The Naval Battalion of the California National Guard
California's Navy was originaly formed on March 31, 1891, by an Act of California's State Legislature as the Naval Battalion of the National Guard. Units of the Naval Battalion, later to be renamed the California Naval Militia, were stationed throughout the state; Eureka, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego.
By law, the Naval Battalion of the National Guard of California, as part of "the Army and Navy of this State," was governed by both the California Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. At that time the Naval Battalion of the National Guard was part of the armed forces of the United States of America, provided by statute law of the land, pursuant to the provisions of the United States Constitution, and was embraced within three grand divisions --the land forces, air forces, and the sea forces, under the supreme command of the President as Commander-in-Chief. Likewise, the State's Militia, by law, "the Army and Navy of this State," also fell under the supreme command of the Governor as the State's Commander-in-Chief.
The USS Oregon (BB-3) , of Spanish-American War fame, was loaned to the State of California as a training ship for the Naval Battalion. The Naval Militia trained on this Battleship from 1916-1917. (California State Military Archives)
California's Navy would provide officers and sailors for service in vessels of the U.S. Navy during two wars; the Spanish-American War and in World War I. These officers and sailors, citizen soldiers of thier day, acquitted themselves so well in those conflicts that the Secretary of the Navy acknowledged the California Naval Militia as one of the finest military organizations of its kind to enter Federal Service. Apart from national service, the California Naval Militia was activated for several state emergencies such as during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire when local units assisted the California National Guard in restoring civil authority to the stricken city.
Officers and sailors of the California Naval Militia aboard the USS Oregon (BB-3) in San Diego. (California State Military Archives)
During the years 1892 to 1917 seven U.S. ships were loaned to the State as official training ships and some fourteen other Naval ships were used for short periods of time in drills. These ships include the Battleship Oregon; Cruisers Olympia, Charleston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Albany, Altert, Hull, Marion and Marblehead; Monitors Commanche, Monadnock and Wyoming; Torpedo Boats Farraugut, Perry, Hopkins, Lawrence and Whipple; and Gun Boat Pinta.
The heavy cruiser USS Olympia (C-6) off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1895. (U.S. Navy Photograph)
Copyright (c) 2001-2010
CW3 Mark J. Denger and LTC Roger D. McGrath
Naval History Research & Study Element
California Center for Military History
Officers and sailors from the 5th Division, California Naval Militia, stationed in Eureka in 1917 (California State Military Archives)
The California Naval Militia set the world record for naval gunnery in 1913; had one of the first aircraft in the militiary department; and as part of the Naval Militia, a Marine Corps Company was organized as a detachment on board the USS Olympia (C-6) and served in World War I.
California Naval Militia sailors during gunnery practice. (California State Military Archives)
California Naval Militai escorting the Native Sons of the Golden West during a Parade in Santa Cruz, California, September 10, 1906