in Portsmouth
Square. Elaborate secret preparations, including the distribution of
armed men, were made to prevent interference. Such preparations were
useless. Immediately after the appearance of the notice the Committee of
Vigilance issued orders that the meeting was to be in no manner
discouraged or molested.
It was well attended. Enormous crowds gathered, not only in and around
the Square itself, but in balconies and windows and on housetops. It was
a very disrespectful crowd, evidently out for a good time. On the
platform within the Square stood or sat the owners of many of the city's
proud names. Among them were well-known speakers, men who had never
failed to hold and influence a crowd. But only a short distance away
little could be heard. It early became evident that, though there would
be no interference, the sentiment of the crowd was adverse. And what
must have been particularly maddening was that the sentiment was
good-humored. Colonel Edward Baker came forward to speak. The Colonel
was a man of great eloquence, so that in spite of his considerable lack
of scruples he had won his way to a picturesque popularity and fame. But
the crowd would have little of him this day, and an almost continuous
uproar drowned out his efforts. The usual catch phrases, such as
"liberty." "Constitution," "habeas corpus," "trial by jury," and
"freedom," occasionally became audible, but the people were not
interested. "See Cora's defender!" cried someone, voicing the general
suspicion that Baker had been one of the little gambler's hidden
counsel. "Cora!" "Ed. Baker!" "$10,000!" "Out of that, you old
reprobate!" He spoke ten minutes against the storm and then yielded,
red-faced and angry. Others tried but in vain. A Southerner, Benham,
inveighing passionately against the conditions of the city, in throwing
back his coat happened inadvertently to reveal the butt of a Colt
revolver. The bystanders immediately caught the point. "There's a pretty
Law and Order man!" they shouted. "Say, Benham, don't you know it's
against the law to go armed?"
"I carry this weapon," he cried, shaking his fist, "not as an instrument
to overthrow the law, but to uphold it."
Someone from a balcony nearby interrupted: "In other words, sir, you
break the law in order to uphold the law. What more are the Vigilantes
The crowd went wild over this response. The confusion became worse.
Upholders of Law and Order thrust forward Judge Campbell in the hope
that his age and authority on the bench would command respect. He was
unable, however, to utter even two consecutive sentences.
"I once thought," he interrupted himself piteously, "that I was the free
citizen of a free country. But recent occurrences have convinced me that
I am a slave, more a slave than any on a Southern plantation, for they
know their masters, but I know not mine!"
But his auditors refused to be affected by pathos.
"Oh, yes you do," they informed him. "You know your masters as well as
anybody. Two of them were hanged the other day!"
Though this attempt at home to gain coherence failed, the partisans at
Sacramento had better luck. They collected, it was said, five hundred
men hailing from all quarters of the globe, but chiefly from the
Southeast and Texas. All of them were fire-eaters, reckless, and sure to
make trouble. Two pieces of artillery were reported coming down the
Sacramento to aid all prisoners, but especially Billy Mulligan. The
numbers were not in themselves formidable as opposed to the enrollment
of the Vigilance Committee, but it must be remembered that the city was
full of scattered warriors and of cowed members of the underworld
waiting only leaders and a rallying point. Even were the Vigilantes to
win in the long run, the material for a very pretty civil war was ready
to hand. Two hundred men were hastily put to filling gunnybags with sand
and to fortifying not only headquarters but the streets round about.
Cannon were mounted, breastworks were piled, and embrasures were cut. By
morning Fort Gunnybags, as headquarters was henceforth called, had come
The fire-eaters arrived that night, but they were not five hundred
strong, as excited rumor had it. They disembarked, greeting the horde of
friends who had come to meet them, marched in a body to Fort Gunnybags,
looked it over, stuck their hands into their pockets, and walked
peacefully away to the nearest bar-rooms. This was the wisest move on
their part, for by now the disposition of the Vigilante men was so
complete that nothing short of regularly organized troops could
successfully have dislodged them.
Behind headquarters was a long shed and stable In which were to be found
at all hours saddle horses and artillery horses, saddled and bridled,
ready for instant use. Twenty-six pieces of artillery, most of them sent
in by captains of vessels in the harbor, were here parked. Other cannon
were mounted for the defense of the fort itself. Muskets, rifles, and
sabers had been accumulated. A portable barricade had been constructed
in the event of possible street fighting--a sort of wheeled framework
that could be transformed into litters or scaling-ladders at will. Mess
offices and kitchens were there that could feed a small army. Flags and
painted signs carrying the open eye that had been adopted as emblematic
of vigilance decorated the main room. A huge alarm bell had been mounted
upon the roof. Mattresses, beds, cots, and other furniture necessary to
accommodate whole companies on the premises themselves, had been
provided. A completely equipped armorers' shop and a hospital with all
supplies occupied the third story. The forces were divided into four
companies of artillery, one squadron and two troops of cavalry, four
regiments and thirty-two companies of infantry, besides the small but
very efficient police organization. A tap on the bell gathered these men
in an incredibly short space of time. Bancroft says that, as a rule,
within fifteen minutes of the first stroke seven-tenths of the entire
forces would be on hand ready for combat.
The Law and Order people recognized the strength of this organization
and realized that they must go at the matter in a more thorough manner.
They turned their attention to the politics of the structure, and here
they had every reason to hope for success. No matter how well organized
the Vigilantes might be or how thoroughly they might carry the
sympathies of the general public, there was no doubt that they were
acting in defiance of constituted law, and therefore were nothing less
than rebels. It was not only within the power, but it was also a duty,
of the Governor to declare the city in a condition of insurrection. When
he had done this, the state troops must put down the insurrection; and,
if they failed, then the Federal Government itself should be called on.
Looked at in this way, the small handful of disturbers, no matter how
well armed and disciplined, amounted to very little.
Naturally the Governor had first to be won over. Accordingly all the
important men of San Francisco took the steamer _Senator_ for Sacramento
where they met Judge Terry, of the Supreme Court of California, Volney
Howard, and others of the same ilk. No governor of Johnson's nature
could long withstand such pressure. He promised to issue the required
proclamation of insurrection as soon as it could be "legally proved"
that the Vigilance Committee had acted outside the law. The small fact
that it had already hanged two and deported a great many others, to say
nothing of taking physical possession of the city, meant little to these
In order that all things should be technically correct, then, Judge
Terry issued a writ of habeas corpus for William Mulligan and gave it
into the hands of Deputy Sheriff Harrison for service on the Committee.
It was expected that the Committee would deny the writ, which would
constitute legal defiance of the State. The Governor would then be
justified in issuing the proclamation. If the state troops proved
unwilling or inadequate, as might very well be, the plan was then to
call on the United States. The local representatives of the central
government were at that time General Wool commanding the military
department of California, and Captain David Farragut in command of the
navy-yard. Within their command was a force sufficient to subdue three
times the strength of the Vigilance Committee. William Tecumseh Sherman,
then in private life, had been appointed major-general of a division of
the state militia. As all this was strictly legal, the plan could not
Harrison took the writ of habeas corpus and proceeded to San Francisco.
He presented himself at headquarters and offered his writ. Instead of
denying it, the Committee welcomed him cordially and invited him to make
a thorough search of the premises. Of course Harrison found nothing--the
Committee had seen to that--and departed. The scheme had failed. The
Committee had in no way denied his authority or his writ. But Harrison
saw clearly what had been expected of him. To Judge Terry he
unblushingly returned the writ endorsed "prevented from service by armed
men." For the sake of his cause, Harrison had lied. However, the whole
affair was now regarded as legal.
Johnson promptly issued his proclamation. The leaders, in high feather,
as promptly turned to the federal authorities for the assistance they
needed. As yet they did not ask for troops but only for weapons with
which to arm their own men. To their blank dismay General Wool refused
to furnish arms. He took the position that he had no right to do so
without orders from Washington. There is no doubt, however, that this
technical position cloaked the doughty warrior's real sympathies.
Colonel Baker and Volney Howard were instructed to wait on him. After a
somewhat lengthy conversation, they made the mistake of threatening him
with a report to Washington for refusing to uphold the law.
"I think, gentlemen," flashed back the veteran indignantly, "I know my
duty and in its performance dread no responsibility!" He promptly bowed
In the meantime the Executive Committee had been patiently working down
through its blacklist. It finally announced that after June 24 it would
consider no fresh cases, and a few days later it proclaimed an
adjournment parade on July 4. It considered its work completed and the
It may be readily imagined that this peaceful outcome did not in the
least suit the more aristocratic members of the Law and Order party.
They were a haughty, individualistic, bold, forceful, sometimes charming
band of fire-eaters. In their opinion they had been deeply insulted.
They wanted reprisal and punishment.
When therefore the Committee set a definite day for disbanding, the
local authorities and upholders of law were distinctly disappointed.
They saw slipping away the last chance for a clash of arms that would
put these rebels in their places. There was some thought of arresting
the ringleaders, but the courts were by now so well terrorized that it
was by no means certain that justice as defined by the Law and Order
party could be accomplished. And even if conviction could be secured,
the representatives of the law found little satisfaction in ordinary
punishment. What they wanted was a fight.
General Sherman had resigned his command of the military forces in
disgust. In his stead was chosen General Volney Howard, a man typical of
his class, blinded by his prejudices and his passions, filled with a
sense of the importance of his caste, and without grasp of the broader
aspects of the situation. In the Committee's present attitude he saw not
the signs of a job well done, but indications of weakening, and he
considered this a propitious moment to show his power. In this attitude
he received enthusiastic backing from Judge Terry and his narrow
coterie. Terry was then judge of the Supreme Court; and a man more
unfitted for the position it would be difficult to find. A tall,
attractive, fire-eating Texan with a charming wife, he stood high in the
social life of the city. His temper was undisciplined and completely
governed his judgment. Intensely partisan and, as usual with his class,
touchy on the point of honor, he did precisely the wrong thing on every
occasion where cool decision was demanded.
It was so now. The Law and Order party persuaded Governor Johnson to
order a parade of state troops in the streets of San Francisco. The
argument used was that such a parade of legally organized forces would
overawe the citizens. The secret hope, however, which was well founded,
was that such a display would promote the desired conflict. This hope
they shared with Howard, after the Governor's orders had been obtained.
Howard's vanity jumped with his inclination. He consented to the plot. A
more ill-timed, idiotic maneuver, with the existing state of the public
mind, it would be impossible to imagine. Either we must consider Terry
and Howard weak-minded to the point of an inability to reason from cause
to effect, or we must ascribe to them more sinister motives.
By now the Law and Order forces had become numerically more formidable.
The lower element flocked to the colors through sheer fright. A certain
proportion of the organized remained in the ranks, though a majority had
resigned. There was, as is usual in a new community, a very large
contingent of wild, reckless young men without a care in the world, with
no possible interest in the rights and wrongs of the case, or, indeed,
in themselves. They were eager only for adventure and offered themselves
just as soon as the prospects for a real fight seemed good. Then, too,
they could always count on the five hundred Texans who had been
There were plenty of weapons with which to arm these partisans. Contrary
to all expectations, the Vigilance Committee had scrupulously refrained
from interfering with the state armories. All the muskets belonging to
the militia were in the armories and were available in different parts
of the city. In addition, the State, as a commonwealth, had a right to a
certain number of federal weapons stored in arsenals at Benicia. These
could be requisitioned in due form.
But at this point, it has been said, the legal minds of the party
conceived a bright plan. The muskets at Benicia on being requisitioned
would have to cross the bay in a vessel of some sort Until the muskets
were actually delivered they were federal property. Now if the Vigilance
Committee were to confiscate the arms while on the transporting vessel,
and while still federal property, the act would be piracy; the
interceptors, pirates. The Law and Order people could legally call on
the federal forces, which would be compelled to respond. If the
Committee of Vigilance did not fall into this trap, then the Law and
Order people would have the muskets anyway.
[7: Mr. H.H. Bancroft, in his _Popular Tribunals_, holds that no proof
of this plot exists.]
To carry out this plot they called in a saturnine, lank, drunken
individual whose name was Hube Maloney. Maloney picked out two men of
his own type as assistants. He stipulated only that plenty of
"refreshments" should be supplied. According to instructions Maloney was
to operate boldly and flagrantly in full daylight. But the refreshment
idea had been rather liberally interpreted. By six o'clock Rube had just
sense enough left to anchor off Pueblo Point. There all gave serious
attention to the rest of the refreshments, and finally rolled over to
sleep off the effects.
In the meantime news of the intended shipment had reached the
headquarters of the Vigilantes.
The Executive Committee went into immediate session. It was evident that
the proposed disbanding would have to be postponed. A discussion
followed as to methods of procedure to meet this new crisis. The
Committee fell into the trap prepared for it. Probably no one realized
the legal status of the muskets, but supposed them to belong already to
the State. Marshal Doane was instructed to capture them. He called to
him the chief of the harbor police. "Have you a small vessel ready for
immediate service?" he asked this man. "Yes, a sloop, at the foot of
this street." "Be ready to sail in half an hour."
Doane then called to his assistance a quick-witted man named John
Durkee. This man had been a member of the regular city police until the
shooting of James King of William. At that time he had resigned his
position and joined the Vigilance police. He was loyal by nature, steady
in execution, and essentially quick-witted, qualities that stood
everybody in very good stead as will be shortly seen. He picked out
twelve reliable men to assist him, and set sail in the sloop.
For some hours he beat against the wind and the tide; but finally these
became so strong that he was forced to anchor in San Pablo Bay until
conditions had modified. Late in the afternoon he was again able to get
under way. Several of the tramps sailing about the bay were overhauled
and examined, but none proved to be the prize. About dark the breeze
died, leaving the little sloop barely under steerageway. A less
persistent man than Durkee would have anchored for the night, but Durkee
had received his instructions and intended to find the other sloop, and
it was he himself who first caught the loom of a shadow under Pueblo
He bore down and perceived it to be the sloop whose discovery he
desired. The twelve men boarded with a rush, but found themselves in
possession of an empty deck. The fumes of alcohol and the sound of
snoring guided the boarding-party to the object of their search and the
scene of their easy victory. Durkee transferred the muskets and
prisoners to his own craft; and returned to the California Street wharf
shortly after daylight. A messenger was dispatched to headquarters. He
returned with instructions to deliver the muskets but to turn loose the
prisoners. Durkee was somewhat astonished at the latter order but
"All right," he is reported to have said. "Now, you measly hounds,
you've got just about twenty-eight seconds to make yourselves as scarce
as your virtues."
Maloney and his crew wasted few of the twenty-eight seconds in starting,
but once out of sight they regained much of their bravado. A few drinks
restored them to normal, and enabled them to put a good face on the
report they now made to their employers. Maloney and his friends then
visited in turn all the saloons. The drunker they grew, the louder they
talked, reviling the Committee collectively and singly, bragging that
they would shoot at sight Coleman, Truett, Durkee, and several others
whom they named. They flourished weapons publicly, and otherwise became
obstreperous. The Committee decided that their influence was bad and
instructed Sterling Hopkins, with four others, to arrest the lot and
bring them in.
The news of this determination reached the offending parties. They
immediately fled to their masters like cur dogs. Their masters, who
included Terry, Bowie, and a few others, happened to be discussing the
situation in the office of Richard Ashe, a Texan. The crew burst into
this gathering very much scared, with a statement that a "thousand
stranglers" were at their heels. Hopkins, having left his small posse at
the foot of the stairs, knocked and entered the room. He was faced by
the muzzles of half a dozen pistols and told to get out of there.
Hopkins promptly obeyed.
If Terry had possessed the slightest degree of leadership he would have
seen that this was the worst of all moments to precipitate a crisis. The
forces of his own party were neither armed nor ready. But here, as in
all other important crises of his career, he was governed by the haughty
and headstrong passion of the moment.
Hopkins left his men on guard at the foot of the stairs, borrowed a
horse from a passer-by, and galloped to headquarters. There he was
instructed to return and stay on watch, and was told that reinforcements
would soon follow. He arrived before the building in which Ashe's office
was located in time to see Maloney, Terry, Ashe, McNabb, Bowie, and
Howe, all armed with shot-guns, just turning a far corner. He dismounted
and called on his men, who followed. The little posse dogged the
judge's party for some distance. For a little time no attention was paid
to them. But as they pressed closer, Terry, Ashe, and Maloney turned and
presented their shot-guns. This was probably intended only as a threat,
but Hopkins, who was always overbold, lunged at Maloney. Terry thrust
his gun at a Vigilante who seized it by the barrel. At the same instant
Ashe pressed the muzzle of his weapon against the breast of a man named
Bovee, but hesitated to pull the trigger. It was not at that time as
safe to shoot men in the open street as it had been formerly. Barry
covered Rowe with a pistol. Rowe dropped his gun and ran towards the
armory. The accidental discharge of a pistol seemed to unnerve Terry. He
whipped out a long knife and plunged it into Hopkins's neck. Hopkins
relaxed his hold on Terry's shot-gun and staggered back.
"I am stabbed! Take them, Vigilantes!" he said.
He dropped to the sidewalk. Terry and his friends ran towards the
armory. Of the Vigilante posse only Bovee and Barry remained, but these
two pursued the fleeing Law and Order men to the very doors of the
armory itself. When the portals were slammed in their faces they took
up their stand outside; and alone these two men held imprisoned several
hundred men! During the next few minutes several men attempted entrance
to the armory, among them our old friend Volney Howard. All were turned
back and were given the impression that the armory was already in
charge, of the Vigilantes. After a little, however, doubtless to the
great relief of the "outside garrison" of the armory, the great
Vigilante bell began to boom out its signals: _one, two, three_--rest;
_one, two, three_--rest; and so on.
Instantly the streets were alive with men. Merchants left their
customers, clerks their books, mechanics their tools. Draymen stripped
their horses of harness, abandoned their wagons, and rode away to join
their cavalry. Within an incredibly brief space of time everybody was
off for the armory, the military companies marching like veterans, the
artillery rumbling over the pavement. The cavalry, jogging along at a
slow trot, covered the rear. A huge and roaring mob accompanied them,
followed them, raced up the side-streets to arrive at the armory at the
same time as the first files of the military force. They found the
square before the building entirely deserted except for the dauntless
Barry and Bovee, who still marched up and down singlehanded, holding the
garrison within. They were able to report that no one had either entered
or left the armory.
Inside the building the spirit had become one of stubborn sullenness.
Terry was very sorry--as, indeed, he well might be--a Judge of the
Supreme Court, who had no business being in San Francisco at all. Sworn
to uphold the law, and ostensibly on the side of the Law and Order
party, he had stepped out from his jurisdiction to commit as lawless and
as idiotic a deed of passion and prejudice as could well have been
imagined. Whatever chances the Law and Order party might have had
heretofore were thereby dissipated. Their troops were scattered in small
units; their rank and file had disappeared no one knew where; their
enemies were fully organized and had been mustered by the alarm bell to
their usual alertness and capability; and Terry's was the hand that had
struck the bell!
He was reported as much chagrined.
"This is very unfortunate, very unfortunate," he said; "but you shall
not imperil your lives for me. It is I they want. I will surrender to
Instead of the prompt expostulations which he probably expected, a dead
silence greeted these words.
"There is nothing else to do," agreed Ashe at last.
An exchange of notes in military fashion followed. Ashe, as commander of
the armory and leader of the besieged party, offered to surrender to the
Executive Committee of the Vigilantes if protected from violence. The
Executive Committee demanded the surrender of Terry, Maloney, and
Philips, as well as of all arms and ammunition, promising that Terry and
Maloney should be protected against persons outside the organization. On
receiving this assurance, Ashe threw open the doors of the armory and
the Vigilantes marched in.
"All present were disarmed," writes Bancroft. "Terry and Maloney were
taken charge of and the armory was quickly swept of its contents. Three
hundred muskets and other munitions of war were carried out and placed
on drays. Two carriages then drove up, in one of which was placed
Maloney and in the other Terry. Both were attended by a strong escort,
Olney forming round them with his Citizens' Guard, increased to a
battalion. Then in triumph the Committee men, with their prisoners and
plunder enclosed in a solid body of infantry and these again surrounded
by cavalry, marched back to their rooms."
Nor was this all. Coleman, like a wise general, realizing that
compromise was no longer possible, sent out his men to take possession
of all the encampments of the Law and Order forces. The four big
armories were cleaned out while smaller squads of men combed the city
house by house for concealed arms. By midnight the job was done. The
Vigilantes were in control of the situation.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE VIGILANTES
Judge Terry was still a thorny problem to handle. After all, he was a
Judge of the Supreme Court. At first his attitude was one of apparent
humility, but as time went on he regained his arrogant attitude and from
his cell issued defiances to his captors. He was aided and abetted by
his high-spirited wife, and in many ways caused the members of the
Committee a great deal of trouble. If Hopkins were to die, they could do
no less than hang Terry in common consistency and justice. But they
realized fully that in executing a Justice of the Supreme Court they
would be wading into pretty deep water. The state and federal
authorities were inclined to leave them alone and let them work out the
manifestly desirable reform, but it might be that such an act would
force official interference. As one member of the Committee expressed
it, "They had gone gunning for ferrets and had coralled a grizzly."
Nevertheless Terry was indicted before the Committee on the following
counts, a statement of which gives probably as good a bird's eye view of
Terry as numerous pages of personal description:
Resisting with violence the officers of the Vigilance Committee
while in the discharge of their duties.
Committing an assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill
Sterling A. Hopkins on June 21, 1856.
Various breaches of the peace and attacks upon citizens while in
the discharge of their duties, specified as follows:
1. Resistance in 1853 to a writ of habeas corpus on account of
which one Roach escaped from the custody of the law, and the infant
heirs of the Sanchez family were defrauded of their rights.
2. An attack in 1853 on a citizen of Stockton named Evans.
3. An attack in 1853 on a citizen in San Francisco named Purdy.
4. An attack at a charter election on a citizen of Stockton named
5. An attack in the court house of Stockton on a citizen named
Before Terry's case came to trial it was known that Hopkins was not
fatally wounded. Terry's confidence immediately rose. Heretofore he had
been somewhat, but not much, humbled. Now his haughty spirit blazed
forth as strongly as ever. He was tried in due course, and was found
guilty on the first charge and on one of the minor charges. On the
accusation of assault with intent to kill, the Committee deliberated a
few days, and ended by declaring him guilty of simple assault. He was
discharged and told to leave the State. But, for some reason or other,
the order was not enforced.
Undoubtedly he owed his discharge in this form to the evident fact that
the Committee did not know what to do with him. Terry at once took the
boat for Sacramento, where for some time he remained in comparative
retirement. Later he emerged in his old role, and ended his life by
being killed at the hands of an armed guard of Justice Stephen Field
whom Terry assaulted without giving Field a chance to defend himself.
While these events were going forward, the Committee had convicted and
hanged two other men, Hetherington and Brace. In both instances the
charge was murder of the most dastardly kind. The trials were conducted
with due regard to the forms of law and justice, and the men were
executed in an orderly fashion. These executions would not be remarkable
in any way, were it not for the fact that they rounded out the complete
tale of executions by the Vigilance Committee. Four men only were hanged
in all the time the Committee held its sway. Nevertheless the manner of
the executions and the spirit that actuated all the officers of the
organization sufficed to bring about a complete reformation in the
administration of justice.
About this time also the danger began to manifest itself that some of
the less conscientious and, indeed, less important members of the
Committee might attempt through political means to make capital of their
connections. A rule was passed that no member of the Committee of
Vigilance should be allowed to hold political office. Shortly after this
decision, William Rabe was suspended for "having attempted to introduce
politics into this body and for attempting to overawe the Executive
After the execution of the two men mentioned, the interesting trial of
Durkee for piracy, the settlement by purchase of certain private claims
against city land, and the deportation of a number of undesirable
citizens, the active work of the Committee was practically over. It
held complete power and had also gained the confidence of probably
nine-tenths of the population. Even some of the erstwhile members of the
Law and Order party, who had adhered to the forms of legality through
principle, had now either ceased opposition, or had come over openly to
the side of the Committee. Another date of adjournment was decided upon.
The gunnybag barricades were taken down on the fourteenth of August. On
the sixteenth, the rooms of the building were ordered thrown open to all
members of the Committee, their friends, their families, for a grand
reception on the following week. It was determined then not to
disorganize but to adjourn _sine die_. The organization was still to be
held, and the members were to keep themselves ready whenever the need
should arise. But preparatory to adjournment it was decided to hold a
grand military review on the eighteenth of August. This was to leave a
final impression upon the public mind of the numbers and powder of the
The parade fulfilled its function admirably. The Grand Marshal and his
staff led, followed by the President and the Military Commanding General
with his staff. Then marched four companies of artillery with fifteen
mounted cannon. In their rear was a float representing Fort Gunnybags
with imitation cannon. Next came the Executive Committee mounted, riding
three abreast; then cavalry companies and the medical staff, which
consisted of some fifty physicians of the town. Representatives of the
Vigilance Committee of 1851 followed in wagons with a banner; then four
regiments of infantry, more cavalry, citizen guards, pistol men,
Vigilante police. Over six thousand men were that day in line, all
disciplined, all devoted, all actuated by the highest motives, and
conscious of a job well done.
The public reception at Fort Gunnybags was also well attended. Every one
was curious to see the interior arrangement. The principal entrance was
from Sacramento Street and there was also a private passage from another
street. The doorkeeper's box was prominently to the front where each one
entering had to give the pass-word. He then proceeded up the stairs to
the floor above. The first floor was the armory and drill-room. Around
the sides were displayed the artillery harness, the flags,
bulletin-boards, and all the smaller arms. On one side was a lunch stand
where coffee and other refreshments were dispensed to those on guard.
On the opposite side were offices for every conceivable activity. An
immense emblematic eye painted on the southeast corner of the room
glared down on each as he entered. The front of the second floor was
also a guard-room, armory, and drilling floor. Here also was painted the
eye of Vigilance, and here was exhibited the famous ballot-box whose
sides could separate the good ballots from the bad ballots. Here also
were the meeting-rooms for the Executive Committee and a number of cells
for the prisoners. The police-office displayed many handcuffs, tools of
captured criminals, relics, clothing with bullet holes, ropes used for
hanging, bowie-knives, burglar's tools, brass knuckles, and all the
other curiosities peculiar to criminal activities. The third story of
the building had become the armorer's shop, and the hospital. Eight or
ten workmen were employed in the former and six to twenty cots were
maintained in the latter. Above all, on the roof, supported by a strong
scaffolding, hung the Monumental bell whose tolling summoned the
Vigilantes when need arose.
Altogether the visitors must have been greatly impressed, not only with
the strength of the organization, but also with the care used in
preparing it for every emergency, the perfection of its discipline, and
the completeness of its equipment. When the Committee of Vigilance of
1856 adjourned subject to further call, there must have been in most
men's minds the feeling that such a call could not again arise for years
Yet it was not so much the punishment meted out to evil-doers that
measures the success of the Vigilante movement. Only four villains were
hanged; not more than thirty were banished. But the effect was the same
as though four hundred had been executed. It is significant that not
less than eight hundred went into voluntary exile.
"What has become of your Vigilance Committee?" asked a stranger naively,
some years later.
"Toll the bell, sir, and you'll see," was the reply.
[8: Bancroft, _Popular Tribunals_, 11, 695.]
California has been fortunate in her historians. Every student of the
history of the Pacific coast is indebted to the monumental work of
Hubert H. Bancroft. Three titles concern the period of the Forty-niners:
_The History of California_, 7 vols. (1884-1890); _California Inter
Pocula, 1848-56_ (1888); _Popular Tribunals_, 2 vols. (1887). Second
only to these volumes in general scope and superior in some respects is
T.H. Hittell's _History of California_, 4 vols. (1885-1897). Two other
general histories of smaller compass and covering limited periods are
I.B. Richman's _California under Spain and Mexico, 1535-1847_ (1911),
and Josiah Royce's _California, 1846-1856_ (1886). The former is a
scholarly but rather arid book; the latter is an essay in interpretation
rather than a narrative of events. One of the chief sources of
information about San Francisco in the days of the gold fever is _The
Annals of San Francisco_ (1855) by Soule and others.
Contemporary accounts of California just before the American occupation
are of varying value. One of the most widely read books is R.H. Dana's
_Two Years before the Mast_ (1840). The author spent parts of 1835 and
1836 in California. _The Personal Narrative of James O. Pattie_ (1831)
is an account of six years' travel amid almost incredible hardships from
St. Louis to the Pacific and back through Mexico. W.H. Thomes's _On Land
and Sea, or California in the Years 1843, '44, and '45_ (1892) gives
vivid pictures of old Mexican days. Two other books may be mentioned
which furnish information of some value: Alfred Robinson, _Life in
California_ (1846) and Walter Colton, _Three Years in California_
Personal journals and narratives of the Forty-niners are numerous, but
they must be used with caution. Their accuracy is frequently open to
question. Among the more valuable may be mentioned Delano's _Life on the
Plains and among the Diggings_ (1854); W.G. Johnston's _Experience of a
Forty-niner_ (1849); T.T. Johnson's _Sights in the Gold Region and
Scenes by the Way_ (1849); J.T. Brooks's _Four Months among the
Gold-Finders_ (1849); E.G. Buffum's _Six Months in the Gold Mines_
(1850)--the author was a member of the "Stevenson Regiment"; James
Delevan's _Notes on California and the Placers: How to get there and
what to do afterwards_ (1850); and W.R. Ryan's _Personal Adventures in
Upper and Lower California, in 1848-9_ (1850).
Others who were not gold-seekers have left their impression of
California in transition, such as Bayard Taylor in his _Eldorado_, 2
vols. (1850), and J.W. Harlan in his _California '46 to '88_ (1888). The
latter was a member of Fremont's battalion. The horrors of the overland
journey are told by Delano in the book already mentioned and by W.L.
Manly, _Death Valley in '49_ (1894).
The evolution of law and government in primitive mining communities is
described in C.H. Shinn's _Mining Camps. A Study in American Frontier
Government_ (1885). The duties of the border police are set forth with
thrilling details by Horace Bell, _Reminiscences of a Ranger or Early
Times in Southern California_ (1881). An authoritative work on the
Mormons is W.A. Linn's _Story of the Mormons_ (1902).
For further bibliographical references the reader is referred to the
articles on _California, San Francisco, The Mormons_, and _Fremont_, in
_The Encyclopaedia Britannica_, 11th Edition.
Alvarado, Governor of California, 15-16, 18, 23
"Arcadian Age," 58-62
Ashe, Richard, 251, 252
Baker, Edward, Colonel, 236, 244
"Bear Flag Revolution," 32-36
Benton, T.H., father-in-law to Fremont, 29;
exerts influence in Fremont's behalf, 40
Bluxome, Isaac, 202, 204
Bowie, 251, 252
Brannan, Sam, 56-57, 155, 189
Cahuenga, Treaty of (1847), 42
California, inhabitants, 1
occupation by Spain, 2 et seq
life of early settlers, 6 et seq
advent of foreign residents, 13 et seq
population in 1840, 16-17
arrival of two parties of settlers (1841), 17
Fremont's expedition, 29
military conquest by U.S., 30 et seq.
Mexican laws in, 46-50;
constitutional convention (1849), 50-52
influence of discovery of gold, 52-54
overland migration to, 67 et seq
journey by way of Panama to, 96 et seq
life in the gold fields, 107 et seq
city life in 1849, 119 et seq
law, 174-176; politics, 176-180
financial stringency (1855), 181-183
_California Star_, the, 123
Carson, Kit, 38
Casey, J.P., 191, 192 et seq, 220 et seq
Chagres in 1849, 99-100
Cole, Beverly, 202
Coleman, W.T., 201, 202, 204, 205, 211 et seq, 251
Cora, Charles, trial of, 189-191
re-trial by Vigilantes, 225-226
_Daily Evening Bulletin_, 184-188, 190
Dempster, Clancey, 201, 202, 204
Den, Nicholas, 14
Doane, Charles, 219
Donner party, 26
Dows, James, 202
Duane, Charles, 235
Durkee, John, 249-251
Farragut, David, 242
Fremont, J.C., expedition, 29 et seq
personal characteristics, 40-41, 44-45
negotiates treaty with Californians, 42
appointed Governor of California, 42
asks permission to form expedition against Mexico, 43-44
court-martialed and dismissed from service, 44
Gatun in 1849, 100-01
Gavilan Peak, U.S. flag raised at, 30
Gift, Colonel, 218
Gillespie, Lieutenant, 30, 31-32
Gold, influence of discovery upon life in California, 52-54;
discovered by Marshall (1848), 55;
news brought to East, 62;
influence in Europe, 65-66;
the diggings, 106 et seq.
Graham, Isaac, 15-16
Green, Talbot, 172
Harlan, William, account of overland journey, 68-69;
experience in San Francisco, 128;
Hittell, T.H., recounts incidents of overland journey, 70, 72
Hopkins, Sterling, 251, 252
"Hounds," The, 137-39
Howard, Volney, 241, 244, 245, 246
Ide, W.B., 34
Indian menace to immigrant trains, 71
Jenkins, John, trial of, 153-156
Johnson, J.N., Governor of California, 210 et seq.
Johnston, Captain, 38
Kearny. General Stephen Watts, 37 et seq.
Kearny, Woolley, 235
Kelly, John, 115
King, James, of William, 183, 184 et seq., 207-08, 227
Larkin, T.O., 28-29
"Law and Order" party, 179, 208;
clash with Vigilantes, 236 et seq.
Leese, Jacob, 33
McGlynn, J.A., 129-30
McGowan, Edward, 195-96, 235
McLean, William, 235
Maloney, Rube, 248, 251, 252
Marshall, James, discovers gold, 55
Mason, Colonel R.B., 46
Meiggs, Harry, 172
Mesa, Battle of the, 41
Mexican government in California,
attitude toward settlers, 17-19, 27
Mexican War, influence upon affairs in California, 35
Missions established by "Sacred Expedition," 3
Montgomery, Lieutenant, 35
Mormons, 19-20, 56-57, 77 et seq.
Mountain Meadows massacre, 95
Musgrave, J.D., 235
Oregon question, effect upon Western migration, 20-21, 55
Oregon Trail, 21-22
Panama as a route to California, 96 et seq.
Panama, city of, in 1849, 102-103
Pattie, James, 14
Pico, Andres, 37
Pratt, P.P., 80
"Regulators," the, 136-37
Richardson, William, 189
Rigdon, Sidney, 80
Ryan, W.R., quoted, 7, 120-21
"Sacred Expedition," 2
San Diego, first mission founded (1769), 13
before discovery of gold, 123;
effect of discovery of gold, 123-24;
in 1849, 124 et seq.;
fire of Dec. 4, 1849, 141;
later fires, 142;
Volunteer Fire Department, 143-46;
civic progress, 146-49;
population in 1851, 150-51;
in the mid-fifties, 159 et seq.
San Gabriel River, Battle of (1847), 41
San Pascual, Battle of, 38
Santa Fe, 14
Serra, Father Junipero, 2
Sherman, W.T., 208-09, 242-243, 245
Sloat, Commodore J.D., 35, 36
Smith, Growling, 48
Smith, Jedediah, 15
Smith, Joseph, Jr.,
founder of the Mormon Church, 77-79;
as a leader, 79-80;
Smith, Peter, claims against city of San Francisco, 170
Sonoma captured, 32-35
religious occupation of California, 2 et seq.;
discourages immigration into, 13
Spence, David, 14
Stockton, Robert, Commodore, 36 et seq.;
quarrels with Kearny, 38-39
Stuart, James, 151-52
_Sunday Times_, the, 192
Sutler, Captain J.A., 23-26
Sutter's Fort, 24, 25, 29, 30, 33, 106
"Sydney Ducks," 136, 234
Terry, Judge, 241, 242, 243, 245-46, 251, 252
Thomes, W.H., quoted, 9
_Three Weeks in the Gold Mines_, Simpson, 64
Truett, 201, 220, 251
Vallejo, General, 18
of 1851, 150 et seq.;
of 1856, 231 et seq.
Walker, Joseph, 29, 30
White, James, 235
Wightman, Peter, 235
Wool, General, 242
Yerba Buena, _see_ San Francisco
Young, Brigham, 85-88, 89, 90, 91