May 1, 1860, Gov. Black issued a proclamation that troops would be raised in this State. Three days later the young men of Nebraska City organized a company of Zouaves, and by May 11, four full companies had been enrolled, though they were entirely lacking in arms and provisions of all sorts. These companies were the Home Guard, Captain W. L. Boydston; the Zouave Guard, Captain W. W. Ivors; the Nebraska City Guard, Captain Allen Blacker; the Nebraska City Rangers, Captain B. H. Kalkman. The latter organization was short lived, disbanding about a week later, and its members joining other companies.
May 26, a war discourse was delivered In Duer's Hall by Rev. J. Stickney Haskell, to a thronged congregation, and similar stirring addresses were delivered at various points during the following week.
As the titles chosen show, the companies were intended chiefly for the protection of Nebraska against the incursions of the " secessionists," and also to impose a salutary restraint upon the Otoes, who occupied a reservation hard by, and might take advantage of the unsettled state of affairs to commit depredations. In view of this state of affairs, a letter was addressed to Gov. Saunders, by Brig. Gen. Downs, inquiring the probable work of the troops. To this Gov. Saunders replied: "* * * I have the satisfaction of authorizing you to say that they are to be kept for our own protection.--The language from the department in answer to that question is, 'they are not intended to be marched elsewhere, but designed for the protection of your own people and interests against hostile Indians and domestic foes.'"
In June a few volunteers crossed over from Northern Missouri and joined the forces quartered at Nebraska City.
June 9, 1861, the City Guard, under command of Captain Allen Blackers, was escorted to the grove near the residence of J. W. Moore, by the Saunders' Flying Artillery, the Home Guards and the Zouaves, and made the recipient of a handsome banner, donated by the ladies of the city. The speech of presentation was made by Hon. J. Sterling Morton. June 14, the City Guard, Captain Blacker; Home Guard, Captain Boydston, and Saunders' Flying Artillery, Captain Cornell, having received orders to rendezvous at Omaha, embarked on the steamer Omaha for their destination. Gen. J. M. Thayer was appointed Colonel of the Nebraska regiment, and Brig Gen. Downs, Lieutenant-Colonel. In June, the Zouaves, who had remained at Nebraska City, received their uniforms and accoutrements, and July 4, the Rough and Ready Rangers made a fine display. On Saturday, July 21, the newly formed Rough and Ready Rangers held an election of officers at Pleasant Grove schoolhouse, and the following officers were selected: Lewis Blair, Captain; John Justice, First Lieutenant; Robert Mason, Second Lieutenant; Joseph Donehoo, Third Lieutenant; J. Gillman, Orderly Sergeant; Peter Y. Morse, Second; James Lafferree, Third, and William Redfield Fourth Orderly Sergeant; Leonard Platner, First Corporal, and Elias Miller, Second Corporal; H. M. Giltner, Chaplain; Richard Justice, Commissary; W. P. Birchfield, Quartermaster; William Buchannan, Ordnance Sergeant, and James Iler, Corresponding Secretary This company furnished their own horses and were, as their name implied, ready for service at any notice.
This month, July, 1861, there was an Indian scare of considerable size, which resulted in sending the troops on a flying trip through the western part of the county, only to find that the women and children of the tribe had been placed near the settlement for protection from the Sioux, and the warriors had gone on their regular buffalo hunt.
To this scouting followed an interval of quiet, during which Rev. Mr. McCartney visited the companies in quarters at Omaha, and in behalf of the Otoe Bible society presented all with copies of the Bible, New Testament and Psalms with a stirring sermon in which he adjured them to"Go forth strong in the justice of your cause."
On August 1, 1861, Isaac Coe was elected Brigadier-General, to take the place of Gen. Downs, who had gone to the front and immediately afterward the First Nebraska Volunteers, containing the Nebraska City forces, left Omaha on the steamer West Wind. This force arrived at St. Joseph on the 5th and were ordered to report at Leavenworth, Kans. August 9, five more companies, making the complement of the Nebraska regiment, went down the river to join the forces in the field. On the same day a call was made on the Territory for two companies of cavalry and A. Matthias was appointed to raise the one south of the Platte, acting under appointment as Second Lieutenant. At this time recruits received $100 bounty, $19.50 per month for services, and were supplied with all necessaries.
In August, 1861, Lieutenant-Colonel Downs was promoted to be Brigadier-General, with headquarters at Pilot Knot, Missouri, and had charge of the First Nebraska and Fourth and Sixth Iowa regiments.
In September, 1861, Lieutenant Matthias had raised a company of forty-six men, was sworn in, and after serving honorably in the war was disbanded, the members scattering and many returning to this State, while Lieut. Matthias settled in Nashville, Tenn.
The Nebraska City companies took part in the various struggles of the war along the Missouri River and in Kansas and Arkansas, and doing good service throughout as their record embodied in the history of the State organizations shows. At the end of the three years of enlistment two-thirds of the regiment re-enlisted and served on the plains until the close of the war. The remainder returned to Omaha and were mustered out in 1864.