New Light on the Donner Party
What I Saw in California
by Edwin Bryant
To Southern California and Back, November 13, 1846-June 1847.
Leave New Helvetia – Pleasant weather – Meet Indian volunteers – Tule-boats – Engagement between a party of Americans and Californians – Death of Capt. Burroughs and Capt. Foster – Capture of Thomas O. Larkin – Reconnaissance – San Juan Bautista – Neglect of the dead – Large herds of Cattle – Join Col. Fremont.
On my arrival at New Helvetia, I found there Mr. Jacob. Mr. Reed had not
yet returned from the mountains. Nothing had been heard from Mr. Lippincott,
or Mr. Grayson, since I left the latter at Sonoma. An authorized agent of
Col. Fremont had arrived at the fort the day that I left it, with power to
take the caballada of public horses, and to enroll volunteers for the
expedition to the south. He had left two or three days before my arrival,
taking with him all the horses and trappings suitable for service, and all
the men who had previously rendezvoused at the fort, numbering about sixty,
as I understood. At my request messengers were sent by Mr. Kern, commandant
of the fort, and by Captain Sutter, to the Indian chiefs on the San Joaquin
River and its tributaries, to meet me at the most convenient points on the
trail, with such warriors of their tribes as chose to volunteer as soldiers
of the United States, and perform military service during the campaign. I
believed that they would be useful as scouts and spies. On the 14th and 15th
eight men (emigrants who had just arrived in the country, and had been
enrolled at Johnson’s settlement by Messrs. Reed and Jacob) arrived at the
fort; and on the morning of the 16th, with these, we started to join Colonel
Fremont, supposed to be at Monterey; and we encamped at night on the Cosçumne
The weather is now pleasant. We are occasionally drenched with a shower of rain, after which the sun shines warm and bright; the fresh grass is springing up, and the birds sing and chatter in the groves and thickets as we pass through them. I rode forward, on the morning of the 17th, to the Mickélemes River (twenty-five miles from the Cosçumne), where I met Antonio, an Indian chief, with twelve warriors, who had assembled here for the purpose of joining us. The names of the warriors were as follows; – Santiago, Masua, Kiubu, Tocoso, Nonelo, Michael, Weala, Arkell, Nicolas, Heel, Kasheano, Estephen. Our party coming up in the afternoon, we encamped here for the day, in order to give the Indians time to make further preparations for the march. On the 18th we met, at the ford of the San Joaquin River, another party of eighteen Indians, including their chiefs. Their names were – José Jesus, Filipe, Raymundo, and Carlos, chiefs; Huligario, Bonefasio, Francisco, Nicolas, Pablo, Feliciano, San Antonio, Polinario, Manuel, Graviano, Salinordio, Romero, and Merikeeldo, warriors. The chiefs and some of the warriors of these parties were partially clothed, but most of them were naked, except a small garment around the loins. They were armed with bows and arrows. We encamped with our sable companions on the east bank of the San Joaquin.
The next morning (Nov. 19), the river being too high to ford, we constructed, by the aid of the Indians, tule-boats, upon which our baggage was ferried over the stream. The tule-boat consists of bundles of tule firmly bound together with willow withes. When completed, in shape it is not unlike a small keel-boat. The buoyancy of one of these craft is surprising. Six men, as many as could sit upon the deck, were passed over, in the largest of our three boats, at a time. The boats were towed backwards and forwards by Indian swimmers – one at the bow, and one at the stern as steersman, and two on each side as propellers. The poor fellows, when they came out of the cold water, trembled as if attacked with an ague. We encamped near the house of Mr. Livermore (previously described), where, after considerable difficulty, I obtained sufficient beef for supper, Mr. L. being absent. Most of the Indians did not get into camp until a late hour of the night, and some of them not until morning. They complained very much of sore feet, and wanted horses to ride, which I promised them as soon as they reached the Pueblo de San José.
About ten o’clock on the morning of the 20th, we slaughtered a beef in the hills between Mr. Livermore’s and the mission of San José; and, leaving the hungry party to regale themselves upon it and then follow on, I proceeded immediately to the Pueblo de San José to make further arrangements, reaching that place just after sunset. On the 21st I procured clothing for the Indians, which, when they arrived with Mr. Jacob in the afternoon, was distributed among them.
On my arrival at the Pueblo, I found the American population there much excited by intelligence just received of the capture on the 15th, between Monterey and the mission of San Juan, of Thos. O. Larkin, Esq., late U.S. Consul in California, by a party of Californians, and of an engagement between the same Californians and a party of Americans escorting a caballada of 400 horses to Colonel Fremont’s camp in Monterey. In this affair three Americans were killed, viz.: Capt. Burroughs, Capt. Foster, and Mr. Eames, late of St. Louis, Mo. The mission of San Juan lies on the road between the Pueblo de San José and Monterey, about fifty miles from the former place, and thirty from the latter. The skirmish took place ten miles south of San Juan, near the Monterey road. I extract the following account of this affair from a journal of his captivity published by Mr. Larkin: –
"On the 15th of November, from information received of the sickness of my family in San Francisco, where they had gone to escape the expected revolutionary troubles in Monterey, and from letters from Captain Montgomery requesting my presence respecting some stores for the Portsmouth, I, with one servant, left Monterey for San Francisco, knowing that for one month no Californian forces had been within 100 miles of us. That night I put up at the house of Don Joaquin Gomez, sending my servant to San Juan, six miles beyond, to request Mr. J. Thompson to wait for me, as he was on the road for San Francisco. About midnight I was aroused from my bed by the noise made by ten Californians (unshaved and unwashed for months, being in the mountains) rushing into my chamber with guns, swords, pistols, and torches in their hands. I needed but a moment to be fully awake and know my exact situation; the first cry was, 'Como estamos, Senor Consul.' 'Vamos, Senor Larkin.' At my bedside were several letters that I had re-read before going to bed. On dressing myself, while my captors were saddling my horse, I assorted these letters, and put them into different pockets. After taking my own time to dress and arrange my valise, we started, and rode to a camp of seventy or eighty men on the banks of the Monterey River; there each officer and principal person passed the time of night with me, and a remark or two. The commandante took me on one side, and informed me that his people demanded that I should write to San Juan, to the American captain of volunteers, saying that I had left Monterey to visit the distressed families of the river, and request or demand that twenty men should meet me before daylight, that I could station them, before my return to town, in a manner to protect these families. The natives, he said, were determined on the act being accomplished. I at first endeavoured to reason with him on the infamy and the impossibility of the deed, but to no avail; he said my life depended on the letter; that he was willing, nay, anxious to preserve my life as an old acquaintance, but could not control his people in this affair. From argument I came to a refusal; he advised, urged, and demanded. At this period an officer called out * * * * (Come here, those who are named.) I then said, "In this manner you may act and threaten night by night; my life on such condition is of no value or pleasure to me. I am by accident your prisoner – make the most of me – write, I will not; shoot as you see fit, and I am done talking on the subject."’ I left him, and went to the camp fire. For a half-hour or more there was some commotion around me, when all disturbance subsided.
"At daylight we started, with a flag flying and a drum beating, and travelled eight or ten miles, when we camped in a low valley or hollow. There they caught with the lasso three or four head of cattle belonging to the nearest rancho, and breakfasted. The whole day their outriders rode in every direction, on the look-out, to see if the American company left the mission of San Juan, or Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont left Monterey; they also rode to all the neighboring ranchos, and forced the rancheros to join them. At one o’clock, they began their march with one hundred and thirty men (and two or three hundred extra horses); they marched in four single files, occupying four positions, myself under charge of an officer and five or six men in the centre. Their plan of operation for the night was, to rush into San Juan ten or fifteen men, who were to retreat, under the expectation that the Americans would follow them, in which case the whole party outside was to cut them off. I was to be retained in the centre of the party. Ten miles south of the mission, they encountered eight or ten Americans, a part of whom retreated into a low ground covered with oaks, the others returned to the house of Senor Gomez, to alarm their companions. For over one hour the hundred and thirty Californians surrounded the six or eight Americans, occasionally giving and receiving shots. During this period, I was several times requested, then commanded, to go among the oaks and bring out my countrymen, and offer them their lives on giving up their rifles and persons. I at last offered to go and call them out, on condition that they should return to San Juan or go to Monterey, with their arms; this being refused, I told the commandante to go in and bring them out himself. While they were consulting how this could be done, fifty Americans came down on them, which caused an action of about twenty or thirty minutes. Thirty or forty of the natives leaving the field at the first fire, they remained drawn off by fives and tens until the Americans had the field to themselves. Both parties remained within a mile of each other until dark. Our countrymen lost Captain Burroughs of St. Louis, Missouri, Captain Foster, and two others, with two or three wounded. The Californians lost two of their countrymen, and José Garcia, of Val., Chili, with seven wounded."
The following additional particulars I extract from the "Californian" newspaper of November 21, 1846, published at Monterey: "Burroughs and Foster were killed at the first onset. The Americans fired, and then charged on the enemy with their empty rifles, and ran them off. However, they still kept rallying, and firing now and then a musket at the Americans until about eleven o’clock at night, when one of the Walla-Walla Indians offered his services to come into Monterey and give Colonel Fremont notice of what was passing. Soon after he started he was pursued by a party of the enemy. The foremost in pursuit drove a lance at the Indian, who, trying to parry it, received the lance through his hand; he immediately, with his other hand, seized his tomahawk, and struck his opponent, splitting his head from the crown to the mouth. By this time the others had come up, and, with the most extraordinary dexterity and bravery, the Indian vanquished two more, and the rest ran away. He rode on towards this town as far as his horse was able to carry him, and then left his horse and saddle, and came in on foot. He arrived here about eight o’clock on Tuesday morning, December 17th.
The Americans engaged in this affair were principally the volunteer emigrants just arrived in the country, and who had left New Helvetia a few days in advance of me.
Colonel Fremont marched from Monterey as soon as he heard of this skirmish, in pursuit of the Californians, but did not meet with them. He then encamped at the mission of San Juan, waiting there the arrival of the remaining volunteers from above.
Leaving the Pueblo on the afternoon of the 25th, in conjunction with a small force commanded by Captain Weber, we made an excursion into the hills, near a rancho owned by Captain W., where were herded some two or three hundred public horses. It had been rumoured that a party of Californians were hovering about here, intending to capture and drive off these horses. The next day (November 26th), without having met any hostile force, driving these horses before us, we encamped at Mr. Murphy’s rancho. Mr. Murphy is the father of a large and respectable family, who emigrated to this country some three or four years since from the United States, being originally from Canada. His daughter, Miss Helen, who did the honours of the rude cabin, in manners, conversation, and personal charms, would grace any drawing-room. On the 28th, we proceeded down the Pueblo valley, passing Gilroy’s rancho, and reaching the mission of San Juan just before dark. The hills and valleys are becoming verdant with fresh grass and wild oats, the latter being, in places, two or three inches high. So tender is it, however, that it affords but little nourishment to our horses.
The mission of San Juan Bautista has been one of the most extensive of these establishments. The principal buildings are more durably constructed than those of other missions I have visited, and they are in better condition. Square bricks are used in paving the corridors and the ground floors. During the twilight, I strayed accidentally through a half-opened gate into a cemetery, inclosed by a high wall in the rear of the church. The spectacle was ghastly enough. The exhumed skeletons of those who had been deposited here lay thickly strewn around, showing but little respect for the sanctity of the grave, or the rights of the dead from the living. The cool damp night – breeze sighed and moaned through the shrubbery and ruinous arches and corridors, planted and reared by those whose neglected bones were now exposed to the rude insults of man and beast. I could not but imagine that the voices of complaining spirits mingled with these dismal and mournful tones; and plucking a cluster of roses, the fragrance of which was delicious, I left the spot, to drive away the sadness and melancholy produced by the scene.
The valley contiguous to the mission is extensive, well watered by a large arroyo, and highly fertile. The gardens and other lands for tillage are inclosed by willow hedges. Elevated hills, or mountains, bound this valley on the east and west. Large herds of cattle were scattered over the valley, greedily cropping the fresh green herbage, which now carpets mountain and plain.
Colonel Fremont marched from San Juan this morning, and encamped, as we learned on our arrival, ten miles south. Proceeding up the arroyo on the 29th, we reached the camp of Colonel F. about noon. I immediately reported, and delivered over to him the men and horses under my charge. The men were afterwards organized into a separate corps, of which Mr. R. T. Jacob, my travelling companion, was appointed the captain by Colonel Fremont.
California battalion – Their appearance and costume List of officers – Commence our march to Los Angeles – Appearance of the country in the vicinity of San Juan – Slaughter of beeves – Astonishing consumption of beef by the men – Beautiful morning – Ice – Salinas river and valley – Californian prisoners – Horses giving out from fatigue – Mission of San Miguel – Sheep – Mutton – March on foot – More prisoners taken – Death of Mr. Stanley – An execution – Dark night – Capture of the mission of San Luis Obispo – Orderly conduct and good deportment of the California battalion.
November 30. – The battalion of mounted riflemen, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont, numbers, rank and file, including Indians, and servants, 428. With the exception of the exploring party, which left the United States with Colonel F., they are composed of volunteers from the American settlers, and the emigrants who have arrived in the country within a few weeks. The latter have generally furnished their own ammunition and other equipments for the expedition. Most of these are practised riflemen, men of undoubted courage, and capable of bearing any fatigue and privations endurable by veteran troops. The Indians are composed of a party of Walla-Wallas from Oregon, and a party of native Californians. Attached to the battalion are two pieces of artillery, under the command of Lieutenant McLane, of the navy. In the appearance of our small army there is presented but little of "the pomp and circumstance of glorious war." There are no plumes nodding over brazen helmets, nor coats of broadcloth spangled with lace and buttons. A broad-brimmed low-crowned hat, a shirt of blue flannel, or buckskin, with pantaloons and mocassins of the same, all generally much the worse for wear, and smeared with mud and dust, make up the costume of the party, officers as well as men. A leathern girdle surrounds the waist, from which are suspended a bowie and a hunter’s knife, and sometimes a brace of pistols. These, with the rifle and holster-pistols, are the arms carried by officers and privates. A single bugle (and a sorry one it is) composes the band. Many an embryo Napoleon, in his own conceit, whose martial spirit has been excited to flaming intensity of heat by the peacock-plumage and gaudy trappings of our militia companies, when marching through the streets to the sound of drum, fife, and brass band, if he could have looked upon us, and then consulted the state of the military thermometer within him, would probably have discovered that the mercury of his heroism had fallen several degrees below zero. He might even have desired that we should not come.
"Between the wind and his nobility."
War, stripped of its pageantry, possesses but few of the attractions with which poetry and painting have embellished it. The following is a list of the officers: –
List of Officers composing the California Battalion.
Lieutenant-colonel J. C.
Fremont, commanding; A. H. Gillespie, major; P. B. Reading, paymaster; Henry
King, commissary; J. R. Snyder, quartermaster, since appointed a
land-surveyor by Colonel Mason; Wm. H. Russell, ordnance officer; T. Talbot,
lieutenant and adjutant; J. J. Myers, sergeant-major, appointed lieutenant
in January, 1847.
Company A. – Richard Owens, captain; Wm. N. Loker, 1st lieutenant, appointed adjutant, Feb. 10th, 1847; B. M. Hudspeth, 2d lieutenant, appointed captain, Feb. 1847; Wm. Findlay, 2d lieutenant, appointed captain, Feb. 1847.
Company B. – Henry Ford, captain; Andrew Copeland, 1st lieutenant.
Company C. – Granville P. Swift, captain; Wm. Baldridge, 1st lieutenant; Wm. Hartgrove, 2d do.
Company D. – John Sears, captain; Wm. Bradshaw, 1st lieutenant.
Company E. – John Grisby, captain; Archibald Jesse, 1st lieutenant.
Company F. – L. W. Hastings, captain (author of a work on California); Wornbough, 1st lieutenant; J. M. Hudspeth, 2d do,
Company G. – Thompson, captain; Davis 1st lieutenant; Rock, 2d do.
Company H. – R. T. Jacobs, captain; Edwin Bryant, 1st lieutenant (afterwards alcalde at San Francisco); Geo. M. Lippincott, 2d do., of New York.
Artillery Company. – Louis McLane, captain (afterwards major); John K. Wilson, 1st lieutenant, appointed captain in January, 1847; Wm. Blackburn, 2d do. (now alcalde of Santa Cruz).
Officers on detached service and doing duty at the South.
S. Hensley, captain; S. Gibson, do. (lanced through the body at San Pascual); Miguel Pedrorena, do., Spaniard (appointed by Stockton); Stgo. Arguello, do., Californian (appointed by do.); Bell, do. (appointed by do.), old resident of California (Los Angeles); H. Rhenshaw, 1st lieutenant, (appointed by do.); A. Godey, do. (appointed by do.); Jas. Barton, do. (appointed by do.); L. Arguello, do., Californian (appointed by do.)
After a march of six or eight hours, up the valley of the arroyo, through
a heavy rain, and mud so deep that several of our horses gave out from
exhaustion, we encamped in a circular bottom, near a deserted adobe house. A
caballada of some 500 or 600 loose horses and mules is driven along with us,
but many of them are miserable sore-backed skeletons, having been exhausted
with hard usage and bad fare during the summer campaign. Besides these, we
have a large number of pack-mules, upon which all our baggage and provisions
are transported. Distance 10 miles.
We did not move on the 1st and 2d of December. There being no cattle in the vicinity of our camp, a party was sent back to the mission, on the morning of the 1st, who in the afternoon returned, driving before them about 100 head, most of them in good condition. After a sufficient number were slaughtered to supply the camp with meat for the day, the remainder were confined in a corral prepared for the purpose, to be driven along with us, and slaughtered from day to day. The rain has continued, with short intermissions, since we commenced our march on the 30th of November. The ground has become saturated with water, and the small branches are swollen into large streams. Notwithstanding these discomforts, the men are in good spirits, and enjoy themselves in singing, telling stories, and playing monte.
December 3. – The rain ceased falling about 8 o’clock this morning; and, the clouds breaking away, the sun cheered us once more with his pleasant beams. The battalion was formed into a hollow square, and, the order of the day being read, we resumed our march. Our progress, through the deep mud, was very slow. The horses were constantly giving out, and many were left behind. The young and tender grass upon which they feed affords but little nourishment, and hard labour soon exhausts them. We encamped on a low bluff, near the arroyo, timbered with evergreen oak. Distance 8 miles.
December 4. – I was ordered with a small party in advance this morning.
Proceeding up the valley a few miles, we left it, crossing several steep
hills sparsely timbered with oak, from which we descended into another small
valley, down which we continued to the point of its termination, near some
narrow and difficult mountain gorges. In exploring the gorges, we discovered
the trail of a party of Californians, which had passed south several days
before us, and found a horse which they had left in their march. This,
doubtless, was a portion of the party which captured Mr. Larkin, and had the
engagement between Monterey and St. Juan, on the 17th ult. The main body
coming up, we encamped at three o’clock. The old grass around our camp is
abundant; but having been so much washed by the rains, and consequently
exhausted of its nutritious qualities, the animals refused to eat it. The
country over which we have travelled to-day, and as far as I can see, is
mountainous and broken, little of it being adapted to other agricultural
purposes than grazing.
Thirteen beeves are slaughtered every afternoon for the consumption of the battalion. These beeves are generally of good size, and in fair condition. Other provisions being entirely exhausted, beef constitutes the only subsistence for the men, and most of the officers. Under these circumstances, the consumption of beef is astonishing. I do not know that I shall be believed when I state a fact, derived from observation and calculation, that the average consumption per man of fresh beef is at least ten pounds per day. Many of them, I believe, consume much more, and some of them less. Nor does this quantity appear to be injurious to health, or fully to satisfy the appetite. I have seen some of the men roast their meat and devour it by the fire from the hour of encamping until late bed-time. They would then sleep until one or two o’clock in the morning, when, the cravings of hunger being greater than the desire for repose, the same occupation would be resumed, and continued until the order was given to march. The Californian beef is generally fat, juicy, and tender, and surpasses in flavour any which I ever tasted elsewhere. Distance 10 miles.
December 5. – I rose before daylight. The moon shone brightly. The
temperature was cold. The vapour in the atmosphere had congealed and fallen
upon the ground in feathery flakes, covering it with a
white-semi-transparent veil, or crystal sheen, sparkling in the moonbeams.
The smoke from the numerous camp-fires soon began to curl languidly up in
graceful wreaths, settling upon the mountain summits. The scene was one for
the pencil and brush of the artist; but, when the envious sun rose, he soon
stripped Madam Earth of her gauzy holiday morning-gown, and exposed her
every-day petticoat of mud.
Our march to-day has been one of great difficulty, through a deep brushy mountain gorge, through which it was almost impossible to force the field-pieces. In one place they were lowered with ropes down a steep and nearly perpendicular precipice of great height and depth. We encamped about three o’clock, P.M., in a small valley. Many of the horses gave out on the march, and were left behind by the men, who came straggling into camp until a late hour of the evening, bringing their saddles and baggage upon their shoulders. I noticed, while crossing an elevated ridge of hills, flakes of snow flying in the air, but melting before they reached the ground. The small spring-branch on which we encamped empties into the Salinas River. The country surrounding us is elevated and broken, and the soil sandy, with but little timber or grass upon it. Distance 12 miles.
December 6. – Morning clear and cool. Crossed an undulating country, destitute of timber and water, and encamped in a circular valley surrounded by elevated hills, through which flows a small tributary of the Salinas. The summits of the mountains in sight are covered with snow, but the temperature in the valleys is pleasant. Distance 15 miles.
December 7. – Ice, the first I have seen since entering California, formed in the branch, of the thickness of window-glass. We reached the valley of the Salinas about eleven o’clock A.M., and encamped for the day. The river Salinas (laid down in some maps as Rio San Buenaventura) rises in the mountains to the south, and has a course of some sixty or eighty miles, emptying into the Pacific about twelve miles north of Monterey. The valley, as it approaches the ocean, is broad and fertile, and there are many fine ranchos upon it. But, higher up, the stream becomes dry in the summer, and the soil of the valley is arid and sandy. The width of the stream at this point is about thirty yards. Its banks are skirted by narrow belts of small timber. A range of elevated mountains rises between this valley and the coast. A courtmartial was held to-day, for the trial of sundry offenders. Distance 8 miles.
December 8. – Morning cool, clear, and pleasant. Two Californians were arrested by the rear-guard near a deserted rancho, and brought into camp. One of them turned out to be a person known to be friendly to the Americans. There has been but little variation in the soil or scenery. But few attempts appear to have been made to settle this portion of California . The thefts and hostilities of the Tular Indians are said to be one of the causes preventing its settlement. Distance 15 miles.
December 9. – The mornings are cool, but the middle of the day is too warm to ride comfortably with our coats on. Our march has been fatiguing and difficult, through several brushy ravines and over steep and elevated hills. Many horses gave out as usual, and were left, from inability to travel. Our caballada is diminishing rapidly. Distance 10 miles.
December 10. – Our march has been on the main beaten trail, dry and hard,
and over a comparatively level country. We passed the mission of San Miguel
about three o’clock, and encamped in a grove of large oak timber, three or
four miles south of it. This mission is situated on the upper waters of the
Salinas, in an extensive plain. Under the administration of the padres it
was a wealthy establishment, and manufactures of various kinds were carried
on. They raised immense numbers of sheep, the fleeces of which were
manufactured by the Indians into blankets and coarse cloths. Their granaries
were filled with an abundance of maize and frijoles, and their store-rooms
with other necessaries of life, from the ranchos belonging to the mission
lands in the vicinity. Now all the buildings, except the church and the
principal range of houses contiguous, have fallen into ruins, and an
Englishman, his wife, and one small child, with two or three Indian
servants, are the sole inhabitants. The church is the largest I have seen in
the country, and its interior is in good repair, although it has not
probably been used for the purpose of public worship for many years. The
Englishman professes to have purchased the mission and all the lands
belonging to it for 300 dollars.
Our stock of cattle being exhausted, we feasted on Californian mutton, sheep being more abundant than cattle at this mission. The wool, I noticed, was coarse, but the mutton was of an excellent quality. The country over which we have travelled to-day shows the marks of long drought previous to the recent rains. The soil is sandy and gravelly, and the dead vegetation upon it is thin and stunted. About eighty of our horses are reported to have given out and been left behind. Distance 20 miles.
December 12. – To relieve our horses, which are constantly giving out from exhaustion, the grass being insufficient for their sustenance while performing labour, the entire battalion, officers and men, were ordered to march on foot, turning their horses, with the saddles and bridles upon them, into the general caballada, to be driven along by the horse-guard. The day has been drizzly, cold, and disagreeable. The country has a barren and naked appearance; but this, I believe, is attributable to the extreme drought that has prevailed in this region for one or two years past. We encamped near the rancho of a friendly Californian – the man who was taken prisoner the other day and set at large. An Indian, said to be the servant of Tortoria Pico, was captured here by the advance party. A letter was found upon him, but the contents of which I never learned. This being the first foot-march, there were, of course, many galled and blistered feet in the battalion. My servant obtained, with some difficulty, from the Indians at the rancho, a pint-cup of pinole, or parched corn-meal, and a quart or two of wheat, which, being boiled, furnished some variety in our viands at supper, fresh beef having been our only subsistence since the commencement of the march from San Juan. Distance 12 miles.
December 13. – A rainy disagreeable morning. Mr. Stanley, one of the
volunteers, and one of the gentlemen who so kindly supplied us with
provisions on Mary’s River, died last night. He has been suffering from an
attack of typhoid fever since the commencement of our march, and unable most
of the time to sit upon his horse. He was buried this morning in a small
circular opening in the timber near our camp. The battalion was formed in a
hollow square surrounding the grave which had been excavated for the final
resting-place of our deceased friend and comrade. There was neither bier,
nor coffin, nor pall –
"Not a drum was heard, nor a funeral note."
The cold earth was heaped upon his mortal remains in silent solemnity, and the ashes of a braver or a better man will never repose in the lonely hills of California.
After the funeral the battalion was marched a short distance to witness another scene, not more mournful, but more harrowing than the last. The Indian captured at the rancho yesterday was condemned to die. He was brought from his place of confinement and tied to a tree. Here he stood some fifteen or twenty minutes, until the Indians from a neighboring rancheria could be brought to witness the execution. A file of soldiers were then ordered to fire upon him. He fell upon his knees, and remained in that position several minutes without uttering a groan, and then sank upon the earth. No human being could have met his fate with more composure, or with stronger manifestations of courage. It was a scene such as I desire never to witness again.
A cold rain fell upon us during the entire day’s march. We encamped at four o’clock, P.M.; but the rain poured down in such torrents that it was impossible to light our camp-fires and keep them burning. This continued nearly the whole night, and I have rarely passed a night more uncomfortably. A scouting party brought in two additional prisoners this evening. Another returned, and reported the capture of a number of horses, and the destruction of a rancho by fire. Distance 12 miles.
December 14. – The battalion commenced its march on foot and in a heavy
rain. The mud is very deep, and we have been compelled to wade several
streams of considerable depth, being swollen by the recent rains. At one
o’clock a halt was ordered, and beef slaughtered and cooked for dinner. The
march was resumed late in the afternoon, and the plain surrounding the
mission of San Luis Obispo was reached in the pitch darkness of the night, a
family in the canada having been taken prisoners by the advance party to
prevent them from giving the alarm. The battalion was so disposed as to
surround the mission and take prisoners all contained within it. The place
was entered in great confusion, on account of the darkness, about nine
o’clock. There was no military force at the mission, and the few inhabitants
were greatly alarmed, as may well be supposed, by this sudden invasion. They
made no resistance, and were all taken prisoners except one or two, who
managed to escape and fled in great terror, no one knew where or how. It
being ascertained that Tortoria Pico, a man who has figured conspicuously in
most of the Californian revolutions, was in the neighbourhood, a party was
despatched immediately to the place, and he was brought in a prisoner. The
night was rainy and boisterous, and the soldiers were quartered to the best
advantage in the miserable mud houses, and no acts of violence or outrage of
any kind were committed.
The men composing the Californian battalion, as I have before stated, have been drawn from many sources, and are roughly clad, and weather-beaten in their exterior appearance; but I feel it but justice here to state my belief, that no military party ever passed through an enemy’s country and observed the same strict regard for the rights of its population. I never heard of an outrage, or even a trespass being committed by one of the American volunteers during our entire march. Every American appeared to understand perfectly the duty which he owed to himself and others in this respect, and the deportment of the battalion might be cited as a model for imitation. Distance 18 miles.
Tremendous rain – Mission of San Luis Obispo – Gardens – Various fruits – Farm – Cactus tuna – Calinche – Pumpkins – Trial of Tortoria Pico – Procession of women – Pico’s pardon – Leave San Luis – Surf of the Pacific – Captain Dana – Tempestuous night – Mission of St. Ynes – Effects of drought – Horses exhausted – St. Ynes Mountain – View of the plain of Santa Barbara and the Pacific – A wretched Christmas-day – Descent of St. Ynes Mountain – Terrible storm – Frightful destruction of horses – Dark night What we are fighting for – Arrive at Santa Barbara – Town deserted.
December 15. – The rain fell in cataracts the entire day. The small
streams which flow from the mountains through, and water the valley of, San
Luis Obispo, are swollen by the deluge of water from the clouds into foaming
unfordable torrents. In order not to trespass upon the population at the
mission, in their miserable abodes of mud, the church was opened, and a
large number of the soldiers were quartered in it. A guard, however, was set
day and night, over the chancel and all other property contained in the
building, to prevent its being injured or disturbed. The decorations of the
church are much the same as I have before described. The edifice is large,
and the interior in good repair. The floor is paved with square bricks. I
noticed a common hand-organ in the church, which played the airs we usually
hear from organgrinders in the street.
Besides the main large buildings connected with the church, there are standing, and partially occupied, several small squares of adobe houses, belonging to this mission. The heaps of mud, and crumbling walls outside of these, are evidence that the place was once of much greater extent, and probably one of the most opulent and prosperous establishments of the kind in the country. The lands surrounding the mission are finely situated for cultivation and irrigation if necessary. There are several large gardens, inclosed by high and substantial walls, which now contain a great variety of fruit-trees and shrubbery. I noticed the orange, fig, palm, olive, and grape. There are also large inclosures hedged in by the prickly-pear (cactus), which grows to an enormous size, and makes an impervious barrier against man or beast. The stalks of some of these plants are of the thickness of a man’s body, and grow to the height of fifteen feet. A juicy fruit is produced by the prickly-pear, named tuna, from which a beverage is sometimes made, called calinche. It has a pleasant flavour, as has also the fruit, which, when ripe, is blood-red. A small quantity of pounded wheat was found here, which, being purchased, was served out to the troops, about a pound to the man. Frijoles and pumpkins were also obtained, delicacies of no common order.
December 16. – A court-martial was convened this morning for the trial of Pico, the principal prisoner, on the charge, I understood, of the forfeiture of his parole which had been taken on a former occasion. The sentence of the court was, that he should be shot or hung, I do not know which. A rumour is current among the population here, that there has been an engagement between a party of Americans and Californians, near Los Angeles, in which the former were defeated with the loss of thirty men killed.
December 17. – Cool, with a hazy sky. While standing in one of the corridors this morning, a procession of females passed by me, headed by a lady of fine appearance and dressed with remarkable taste and neatness, compared with those who followed her. Their rebosos concealed the faces of most of them, except the leader, whose beautiful features, I dare say, she thought (and justly) required no concealment. They proceeded to the quarters of Colonel Fremont, and their object, I understood, was to petition for the reprieve or pardon of Pico, who had been condemned to death by the court-martial yesterday, and whose execution was expected to take place this morning. Their intercession was successful, as no execution took place, and in a short time all the prisoners were discharged, and the order to saddle up and march given. We resumed our march at ten o’clock, and encamped just before sunset in a small but picturesque and fertile valley timbered with oak, so near the coast that the roar of the surf breaking against the shore could be heard distinctly. Distance seven miles.
December 18. – Clear, with a delightful temperature. Before the sun rose
the grass was covered with a white frost. The day throughout has been calm
and beautiful. A march of four miles brought us to the shore of a small
indentation in the coast of the Pacific, where vessels can anchor, and boats
can land when the wind is not too fresh. The surf is now rolling and foaming
with prodigious energy – breaking upon the beach in long lines one behind
the other, and striking the shore like cataracts. The hills and plains are
verdant with a carpet of fresh grass, and the scattered live-oaks on all
sides, appearing like orchards of fruit-trees, give to the country an old
and cultivated aspect. The mountains bench away on our left, the low hills
rising in gentle conical forms, beyond which are the more elevated and
precipitous peaks covered with snow. We encamped about three o’clock near
the rancho of Captain Dana, in a large and handsome valley well watered by
Captain Dana is a native of Massachusetts, and has resided in this country about thirty years. He is known and esteemed throughout California for his intelligence and private virtues, and his unbounded generosity and hospitality. I purchased here a few loaves of wheat bread, and distributed them among the men belonging to our company as far as they would go, a luxury which they have not indulged in since the commencement of the march. Distance 15 miles.
December 19. – The night was cold and tempestuous, with a slight fall of rain. The clouds broke away after sunrise, and the day became warm and pleasant. We continued our march up the valley, and encamped near its head. The table-land and hills are generally gravelly, but appear to be productive of fine grass. The soil of the bottom is of the richest and most productive composition. We crossed in the course of the day a wide flat plain, upon which were grazing large herds of brood-mares ( manadas ) and cattle. In the distance they resembled large armies approaching us. The peaks of the elevated mountains in sight are covered with snow. A large number of horses gave out, strayed, and were left behind to-day, estimated at one hundred. The men came into camp bringing their saddles on their backs, and some of them arriving late in the evening. Distance 18 miles.
December 20. – Parties were sent back this morning to gather up horses and baggage left on the march yesterday, and it was one o’clock before the rear-guard, waiting for the return of those, left camp. The main body made a short march and encamped early, in a small hollow near the rancho of Mr. Faxon, through which flows an arroyo, the surrounding hills being timbered with evergreen oaks. The men amused themselves during the afternoon in target-shooting. Many of the battalion are fine marksmen with the rifle, and the average of shots could not easily be surpassed. The camp spread over an undulating surface of half a mile in diameter, and at night, when the fires were lighted, illuminating the grove, with its drapery of drooping Spanish moss, it presented a most picturesque appearance. Distance 3 miles.
December 21. – Clear and pleasant. A foot march was ordered, with the exception of the horse and baggage guard. We marched several miles through a winding hollow, passing a deserted rancho, and ascending with much labour a steep ridge of hills, descending which we entered a handsome valley, and encamped upon a small stream about four miles from the mission of St. Ynes. The banks of the arroyo are strewn with dead and prostrate timber, the trees, large and small, having been overthrown by tornados. The plain has suffered, like much of the country we have passed through, by a long-continued drought, but the composition of the soil is such as indicates fertility, and from the effects of the late rains the grass is springing up with great luxuriance, from places which before were entirely denuded of vegetation. A party was sent from camp to inspect the mission, but returned without making any important discoveries. Our horses are so weak that many of them are unable to carry their saddles, and were left on the road as usual. A man had his leg broken on the march to-day, by the kick of a mule. He was sent back to the rancho of Mr. Faxon. Distance 15 miles.
December 22. – Clear and pleasant. Being of the party which performed rear guard duty to-day, with orders to bring in all stragglers, we did not leave camp until several hours after the main body had left. The horses of the caballada and the pack-animals were continually giving out and refusing to proceed. Parties of men, exhausted, lay down upon the ground, and it was with much urging, and sometimes with peremptory commands only, that they could be prevailed upon to proceed. The country bears the same marks of drought heretofore described, but fresh vegetation is now springing up and appears vigorous. A large horse-trail leading into one of the cañadas of the mountains on our left was discovered by the scouts, and a party was dispatched to trace it. We passed one deserted rancho, and reached camp between nine and ten o’clock at night, having forced in all the men and most of the horses and pack-mules. Distance 15 miles.
December 23. – Rain fell steadily and heavily the entire day. A small party of men was in advance. Discovering in a brushy valley two Indians armed with bows and arrows, they were taken prisoners. Learning from them that there was a caballada of horses secreted in one of the cañadas, they continued on about ten miles, and found about twenty-five fresh fat horses, belonging to a Californian now among the insurgents below. They were taken and delivered at the camp near the eastern base of the St. Ynes Mountain. Passed this morning a rancho inhabited by a foreigner, an Englishman.
December 24. – Cloudy and cool, with an occasional sprinkling rain. Our route to-day lay directly over the St. Ynes Mountain, by an elevated and most difficult pass. The height of this mountain is several thousand feet. We reached the summit about twelve o’clock, and, our company composing the advance-guard, we encamped about a mile and a half in advance of the main body of the battalion, at a point which overlooks the beautiful plain of Santa Barbara, of which, and the ocean beyond, we had a most extended and interesting view. With the spy-glass, we could see, in the plain far below us, herds of cattle quietly grazing upon the green herbage that carpets its gentle undulations. The plain is dotted with groves, surrounding the springs and belting the small water-courses, of which there are many flowing from this range of mountains. Ranchos are scattered far up and down the plain, but not one human being could be seen stirring. About ten or twelve miles to the south, the white towers of the mission of Santa Barbara raise themselves. Beyond is the illimitable waste of waters. A more lovely and picturesque landscape I never beheld. On the summit of the mountain, and surrounding us there is a growth of hawthorn, manzinita (in bloom), and other small shrubbery. The rock is soft sandstone and conglomerate, immense masses of which, piled one upon another, form a wall along the western brow of the mountain, through which there is a single pass or gateway about eight or ten feet in width. The descent on the western side is precipitous, and appears almost impassable. Distance 4 miles.
December 25 . Christmas-day, and a memorable one to me. Owing to the
difficulty in hauling the cannon up the steep acclivities of the mountain,
the main body of the battalion did not come up with us until twelve o’clock,
and before we commenced the descent of the mountain a furious storm
commenced, raging with a violence rarely surpassed. The rain fell in
torrents, and the wind blew almost with the force of a tornado. This fierce
strife of the elements continued without abatement the entire afternoon, and
until two o’clock at night. Driving our horses before us, we were compelled
to slide down the steep and slippery rocks, or wade through deep gullies and
ravines filled with mud and foaming torrents of water, that rushed downwards
with such force as to carry along the loose rocks and tear up the trees and
shrubbery by the roots. Many of the horses falling into the ravines refused
to make an effort to extricate themselves, and were swept downwards and
drowned. Others, bewildered by the fierceness and terrors of the storm,
rushed or fell headlong over the steep precipices and were killed. Others
obstinately refused to proceed, but stood quaking with fear or shivering
with cold, and many of these perished in the night from the severity of the
storm. The advance party did not reach the foot of the mountain and find a
place to encamp until night – and a night of more impenetrable and terrific
darkness I never witnessed. The ground upon which our camp was made,
although sloping from the hills to a small stream, was so saturated with
water that men as well as horses sunk deep at every step. The rain fell in
such quantities, that fires with great difficulty could be lighted, and most
of them were immediately extinguished.
The officers and men belonging to the company having the cannon in charge laboured until nine or ten o’clock to bring them down the mountain, but they were finally compelled to leave them. Much of the baggage also remained on the side of the mountain, with the pack-mules and horses conveying them, all efforts to force the animals down being fruitless. The men continued to straggle into the camp until a late hour of the night; – some crept under the shelving rocks and did not come in until the next morning. We were so fortunate as to find our tent, and after much difficulty pitched it under an oak-tree. All efforts to light a fire and keep it blazing proving abortive, we spread our blankets upon the ground and endeavoured to sleep, although we could feel the cold streams of water running through the tent and between and around our bodies.
In this condition we remained until about two o’clock in the morning, when the storm having abated I rose, and shaking from my garments the dripping water, after many unsuccessful efforts succeeded in kindling a fire. Near our tent I found three soldiers who had reached camp at a late hour. They were fast asleep on the ground, the water around them being two or three inches deep; but they had taken care to keep their heads above water, by using a log of wood for a pillow. The fire beginning to blaze freely, I dug a ditch with my hands and a sharp stick of wood, which drained off the pool surrounding the tent. One of the men, when he felt the sensation consequent upon being "high and dry," roused himself, and, sitting upright, looked around for some time with an expression of bewildered amazement. At length he seemed to realize the true state of the case, and exclaimed, in a tone of energetic soliloquy, –
"Well, who wouldn’t be a soldier and fight for California?"
"You are mistaken," I replied.
Rubbing his eyes, he gazed at me with astonishment, as if having been entirely unconscious of my presence; but, reassuring himself, he said:
"Why," I answered, "you are not fighting for California."
"What the d – l, then, am I fighting for?" he inquired.
"Texas be d – d; but hurrah for General Jackson!" and with this exclamation he threw himself back again upon his wooden pillow, and was soon snoring in a profound slumber.
Making a platform composed of sticks of wood upon the soft mud, I stripped myself to the skin, wringing the water from each garment as I proceeded. I then commenced drying them by the fire in the order that they were replaced upon my body, an employment that occupied me until daylight, which sign, above the high mountain to the east, down which we had rolled rather than marched yesterday, I was truly rejoiced to see. Distance 3 miles.
December 26. – Parties were detailed early this morning, and despatched up the mountain to bring down the cannon, and collect the living horses and baggage. The destruction of horse-flesh, by those who witnessed the scene by daylight, is described as frightful. In some places large numbers of dead horses were piled together. In others, horses half buried in the mud of the ravines, or among the rocks, were gasping in the agonies of death. The number of dead animals is variously estimated at from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty, by different persons. The cannon, most of the missing baggage, and the living horses, were all brought in by noon. The day was busily employed in cleansing our rifles and pistols, and drying our drenched baggage.
December 27. – Preparations were commenced early for the resumption of our
march; but such was the condition of everything around us, that it was two
o’clock, P.M., before the battalion was in readiness; and then so great had
been the loss of horses in various ways, that the number remaining was
insufficient to mount the men. One or two companies, and portions of others,
were compelled to march on foot. We were visited during the forenoon by Mr.
Sparks, an American, Dr. Den, an Irishman, and Mr. Burton, another American,
residents of Santa Barbara. They had been suffered by the Californians to
remain in the place. Their information communicated to us was, that the town
was deserted of nearly all its population. A few houses only were occupied.
Passing down a beautiful and fertile undulating plain, we encamped just
before sunset in a live-oak grove, about half a mile from the town of Santa
Barbara. Strict orders were issued by Col. Fremont, that the property and
the persons of Californians, not found in arms, should be sacredly
respected. To prevent all collisions, no soldier was allowed to pass the
lines of the camp without special permission, or orders from his officers.
I visited the town before dark, but found the houses, with few exceptions, closed, and the streets deserted. After hunting about some time, we discovered a miserable dwelling, occupied by a shoemaker and his family, open. Entering it, we were very kindly received by its occupants, who, with a princely supply of civility, possessed but a beggarly array of comforts. At our request they provided for us a supper of tortillas, frijoles, and stewed carne seasoned with chile colorado, for which, paying them dos pesos for four, we bade them good evening, all parties being well satisfied. The family consisted, exclusive of the shoemaker, of a dozen women and children, of all ages. The women, from the accounts they had received of the intentions of the Americans, were evidently unprepared for civil treatment from them. They expected to be dealt with in a very barbarous manner, in all respects; but they were disappointed, and invited us to visit them again. Distance 8 miles.
Santa Barbara – Picturesque situation – Fertility of the country – Climate – Population – Society – Leave Santa Barbara – Rincon – Grampus – Mission of St. Buenaventura – Fine gardens – Meet a party of mounted Californians – They retreat before us – Abundance of maize – Arrival of couriers from Com. Stockton – Effects of war upon the country – More of the enemy in sight – News of the capture of Los Angeles, by Gen. Kearny and Com. Stockton – Mission of San Fernando – The Maguey – Capitulation of the Californians – Arrive at Los Angeles – General reflections upon the march – Meet with old acquaintances.
THE battalion remained encamped at Santa Barbara, from the 27th of
December to the 3rd of January, 1847. The U.S. flag was raised in the public
square of the town the day after our arrival.
The town of Santa Barbara is beautifully situated for the picturesque, about one mile from the shore of a roadstead, which affords anchorage for vessels of any size, and a landing for boats in calm weather. During stormy weather, or the prevalence of strong winds from the south-east, vessels, for safety, are compelled to stand out to sea. A fertile plain extends some twenty or thirty miles up and down the coast, varying in breadth from two to ten miles, and bounded on the east by a range of high mountains. The population of the town I should judge, from the number of houses, to be about 1200 souls. Most of the houses are constructed of adobes, in the usual architectural style of Mexican buildings. Some of them, however, are more Americanized, and have some pretensions to tasteful architecture, and comfortable and convenient interior arrangement. Its commerce, I presume, is limited to the export of hides and tallow produced upon the surrounding plain; and the commodities received in exchange for these from the traders on the coast. Doubtless, new and yet undeveloped sources of wealth will be discovered hereafter that will render this town of much greater importance than it is at present.
On the coast, a few miles above Santa Barbara, there are, I have been told, immense quantities of pure bitumen or mineral tar, which, rising in the ocean, has been thrown upon the shore by the waves, where in a concrete state, like resin, it has accumulated in inexhaustible masses. There are, doubtless, many valuable minerals in the neighboring mountains, which, when developed by enterprise, will add greatly to the wealth and importance of the town. For intelligence, refinement, and civilization, the population, it is said, will compare advantageously with any in California. Some old and influential Spanish families are residents of this place; but their casas, with the exception of that of Senor Don José Noriega, the largest house in the place, are now closed and deserted. Senor N. is one of the oldest and most respectable citizens of California, having filled the highest offices in the government of the country. One of his daughters is a resident of New York, having married Alfred Robinson, Esq., of that city, author of "Life in California."
The climate, judging from the indications while we remained here, must be delightful, even in winter. With the exception of one day, which was tempestuous, the temperature at night did not fall below 50̊, and during the day the average was between 60̊ and 70̊. The atmosphere was perfectly clear and serene, the weather resembling that of the pleasant days of April in the same latitude on the Atlantic side of the continent. It is a peculiarity of the Mexicans that they allow no shade or ornamental trees to grow near their houses. In none of the streets of the towns or missions through which I have passed has there been a solitary tree standing. I noticed very few horticultural attempts in Santa Barbara. At the mission, about two miles distant, which is an extensive establishment and in good preservation, I was told that there were fine gardens, producing most of the varieties of fruits of the tropical and temperate climates.
Several Californians came into camp and offered to deliver themselves up. They were permitted to go at large. They represented that the Californian force at the south was daily growing weaker from dissensions and desertions. The United States prize-schooner Julia arrived on the 30th, from which was landed a cannon for the use of the battalion. It has, however, to be mounted on wheels, and the gear necessary for hauling it has to be made in the camp. Reports were current in camp on the 31st, that the Californians intended to meet and fight us at San Buenaventura, about thirty miles distant. On the 1st of January, the Indians of the mission and town celebrated new-year’s day, by a procession, music, etc. They marched from the mission to the town, and through most of the empty and otherwise silent streets. Among the airs they played was "Yankee Doodle."
January 3. – A beautiful spring-like day. We resumed our march at 11 o’clock, and encamped in a live-oak grove about ten miles south of Santa-Barbara. Our route has been generally near the shore of the ocean. Timber is abundant, and the grass and other vegetation luxuriant. Distance 10 miles.
January 4. – At the "Rincon," or passage between two points of land jutting into the ocean, so narrow that at high tides the surf dashes against the nearly perpendicular bases of the mountains which bound the shore, it has been supposed the hostile Californians would make a stand, the position being so advantageous to them. The road, if road it can be called, where all marks of hoofs or wheels are erased by each succeeding tide, runs along a hard sand-beach, with occasional projections of small points of level ground, ten or fifteen miles, and the surf, even when the tide has fallen considerably, frequently reaches to the bellies of the horses. Some demonstration has been confidently expected here, but we encamped in this pass the first day without meeting an enemy or seeing a sign of one. Our camp is close to the ocean, and the roar of the surf, as it dashes against the shore, is like that of an immense cataract. Hundreds of the grampus whale are sporting a mile or two distant from the land, spouting up water and spray to a great height, in columns resembling steam from the escape-pipes of steam-boats. Distance 6 miles.
January 5. – The prize-schooner Julia was lying off in sight this morning, for the purpose of co-operating with us, should there be any attempt on the part of the enemy to interrupt the march of the battalion. We reached the mission of San Buenaventura, and encamped a short distance from it at two o’clock. Soon after, a small party of Californians exhibited ] themselves on an elevation just beyond the mission. The battalion was immediately called to arms, and marched out to meet hem. But, after the discharge of the two field-pieces, they scampered away like a flock of antelopes, and the battalion returned to camp, with none killed or wounded on either side. Under the belief that there was a larger force of Californians encamped at a distance of some five or six miles, and that during the night they might attempt a surprise, or plant cannon on the summit of a hill about a mile from camp, so as to annoy us, a party, of which I was one, was detached, after dark, to occupy the hill secretly. We marched around the mission as privately as possible, and took our position on the hill, where we remained all night without the least disturbance, except by the tempestuous wind, which blew a blast so cold and piercing as almost to congeal the blood. When the sun rose in the morning, I could see, far out in the ocean, three vessels scudding before the gale like phantom ships. One of these was the little schooner that had been waiting upon us while marching along the "Rincon." Distance 14 miles.
January 6. – The wind has blown a gale in our faces all day, and the
clouds of dust have been almost blinding. The mission of San Buenaventura
does not differ, in its general features, from those of other establishments
of the same kind heretofore described. There is a large garden, inclosed by
a high wall, attached to the mission, in which I noticed a great variety of
fruit-trees and ornamental shrubbery. There are also numerous inclosures,
for cultivation, by willow hedges. The soil, when properly tilled, appears
to be highly productive. This mission is situated about two miles from the
shore of a small bay or indentation of the coast, on the edge of a plain or
valley watered by the Rio Santa Clara, which empties into the Pacific at
this point. A chain of small islands, from ten to twenty miles from the
shore, commences at Santa Barbara, and extends south along the coast, to the
bay of San Pedro. These islands present to the eye a barren appearance. At
present the only inhabitants of the mission are a few Indians, the white
population having abandoned it on our approach, with the exception of one
man, who met us yesterday and surrendered himself a prisoner.
Proceeding up the valley about seven miles from the mission, we discovered at a distance a party of sixty or seventy mounted Californians, drawn up in order on the bank of the river. This, it was conjectured, might be only a portion of a much larger force stationed here, and concealed in a deep ravine which runs across the valley, or in the cañadas of the hills on our left. Scouting-parties mounted the hills, for the purpose of ascertaining if such was the case. In the mean time, the party of Californians on our right scattered themselves over the plain, prancing their horses, waving their swords, banners, and lances, and performing a great variety of equestrian feats. They were mounted on fine horses, and there are no better horsemen, if as good, in the world, than Californians. They took especial care, however, to keep beyond the reach of cannon-shot. The battalion wheeled to the left for the purpose of crossing a point of hills jutting into the plain, and taking the supposed concealed party of the enemy on their flank. It was, however, found impracticable to cross the hills with the cannon; and, returning to the plain, the march was continued, the Californians still prancing and performing their antics in our faces. Our horses were so poor and feeble that it was impossible to chase them with any hope of success. As we proceeded, they retreated. Some of the Indian scouts, among whom were a Delaware named Tom, who distinguished himself in the engagement near San Juan, and a Californian Indian named Gregorio, rode towards them; and two or three guns were discharged on both sides, but without any damage, the parties not being within dangerous gun-shot distance of each other. The Californians then formed themselves in a body, and soon disappeared behind some hills on our right. We encamped about four o’clock in the valley, the wind blowing almost a hurricane, and the dust flying so as nearly to blind us. Distance 9 miles.
January 7. – Continuing our march up the valley, we encamped near the rancho of Carrillo, where we found an abundance of corn, wheat, and frijoles. The house was shut up, having been deserted by its proprietor, who is said to be connected with the rebellion. Californian scouts were seen occasionally today on the summits of the hills south of us. Distance 7 miles.
January 8. – Another tempestuous day. I do not remember ever to have experienced such disagreeable effects from the wind and the clouds of dust in which we were constantly enveloped, driving into our faces without intermission. We encamped this afternoon in a grove of willows near a rancho, where, as yesterday, we found corn and beans in abundance. Our horses, consequently, fare well, and we fare better than we have done. One-fourth of the battalion, exclusive of the regular guard, is kept under arms during the night, to be prepared against surprises and night-attacks. Distance 12 miles.
January 9. – Early this morning Captain Hamley, accompanied by a
Californian as a guide, came into camp, with despatches from Commodore
Stockton. The exact purport of these despatches I never learned, but it was
understood that the commodore, in conjunction with General Kearny, was
marching upon Los Angeles, and that, if they had not already reached and
taken that town (the present capital of California ), they were by this time
in its neighbourhood. Captain Hamley passed, last night, the encampment of a
party of Californians in our rear. He landed from a vessel at Santa Barbara,
and from thence followed us to this place by land. We encamped this
afternoon at a rancho, situated on the edge of a fertile and finely watered
plain of considerable extent, where we found corn, wheat, and frijoles in
great abundance. The rancho was owned and occupied by an aged Californian,
of commanding and respectable appearance; I could not but feel compassion
for the venerable old man, whose sons were now all absent and engaged in the
war, while he, at home and unsupported, was suffering the unavoidable
inconveniences and calamities resulting from an army being quartered upon
As we march south there appears to be a larger supply of wheat, maize, beans, and barley in the granaries of the ranchos. More attention is evidently given to the cultivation of the soil here than farther north, although neither the soil nor climate is so well adapted to the raising of crops. The Californian spies have shown themselves at various times today, on the summits of the hills on our right. Distance 12 miles.
January 10. – Crossing the plain, we encamped, about two o’clock P.M., in the mouth of a canada, through which we ascend over a difficult pass in a range of elevated hills between us and the plain of San Fernando, or Couenga. Some forty or fifty mounted Californians exhibited themselves on the summit of the pass during the afternoon. They were doubtless a portion of the same party that we met several days ago, just below San Buenaventura. A large number of cattle were collected in the plain and corralled, to be driven along to-morrow for subsistence. Distance 10 miles.
January 11. – The battalion this morning was divided into two parties;
the main-body, on foot, marching over a ridge of hills to the right of the
road or trail; and the artillery, horses and baggage, with an advance-guard
and escort, marching by the direct route. We found the pass narrow, and
easily to be defended by brave and determined men against a greatly superior
force; but when we had mounted the summit of the ridge there was no enemy,
nor the sign of one, in sight. Descending into a canada on the other side,
we halted until the main body came up to us, and then the whole force was
again reunited, and the march continued.
Emerging from the hills, the advance party to which I was attached met two Californians, bareheaded, riding in great haste. They stated that they were from the mission of San Fernando; that the Californian forces had met the American forces under the command of General Kearny and Commodore Stockton, and had been defeated after two days’ fighting; and that the Americans had yesterday marched into Los Angeles. They requested to be conducted immediately to Colonel Fremont, which request was complied with. A little farther on we met a Frenchman, who stated that he was the bearer of a letter from General Kearny, at Los Angeles, to Colonel Fremont. He confirmed the statement we had just heard, and was permitted to pass. Continuing our march, we entered the mission of San Fernando at one o’clock and in about two hours the main body arrived, and the whole battalion encamped in the mission buildings.
The buildings and gardens belonging to this mission are in better condition than those of any of these establishments I have seen. There are two extensive gardens, surrounded by high walls; and a stroll through them afforded a most delightful contrast from the usually uncultivated landscape we have been travelling through for so long a time. Here were brought together most of the fruits and many of the plants of the temperate and tropical climates. Although not the season of flowers, still the roses were in bloom. Oranges, lemons, figs, and olives hung upon the trees, and the blood – red tuna, or prickly-pear, looked very tempting. Among the plants I noticed the American aloe ( argave Americana ), which is otherwise called maguey . From this plant, when it attains maturity, a saccharine liquor is extracted, which is manufactured into a beverage called pulque, and is much prized by Mexicans. The season of grapes has passed, but there are extensive vineyards at this mission. I drank, soon after my arrival, a glass of red wine manufactured here, of a good quality.
The mission of San Fernando is situated at the head of an extensive and very fertile plain, judging from the luxuriance of the grass and other vegetation now springing up. I noticed in the granary from which our horses were supplied with food many thousand bushels of corn. The ear is smaller than that of the corn of the Southern States. It resembles the maize cultivated in the Northern States, the kernel being hard and polished. Large herds of cattle and sheep were grazing upon the plain in sight of the mission.
January 12. – This morning two Californian officers, accompanied by Tortaria Pico, who marched with us from San Luis Obispo, came to the mission to treat for peace. A consultation was held and terms were suggested, and, as I understand, partly agreed upon, but not concluded. The officers left in the afternoon.
January 13. – We continued our march, and encamped near a deserted rancho at the foot of Couenga plain. Soon after we halted, the Californian peace-commissioners appeared, and the terms of peace and capitulation were finally agreed upon and signed by the respective parties. They were as follows: –
ARTICLES OF CAPITULATION,
Made and entered into at the Ranch of Couenga, this thirteenth day of
January, eighteen hundred and forty-seven, between P. B. Reading, major;
Louis McLane, junr., commanding 3rd Artillery; William H. Russell, ordnance
officer – commissioners appointed by J. C. Fremont, Colonel United States
Army, and Military Commandant of California ; and José
Antonio Carillo, commandant esquadron; Augustin Olivera, deputado –
commissioners appointed by Don Andres Pico, Commander-in-chief of the
Californian forces under the Mexican flag.
Article 1st. The Commissioners on the part of the Californians agree that their entire force shall, on presentation of themselves to Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont, deliver up their artillery and public arms, and that they shall return peaceably to their homes, conforming to the laws and regulations of the United States, and not again take up arms during the war between the United States and Mexico, but will assist and aid in placing the country in a state of peace and tranquility.
Art. 2nd. The Commissioners on the part of Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont agree and bind themselves, on the fulfilment of the 1st Article by the Californians, that they shall be guaranteed protection of life and property, whether on parole or otherwise.
Article 3rd. That until a Treaty of Peace be made and signed between the United States of North America and the Republic of Mexico, no Californian or other Mexican citizen shall be bound to take the oath of allegiance.
Article 4th. That any Californian or citizen of Mexico, desiring, is permitted by this capitulation to leave the country without let or hinderance.
Article 5th. That, in virtue of the aforesaid articles, equal rights and privileges are vouchsafed to every citizen of California, as are enjoyed by the citizens of the United States of North America.
Article 6th. All officers, citizens, foreigners or others, shall receive the protection guaranteed by the 2nd Article.
Article 7th. This capitulation is intended to be no bar in effecting such arrangements as may in future be in justice required by both parties.
Ciudad de Los Angeles, Jan. 16th, 1847.
That the paroles of all officers, citizens and others, of the United States, and naturalized citizens of Mexico, are by this foregoing capitulation cancelled, and every condition of said paroles, from and after this date, are of no further force and effect, and all prisoners of both parties are hereby released.
P. B. READING, Maj. Cal’a. Battalion.
LOUIS McLANE, Com’d. Artillery.
WM. H. RUSSELL, Ordnance Officer.
JOSE ANTONIO CARILLO, Comd’t. of Squadron.
AUGUSTIN OLIVERA, Deputado.
J. C. FREMONT, Lieut.-Col. U.S. Army, and Military Commandant of California.
ANDRES PICO, Commandant of Squadron and Chief of the National Forces of California.
The next morning a brass howitzer was brought into camp, and delivered. What other arms were given up I cannot say, for I saw none. Nor can I speak as to the number of Californians who were in the field under the command of Andres Pico when the articles of capitulation were signed, for they were never in sight of us after we reached San Fernando. Distance 12 miles.
January 14. – It commenced raining heavily this morning. Crossing a ridge
of hills, we entered the magnificent undulating plain surrounding the city
of Angels, now verdant with a carpet of fresh vegetation. Among other plants
I noticed the mustard, and an immense quantity of the common pepper-grass of
our gardens. We passed several warm springs which throw up large quantities
of bitumen or mineral tar. Urging our jaded animals through the mud and
water, which in places was very deep, we reached the town about 3 o’clock.
A more miserably clad, wretchedly provided, and unprepossessing military host, probably never entered a civilized city. In all, except our order, deportment, and arms, we might have been mistaken for a procession of tatterdemalions, or a tribe of Nomades from Tartary. There were not many of us so fortunate as to have in our possession an entire outside garment; and several were without hats or shoes, or a complete covering to their bodies. But that we had at last reached the terminus of a long and laborious march, attended with hardships, exposure, and privation rarely suffered, was a matter of such heartfelt congratulation, that these comparatively trifling inconveniences were not thought of. Men never, probably, in the entire history of military transactions, bore these privations with more fortitude or uttered fewer complaints.
We had now arrived at the abode of the celestials, if the interpretation of the name of the place could be considered as indicative of the character of its population, and drenched with rain and plastered with mud, we entered the "City of the Angels," and marched through its principal street to our temporary quarters. We found the town, as we expected, in the possession of the United States naval and military forces under the command of Commodore Stockton and General Kearny, who, after two engagements with six hundred mounted Californians on the 8th and 9th, had marched into the city on the 10th. The town was almost entirely deserted by its inhabitants, and most of the houses, except those belonging to foreigners, or occupied as quarters for the troops, were closed. I met here many of the naval officers whose agreeable acquaintance I had made at San Francisco. Among others were Lieutenants Thompson, Hunter, Gray and Rhenshaw, and Captain Zeilin of the marines, all of whom had marched from San Diego. Distance 12 miles.
Military operations of General Kearny and Commodore Stockton—Their reports to the Secretaries of War and Navy—Battles of San Pasqual and San Gabriel
THE operations of General Kearny in California, and afterwards the joint operations of Commodore Stockton and General Kearny, which resulted in the defeat of the Californians on the 8th and 9th of January, and the capture of Los Angeles, are clearly and concisely stated in their official reports to the War Department, which were dispatched to Washington by Lieut. Gray of the navy, and Lieut. Emory of the army, immediately after our arrival at Los Angeles.. The reports are subjoined.
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE WEST,
San Diego, Upper California, Dec. 12, 1846.
SIR: As I have previously reported to you, I left Santa Fé
(New Mexico) for this country on the 25th September, with 300 of the 1st
dragoons, under Major Sumner. We crossed to the bank of the Del Norte at
Albuquerque, (65 miles below Santa Fé,)
continuing down on that bank till the 6th October, when we met Mr. Kit
Carson, with a party of sixteen men, on his way to Washington City, with a
mail and papers, an express from Commodore Stockton and Lieut.-Col. Fremont,
reporting that the Californians were already in possession of the Americans
under their command; that the American flag was flying from every important
position in the territory, and that the country was forever free from
Mexican control; the war ended, and peace and harmony established among tho
people. In consequence of this information, I directed that 200 dragoons,
under Major Sumner, should remain in New Mexico, and that the other 100,
with two mountain-howitzers, under Captain Moore, should accompany me as a
guard to Upper California. With this guard, we continued our march to the
south, on the right bank of the Del Norte, to the distance of about 230
miles below Santa Fé, when, leaving that
river on the 15th October, in about the 33d deg. of latitude, we marched
westward for the Copper-mines, which we reached on the 18th, and on the 20th
reached the river Gila, proceeded down the Gila, crossing and recrossing it
as often as obstructions in our front rendered necessary; on the 11th
November reached the Pimos village, about 80 miles from the settlements in
Sonora. These Indians we found honest, and living comfortably, having made a
good crop this year; and we remained with them two days, to rest our men,
recruit our animals, and obtain provisions. On the 22d November, reached the
mouth of the Gila, in latitude about 32 degrees — our whole march on this
river having been nearly 500 miles, and, with but very little exception,
between the 32d and 33d parallels of latitude.
This river, (the Gila,) more particularly the northern side, is bounded nearly the whole distance by a range of lofty mountains; and if a tolerable wagon-road to its mouth from the Del Norte is ever discovered, it must be on the south side. The country is destitute of timber, producing but few cotton-wood and musquit-trees; and though the soil on the bottom-lands is generally good, yet we found but very little grass or vegetation, in consequence of the dryness of the climate and the little rain which falls here. The Pimos Indians, who make good crops of wheat, corn, vegetables, &c., irrigate the land by water from the Gun, as did the Aztecs, (the former inhabitants of the country,) the remains of whose sequias, or little canals, were seen by us, as well as the position of many of their dwellings, and a large quantity of broken pottery and earthenware used by them.
We crossed the Colorado about 10 miles below the mouth of the Gila, and marching near it about 30 miles further, turned off and crossed the desert— a distance of about 60 miles—without water or grass
On the 2d December, reached Warner’s rancho, (Agua Caliente,) the
frontier settlement in California, on the route leading to Sonora. On the
4th we marched to Mr. Stokes’s rancho, (San Isabella,) and on the 5th, were
met by a small party of volunteers, under Captain Gillespie, sent out from
San Diego by Commodore Stockton, to give us what information they possessed
of the enemy, 600 or 700 of whom are now said to be in arms and in the field
throughout the territory, determined upon opposing the Americans and
resisting their authority in the country. Encamped that night near another
macho (San Maria) of Mr. Stokes, about 40 miles from San Diego.
The journals and maps, kept and prepared by Captain Johnston, (my aid-dc-camp,) and those by Lieutenant Emory, topographical engineers, which will accompany or follow this report, will render any thing further from me, on this subject, unnecessary.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-general, U. S. A.
BRIGADIER-GENERAL R. JONES,
Adjutant-general, U. S. A.
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE WEST,
San Diego, Upper California, Dec. 13, 1846.
SIR: In my communication to you of yesterday’s date, I brought the reports of the movements of my guard up to the morning of the 5th instant, in camp near a rancho of Mr. Stokes, (Santa Maria,) about 40 miles from San Diego.
Having learned from Captain Gillespie, of the volunteers, that there was
an armed party of Californians, with a number of extra horses at San Pasqual,
three leagues distant on a road leading to this place, I sent Lieutenant
Hammond, 1st dragoons with a few men to make a reconnoissance of them. He
returned at two in the morning of the 6th instant, reporting that he had
found the party in the place mentioned, and that ho had been seen, though
not pursued by them. I then determined that I would march for and attack
them by break of day. Arrangements were accordingly made for the purpose. My
aid-de-camp, Capt. Johnston, dragoons, was assigned to the command of the
advanced guard of twelve dragoons, mounted on the best horses we had; then
followed about fifty dragoons under Capt. Moore, mounted, with but few
exceptions, on the tired mules they had ridden from Santa Fé,
(New Mexico, 1,050 miles;) then about twenty volunteers of Captain Gibson’s
company under his command, and that of Captain Gillespie; then followed our
two mountain-howitzers, with dragoons to manage them, and under the charge
of Lieutenant Davidson of the let regiment. The remainder of the dragoons,
volunteers, and citizens, employed by the officers of the staff &c., were
placed under the command of Major Swords, (quartermaster,) with orders to
follow on our trail with the baggage, and to see to its safety.
As the day (December 6) dawned, we approached the enemy at San Pasqual, who was already in the saddle, when Captain Johnston made a furious charge upon them with his advance-guard, and was in a short time after supported by the dragoons; soon after which the enemy gave way, having kept up from the beginning a continued fire upon us. Upon the retreat of the enemy, Captain Moore led off rapidly in pursuit, accompanied by the dragoons, mounted on horses, and was followed, though slowly, by the others on their tired mules; the enemy, well mounted, and among the best horsemen in the world, after retreating about half a mile, and seeing an interval between Captain Moore and his advance and the dragoons coming to his support, rallied their whole force, charged with their lances, and, on account of their greatly superior numbers, but few of us in front remained untouched; for five minutes they held the ground from us, when our men coming up, we again drove them, and they fled from the field, not to return to it, which we occupied and encamped upon.
A most melancholy duty now remains for me: it is to report the death of my aid-de-camp, Captain Johnston, who was shot dead at the commencement of the action; of Captain Moore, who was lanced just previous to the final retreat of the enemy; and of Lieutenant Hammond, also lanced, and who survived but a few hours. We had also killed two sergeants, two corporals, and ten privates of the 1st dragoons; one private of the volunteers, and one man, an engage in the topographical department. Among the wounded are myself, (in two places,) Lieutenant Warner, topographical engineers, (in three places,) Captains Gillespie and Gibson of the volunteers, (the former in three places,) one sergeant, one bugleman, amid nine privates of the dragoons; many of these surviving from two to ten lance wounds, most of them when unhorsed and incapable of resistance.
Our howitzers were not brought into the action; but coming to the front at the close of it, before they were turned, so as to admit of being fired upon the retreating enemy, the two mules before one of them got alarmed, and freeing themselves from their drivers, ran off, and among the enemy, and was thus lost to us.
The enemy proved to be a party of 160 Californians under Andres Pico, brother of the late governor; the number of their dead and wounded must have been considerable, though I have no means of ascertaining how many, as just previous to their final retreat, they carried off all excepting six.
The great number of our killed and wounded proves that our officers and men have fully sustained the high character and reputation of our troops; and the victory thus gained over more than double our force, may assist in forming the wreath of our national glory.
I have to return my thanks to many for their gallantry and good conduct on the field, and particularly to Capt. Turner, first dragoons, (assistant acting adjutant-general,) and to Lieut. Emory, topographical engineers, who were active in the performance of their duties, and in conveying orders from me to the command.
On the morning of the 7th, having made ambulances for our wounded, and interred the dead, we proceeded on our march, when the enemy showed himself, occupying the hills in our front, but which they left as we approached; till, reaching San Bernado, a party of them took possession of a hill near to it, and maintained their position until attacked by our advance, who quickly drove them from it, killing and wounding five of their number, with no loss on our part.
On account of our wounded men, and upon the report of the surgeon that rest was necessary for them, we remained at this place till the morning of the 11th, when Lieut. Gray, of the navy, in command of a party of sailors and marines, sent out from San Diego by Com. Stockton, joined us. We proceeded at 10, A. M., the enemy no longer showing himself; and on the 12th, (yesterday,) we reached this place; and I have now to offer my thanks to Com. Stockton, and all of his gallant command, for the very many kind attentions we have received and continue to receive from the m.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. W. KEARNY, Brig. Gen. U. S. A.
BRIGADIER-GENERAL R. JONES,
Adjutant-general, U. S. A., Washington.
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE WEST,
Ciudad de los Angeles, Upper California, Jan. 12, 1847.
SIR: I have the honor to report that, at the request of Com. R. F.
Stockton, United States Navy, (who in September last assumed the title of
governor of California,) I consented to take command of an expedition to
this place, (the capital of the country,) and that, on the 29th December, I
left San Diego with about 500 men, consisting of sixty dismounted dragoons
under Capt. Turner, fifty California volunteers, and the remainder of
marines and sailors, with a battery of artillery—Lieut. Emory (topographical
engineers) acting as assistant adjutant-general. Com. Stockton accompanied
We proceeded on our route without seeing the enemy, till on the 8th instant, when they showed themselves in full force of 600 mounted men, with four pieces of artillery, under their governor, (Flores,) occupying the heights in front of us, which commanded the crossing of the river San Gabriel, and they ready to oppose our further progress. The necessary disposition of our troops was immediately made, by covering our front with a strong party of skirmishers, placing our wagons and baggage-train in rear of them, and protecting the flanks and rear with the remainder of the command. We then proceeded, forded the river, carried the heights, and drove the enemy from them, after an action of about an hour and a half, during which they made a charge upon our left flank, which was repulsed; soon after which they retreated and left us in possession of the field, on which we encamped that night.
The next day (the 9th instant) we proceeded on our march at the usual I hour, the enemy in our front and on our flanks: and when we reached the plains of the Mesa, their artillery again opened upon us, when their fire was returned by our guns as we advanced; and after hovering around and near us for about two hours, occasionally skirmishing with us during that time, they concentrated their force and made another charge on our left flank, which was quickly repulsed. Shortly after which they retired, we continuing our march, and we (in the afternoon) encamped on the banks of the Mesa, three miles below this city, which we entered the following morning (the 10th instant) without further molestation.
Our loss in the actions of the 8th and 9th was small, being but one private I killed, and two officers—Lieut. Rowan of the navy, and Capt. Gillespie, of the volunteers, and eleven privates wounded. The enemy, mounted on fine horses, and being the best riders in the world, carried off their killed and wounded, and we know not the number of them, though it must have been considerable.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. W. KEARNY, Brigadier-general.
BRIGADIER-GENERAL R. JONES,
Adjutant-general, U. S. A., Washington.
Statement of killed and wounded in the action of the 8th January, 1847. Killed.—Frederick Strauss, seaman, United States ship Portsmouth, artillery corps; cannon-shot in neck.
Wounded.—lst. Jacob Hait, volunteer, artillery driver, wound in left
breast; died on evening of 9th. 2d. Thos. Smith, ordinary seaman, United
States ship Cyane, company D, musketeers, shot, by accident, through the
right thigh; died on night of the 8th. 3d. William Cope, seaman, United
States ship Savannah, company B, musketeers, wound in the right thigh and
right arm; severe. 4th. George Bantum, ordinary seaman, United States ship
Cyane, pikeman, punctured wound of hand, accidental; slight. 5th. Patrick Campbell, seaman, United States
ship Cyane, company D, musketeers, wound in thigh by spent ball; slight.
6th. William Scott, private, United States marine corps, ship Portsmouth,
wound in the chest, spent ball; slight. 7th. James Hendry, seaman, United
States ship Congress, company A, musketeers, spent ball, wound over stomach;
slight. 8th. Joseph Wilson, seaman, United States ship Congress, company A,
musketeers, wound in right thigh, spent ball; slight. 9th. Ivory Coffin,
seaman, United States ship Savannah, company B, musketeers, contusion of
right knee, spent ball; slight.
Wounded on the 9th.—lst. Mark A. Child, private, company C, 1st regiment United States dragoons, gunshot wound in right heel, penetrating upwards into the ankle-joint; severe. 2d. James Cambell, ordinary seaman, United States ship Congress, company D, carbineers, wound in right foot, second toe amputated; accidental discharge of his own carbine. 3d. George Crawford, boatswain’s mate, United States ship Cyane, company D, musketeers, wound in left thigh ; severe. Lieut. Rowan, United States navy, and Capt. Gillespie, California battalion, volunteers, contused slightly by spent balls.
I am, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN S. GRIFFIN, Assistant Surgeon, U. S. N.
Capt. WM. H. EMORY,
Assistant Adjutant-general, U. S. forces.
CIUDAD DE LOS ANGELES, California, Jan. 11, 1847.
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE WEST, )
Ciudad de los Angeles, Upper California, Jan. 14, 1847.
SIR: This morning, Lieutenant-colonel Fremont, of the regiment of mounted
riflemen, reached here with 400 volunteers from the Sacramento; the enemy
capitulated with him yesterday, near San Fernando, agreeing to lay down
their arms, and we have now the prospect of having peace and quietness in
this country, which I hope may not be interrupted again.
I have not yet received any information of the troops which were to come from New York, nor of those to follow me from New Mexico, but presume they will be here before long. On their arrival, I shall, agreeably to the instructions of the President of the United States, have the management of affairs in this country, and will endeavor to carry out his views in relation to it.
Very respectfully your obedient servant,
S.W. KEARNY Brigadier-general.
BRIGADIER-GENERAL R. JONES,
Adjutant-general, U S. A., Washington.
HEADQUARTERS, CIUDAD DE LOS ANGELES,
January 11, 1847.
Sin: I have the honor to inform you that it has pleased God to crown our
poor efforts to put down the rebellion, and to retrieve the credit of our
arms, with the most complete success. The insurgents determined, with their
whole force, to meet us on our march from San Diego to this place, and to
decide the fate of the territory by a general battle.
Having made the best preparation I could, in the face of a boasting and vigilant enemy, we left San Diego on the 29th day of December, (that portion of the insurgent army who had been watching and annoying us, having left to join the main body,) with about six hundred fighting men, composed of detachments from the ships Congress, Savannah, Portsmouth, and Cyane, aided by General Kearny, with a detachment of sixty men on foot, from the first regiment of United States dragoons, and by Captain Gillespie, with sixty mounted riflemen.
We marched nearly one hundred and forty miles in ten days, and found the rebels, on the 8th day of January, in a strong position, on the high bank of the "Rio San Gabriel," with six hundred mounted men and four pieces of artillery, prepared to dispute our passage across the river.
We waded through the water, dragging our guns after us, against the galling fire of the enemy, without exchanging a shot, until we reached the opposite shore, when the fight became general, and our troops having repelled a charge of the enemy, charged up the bank in a most gallant mariner, and gained a complete victory over the insurgent army.
The next day, on our march across the plains of the "Mesa" to this place, the insurgents made another desperate effort to save the capital and their own necks; they were concealed with their artillery in a ravine until we came within gunshot, when they opened a brisk fire from their field-pieces on our right flank, and at the same time charged both on our front and rear. We soon silenced their gulls, and repelled the charge, when they fled, and permitted us the next morning to march into town without any further opposition.
We have rescued the country from the hands of the insurgents, but I fear that the absence of Colonel Fremont’s battalion of mounted riflemen will enable most of the Mexican officers, who have broken their parole, to escape to Sonora.
I am happy to say that our loss in killed and wounded does not exceed twenty, whilst we are informed that the enemy has lost between seventy and eighty.
This dispatch must go immediately, and I will wait another opportunity to furnish you with the details of these two battles, and the gallant conduct of the officers and men under my command, with their names.
Faithfully, your obedient servant,
R. F. STOCKTON, Commodore, etc.
To the HON. GEORGE BANCROFT,
Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.
P. S. Enclosed I have the honor to send to you a translation of the letter handed to me by the commissioners mentioned in another part of this dispatch, sent by José Ma. Flores, to negotiate peace honorable to both nations. The verbal answer, stated in another page of this letter, was sent to this renowned general and commander-in-chief. He had violated his honor, and I would not treat with him nor write to him.
General Flores’ letter is here given— [Translation.]
Civil and Military Government of the Department of California.
The undersigned, governor and commandant-general of the department, and
commander-in-chief of the national troops, has the honor to address himself
to the commander-in-chief of the naval and land forces of the United States
of North America, to say that lie has been informed by persons worthy of
credit, that it is probable at this time the differences which have altered
the relations of friendship between the Mexican republic and that of the
United States of North America have ceased, and that you looked for the news
of the arrangement between the two governments by the schooner Shark,
expected every moment on this coast.
A number of days have elapsed since the undersigned was invited by several foreign gentlemen settled in the country, to enter into a commuration with you, they acting as mediators, to obtain an honorable adjustment for both forces, in consequence of the evils which all feel are caused by the unjust war you wage; but the duty of the undersigned prohibited him from doing so, and if to-day he steps beyond the limits marked out by it,, it is with the confidence inspired by the hope there exists a definitive arrangement between the two nations; for the undersigned being animated with the strongest wishes for the return of peace, it would be most painful to him not to have taken the means to avoid the useless effusion of human blood and its terrible consequences, during moments when the general peace might have been secured.
The undersigned flatters himself with this hope, and for that reason has thought it opportune to direct to you this note, which will be placed in your hands by Messrs. Julian Workman and Charles Fluge. who have voluntarily offered themselves to act as mediators. But if, unfortunately, the mentioned news should prove untrue, and you should not be disposed to grant a truce to the evils under which this unfortunate country suffers, of which you alone are the cause, may the terrible consequences of your want of consideration fall on your head. The citizens, all of whom compose the national forces of this department, are decided firmly to bury themselves under the ruins of their country, combating to the last moment, before consenting to the tyranny and ominous discretionary power of the agents of the government of the United States of North America.
This is no problem; different deeds of arms prove that they know how to defend their rights on the field of battle.
The undersigned still confides you will give a satisfactory solution to this affair, and in the mean time has the honor of offering to you the assurance of his consideration and private esteem.
God and liberty! JOSE MA. FLORES
HEADQUARTERS AT THE ANGELES,
January 1, 1847.
HEADQUARTERS, CIUDAD DE LOS ANGELES,
January 11, 1847.
The commander-in-chief congratulates the officers and men of tho southern
division of the United States forces in California, on the brilliant
victories obtained by them over the enemy on the 8th and 9th instants, and
on once more taking possession of the "Ciudad do los Angeles."
He takes the earliest moment to commend their gallantry and good conduct, both in the battle fought on the 8th, on the banks of the "Rio San Gabriel," and on the 9th instant, on the plains of the "Mesa."
The steady courage of the troops in forcing their passage across the "Rio San Gabriel," where officers and men were alike employed in dragging the guns through the water against the galling fire of the enemy, without exchanging a shot, and their gallant charge up the banks against the enemy’s cavalry, has perhaps never been surpassed; and the cool determination with which, in the battle of the 9th, they repulsed the charge of cavalry made by the enemy at the same time on their front and rear, has extorted the admiration of the enemy, and deserves the best thanks of their countrymen.
R F. STOCKTON,
Governor and Commander-in-chief of the Territory of California.
On the 14th, Colonel Fremont had arrived, and Commodore Stockton wrote as follows—
HEADQUARTERS, CIUDAD DE LOS ANGELES,
January 15, 1847.
SIR: Referring to my letter of the 11th, I have the honor to inform you
of the arrival of Lieutenant-colonel Fremont at this place, with four
hundred men—that some of the insurgents have made their escape to Sonora,
and that the rest have surrendered to our arms.
Immediately after the battles of the 8th and 9th, they began to disperse; and I am sorry to say that their leader, José Ma. Flores, made his escape, and that the others have been pardoned by a capitulation agreed upon by Lieutenant-colonel Fremont.
José Ma. Flores, the commander of the insurgent forces, two or three days previous to the 8th, sent two commissioners with a flag of truce to my camp, to make a "treaty of peace." I informed the commissioners that I could not recognise José Ma. Flores, who had broken his parole, as an honorable man, or as one having any rightful authority, or worthy to be treated with—that he was a rebel in arms, and if I caught him I would have him shot. It seems that not being able to negotiate with me, and having lost the battles of the 8th and 9th, they met Colonel Fremont on the 12th instant, on his way here, who, not knowing what had occurred, he entered into the capitulation with them, which I now send to you; and, although I refused to do it myself, still I have thought it best to approve it.
The territory of California is again tranquil, and the civil government formed by me is again in operation in the places where it was interrupted by the insurgents.
Colonel Fremont has five hundred men in his battalion, which will be quite sufficient to preserve the peace of the territory; and I will immediately withdraw my sailors and marines, and sail as soon as possible for the coast of Mexico, where I hope they will give a good account of themselves,
Faithfully, your obedient servant,
R. F. STOCKTON, Commodore, etc.
To the HON. GEORGE BANCROFT, 1
Secretary of the Navy: Washington, D. C.
City of Angels – Gardens – Vineyards – Produce of the vine in California – General products of the country – Reputed personal charms of the females of Los Angeles – San Diego – Gold and quicksilver mines – Lower California – Bituminous springs – Wines – A Kentuckian among the angels – Missions of San Gabriel and San Luis Rey – Gen. Kearny and Com. Stockton leave for San Diego – Col. Fremont appointed Governor of California by Com. Stockton – Com. Shubrick’s arrival – Insurrection in the northern part of California suppressed – Arrival of Col. Cooke at San Diego.
LA CIUDAD DE LOS ANGELES is the largest town in California, containing
between fifteen hundred and two thousand inhabitants. Its streets are laid
out without any regard to regularity. The buildings are generally
constructed of adobes one and two stories high, with flat roofs. The public
buildings are a church, quartel, and government house. Some of the
dwelling-houses are frames, and large. Few of them, interiorly or
exteriorly, have any pretensions to architectural taste, finish, or
covenience of plan and arrangement. The town is situated about 20 miles from
the ocean, in a extensive undulating plain, bounded on the north by a ridge
of elevated hills, on the east by high mountains whose summits are now
covered with snow, on the west by the ocean, and stretching to the south and
the south-east as far as the eye can reach. The Rio St. Gabriel flows near
the town. This stream is skirted with numerous vineyards and gardens,
inclosed by willow hedges. The gardens produce a great variety of tropical
fruits and plants. The yield of the vineyards is very abundant; and a large
quantity of wines of a good quality and flavour, and aguardiénte,
are manufactured here. Some of the vineyards, I understand, contain as many
as twenty thousand vines. The produce of the vine in California will,
undoubtedly, in a short time form an important item in its exports and
commerce. The soil and climate, especially of the southern portion of the
country, appear to be peculiarly adapted to the culture of the grape.
We found in Los Angeles an abundance of maize, wheat, and frijoles, showing that the surrounding country is highly productive of these important articles of subsistence. There are no mills, however, in this vicinity, the universal practice of Californian families being to grind their corn by hand; and consequently flour and bread are very scarce, and not to be obtained in any considerable quantities. The only garden vegetables which I saw while here were onions, potatoes, and chile colorado, or red pepper, which enters very largely into the cuisine of the country. I do not doubt, however, that every description of garden vegetables can be produced here, in perfection and abundance.
While I remained at Los Angeles, I boarded with two or three other officers at the house of a Mexican Californian, the late alcalde of the town, whose political functions had ceased. He was a thin, delicate, amiable, and very polite gentleman, treating us with much courtesy, for which we paid him, when his bill was presented, a very liberal compensation. In the morning we were served, on a common deal table, with a cup of coffee and a plate of tortillas . At eleven o’clock, a more substantial meal was provided, consisting of stewed beef, seasoned with chile colorado, a rib of roasted beef, and a plate of frijoles with tortillas, and a bottle of native wine. Our supper was a second edition of the eleven o’clock entertainment.
The town being abandoned by most of its population, and especially by the better class of the female portion of it, those who remained, which I saw, could not, without injustice, be considered as fair specimens of the angels, which are reputed here to inhabit. I did not happen to see one beautiful or even comely-looking woman in the place; but, as the fair descendants of Eve at Los Angeles have an exalted reputation for personal charms, doubtless the reason of the invisibility of the examples of feminine attractions, so far-famed and so much looked for by the sojourner, is to be ascribed to their "unavoidable absence," on account of the dangers and casualties of war. At this time, of course, everything in regard to society, as it usually exists here, is in a state of confusion and disorganization, and no correct conclusions in reference to it can be drawn from observation under such circumstances.
The bay of San Pedro, about twenty-five miles south of Los Angeles, is the port of the town. The bay affords a good anchorage for vessels of any size; but it is not a safe harbour at all times, as I have been informed by experienced nautical men on this coast. San Gabriel River empties into the bay. The mission of San Gabriel is about twelve miles east of Los Angeles. It is represented as an extensive establishment of this kind, the lands surrounding and belonging to it being highly fertile. The mission of San Luis Rey is situated to the south, about midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. This mission, according to the descriptions which I have received of it, is more substantial and tasteful in its construction than any other in the country; and the gardens and grounds belonging to it are now in a high state of cultivation.
San Diego is the most southern town in Upper California . It is situated on the Bay of San Diego, in latitude 33o north. The country back of it is described by those who have travelled through it as sandy and arid, and incapable of supporting any considerable population. There are, however, it is reported on authority regarded as reliable, rich mines of quicksilver, copper, gold, and coal, in the neighbourhood, which, if such be the fact, will before long render the place one of considerable importance. The harbour, next to that of San Francisco, is the best on the Pacific coast of North America, between the Straits of Fuca and Acapulco.
For the following interesting account of Lower California I am indebted to Rodman M. Price, Esq., purser of the U.S. sloop-of-war Cyane, who has been connected with most of the important events which have recently taken place in Upper and Lower California, and whose observations and opinions are valuable and reliable. It will be seen that the observations of Mr. Price differ materially from the generally received opinions in reference to Lower California.
"Burlington, N.J., June 7, 1848.
"Dear Sir, – It affords me pleasure to give you all the information I
have about Lower California, derived from personal observation at several of
its ports that I have visited, in the U. S. ship Cyane, in 1846-47.
"Cape St. Lucas, the southern extremity of the peninsula of Lower California, is in lat. 22̊ 45' N., has a bay that affords a good harbour and anchorage, perfectly safe nine months in the year; but it is open to the eastward, and the hurricanes which sometimes occur during July, August, and September, blow the strongest from the southeast, so that vessels will not venture in the bay during the hurricane season. I have landed twice at the Cape in a small boat, and I think a breakwater can be built, at small cost, so as to make a safe harbour at all seasons. Stone can be obtained with great ease from three cones of rocks rising from the sea, and forming the extreme southerly point of the Cape, called the Frayles. Looking to the future trade and commerce of the Pacific Ocean, this great headland must become a most important point as a depôt for coal and merchandise, and a most convenient location for vessels trading on that coast to get their supplies. Mr. Ritchie, now residing there, supplies a large number of whale-ships that cruise off the Cape, annually, with fresh provisions, fruits, and water. The supplies are drawn from the valley of San José twenty miles north of the Cape, as the land in its immediate vicinity is mountainous and sterile; but the valley of San José is extensive and well cultivated, producing the greatest variety of vegetables and fruits. The sweet and Irish potato, tomato, cabbage, lettuce, beans, peas, beets, and carrots are the vegetables; oranges, lemons, bananas, plantains, figs, dates, grapes, pomegranates, and olives are its fruits. Good beef and mutton are cheap. A large amount of sugar-cane is grown, from which is made panoche, a favourite sugar with the natives; it is the syrup from the cane boiled down, and run into cakes of a pound weight, and in appearance is like our maple-sugar.
"Panoche, cheese, olives, raisins, dried figs, and dates, put up in ceroons of hide, with the great staples of the Californians – hides and tallow – make the export of San José, which is carried to San Blas and Mazatlan, on the opposite coast. This commerce the presence of the Cyane interrupted, finding and capturing in the Bay of La Paz, just after the receipt of the news of war on that coast in September, 1846, sixteen small craft, laid up during the stormy season, engaged in this trade.
"I cannot dismiss the valley of San José, from which the crew of the Cyane have drawn so many luxuries, without alluding to the never-failing stream of excellent water that runs through it (to which it owes its productiveness) and empties into the Gulf here, and is easily obtained for shipping when the surf is low. It is now frequented by some of our whale ships, and European vessels bound to Mazatlan with cargoes usually stop here to get instructions from their consignees before appearing off the port; but vessels do not anchor during the three hurricane months. The view from seaward, up this valley, is beautiful indeed, being surrounded by high barren mountains, which is the general appearance of the whole peninsula, and gives the impression that the whole country is without soil, and unproductive. When your eye gets a view of this beautiful, fertile, cultivated, rich, green valley, producing all the fruits and vegetables of the earth, Lower California stock rises. To one that has been at sea for months, on salt grub, the sight of this bright spot of cultivated acres, with the turkeys, ducks, chickens, eggs, vegetables, and fruit, makes him believe the country an Eldorado . Following up the coast on the Gulf side, after passing Cape Polmo, good anchorage is found between the peninsula and the island of Cerralbo. Immediately to the north of this island is the entrance to the great and beautiful bay of La Paz. It has two entrances, one to the north and one to the south of the island of Espiritu Santo. The northern one is the boldest and safest for all craft drawing over twelve feet. The town of La Paz is at the bottom or south side of the bay, about twenty miles from the mouth. The bay is a large and beautiful sheet of water. The harbour of Pichelinque, of perfect millpond stillness, is formed inside of this bay. The Cyane lay at this quiet anchorage several days.
"Pearl-fishing is the chief employment of the inhabitants about the bay, and the pearls are said to be of superior quality. I was shown a necklace, valued at two thousand dollars, taken in this water. They are all found by diving. The Yake Indians are the best divers, going down in eight-fathom water. The pearl shells are sent to China, and are worth, at La Paz, one dollar and a half the arroba, or twenty-five pounds. Why it is a submarine diving apparatus has not been employed in this fishery, with all its advantages over Indian diving, I cannot say. Yankee enterprise has not yet reached this new world. I cannot say this either, as a countryman of ours, Mr. Davis, living at Loretta, has been a most successful pearl-fisher, employing more Indians than any one else engaged in the business. I am sorry to add that he has suffered greatly by the war. The country about La Paz is a good grazing country, but very dry. The mountains in the vicinity are said to be very rich in minerals. Some silver mines near San Antonio, about forty miles south, are worked, and produce well. La Paz may export one hundred thousand dollars a-year of platapina . Gold-dust and virgin gold are brought to La Paz. The copper and lead mines are numerous and rich. To the north of La Paz are numerous safe and good harbours. Escondida, Loretta, and Muleje are all good harbours, formed by the islands in front of the main land.
"The island of Carmen, lying in front of Loretta, has a large salt lake, which has a solid salt surface of several feet thickness. The salt is of good quality, is cut out like ice, and it could supply the world. It has heretofore been a monopoly to the governor of Lower California, who employed convicts to get out the salt and put it on the beach ready for shipping. It is carried about a quarter of a mile, and is sent to Mazatlan and San Blas. A large quantity of salt is used in producing silver. To the north of Muleje, which is nearly opposite Guymas, the gulf is so much narrower that it is a harbour itself. No accurate survey has ever been made of it – indeed, all the peninsula, as well as the coast of Upper California, is laid down wrong on the charts, being about twelve miles too far easterly. The English Government now have two naval ships engaged in surveying the Gulf of California.
"On the Pacific coast of the peninsula there is the great Bay of Magdalena, which has fine harbours, but no water, provisions, or inhabitants. Its shores are high barren mountains, said to possess great mineral wealth. A fleet of whale-ships have been there during the winter months of the last two years, for a new species of whale that are found there, represented as rather a small whale, producing forty or fifty barrels of oil; and, what is most singular, I was assured, by most respectable whaling captains, that the oil is a good paint-oil (an entire new quality for fish-oil). Geographically and commercially, Lower California must become very valuable. It will be a constant source of regret to this country, that it is not included in the treaty of peace just made with Mexico. We have held and governed it during the war, and the boundary of Upper California cuts the head of the Gulf of California, so that Lower California is left entirely disconnected with the Mexican territory.
"Cape St. Lucas is the great headland of the Pacific Ocean, and is destined to be the Gibraltar and entrepot of that coast, or perhaps La Paz may be preferred, on account of its superior harbour. As a possession to any foreign power, I think Lower California more valuable than the group of the Sandwich Islands. It has as many arable acres as that group of islands, with rich mines, pearl-fishing, fine bays and harbours, with equal health, and all their productions. As a country, it is dry, mountainous, and sterile, yet possessing many fine valleys like San José, as the old mission establishments indicate. I have heard Todas Santos, Commondee, Santa Guadalupe, and others, spoken of as being more extensive, and as productive as San José.
"I am, most faithfully and truly, yours,
"RODMAN M. PRICE."
In the vicinity of Los Angeles there are a number of warm springs which
throw out and deposit large quantities of bitumen or mineral tar. This
substance, when it cools, becomes hard and brittle like resin. Around some
of these springs many acres of ground are covered with this deposit to the
depth of several feet. It is a principal material in the roofing of houses.
When thrown upon the fire, it ignites immediately, emitting a smoke like
that from turpentine, and an odour like that from bituminous coal. This
mineral, so abundant in California, may one day become a valuable article of
There are no reliable statistics in California . The traveller is obliged to form his estimate of matters and things chiefly from his own observation. You can place but little reliance upon information derived from the population, even when they choose to answer your questions; and most generally the response to your inquiries is – "Quien sabe?" (who knows?) No Californian troubles his brains about these matters. The quantity of wines and aguardiente produced by the vineyards and distilleries, at and near Los Angeles, must be considerable – basing my estimate upon the statement of Mr. Wolfskill, an American gentleman residing here, and whose house and vineyard I visited. Mr. W.’s vineyard is young, and covers about forty acres of ground, the number of vines being 4,000 or 5,000. From the produce of these, he told me, that last year he made 180 casks of wine, and the same quantity of aguardiénte . A cask here is sixteen gallons. When the vines mature, their produce will be greatly increased. Mr. W.’s vineyard is doubtless a model of its kind. It was a delightful recreation to stroll through it, and among the tropical fruit-trees bordering its walks. His house, too, exhibited an air of cleanliness and comfort, and a convenience of arrangement not often met with in this country. He set out for our refreshment three or four specimens of his wines, some of which would compare favourably with the best French and Madeira wines. The aguardiénte and peach-brandy, which I tasted, of his manufacture, being mellowed by age, were of an excellent flavour. The quantity of wine and aguardínte produced in California, I would suppose, amounted to 100,000 casks of sixteen gallons, or 1,600,000 gallons. This quantity by culture can be increased indefinitely.
It was not possible to obtain at Los Angeles a piece of woollen cloth sufficiently large for a pair of pantaloons, or a pair of shoes, which would last a week. I succeeded, after searching through all the shops of the town, in procuring some black cotton velvet, for four yards of which I paid the sum of 12 dollars. In the United States the same article would probably have cost 1.50 dollar. For four dollars more I succeeded in getting the pantaloons made up by an American tailor, who came into the country with General Kearny’s forces. A Rocky Mountain trapper and trader (Mr. Goodyear), who has established himself near the Salt Lake since I passed there last year, fortunately arrived at Los Angeles, bringing with him a quantity of dressed deer and elk skins, which were purchased for clothing for the nearly naked soldiers.
Among the houses I visited while here, was that of Mr. Pryor, an American, and a native of Louisville, Ky. He has been a resident of the country between twenty and thirty years, but his Kentucky manners, frankness, and hospitality still adhere to him.
I remained at Los Angeles from the 14th to the 29th of January. During this time, with the exception of three days, the weather and temperature were pleasant. It rained one day, and during two days the winds blew strong and cold from the north-west. The nights are cool, but fires are not requisite to comfort. The snow-clad mountains, about twenty-five or thirty miles to the east of us, contrast singularly with the brilliant fresh verdure of the plain.
On the 18th of January General Kearny, with the dragoons, left for San Diego. There was understood to be a difference between General Kearny and Commodore Stockton, and General Kearny and Colonel Fremont, in regard to their respective powers and duties; which, as the whole subject has subsequently undergone a thorough investigation, and the result made public, it is unnecessary for me to allude to more particularly. I did not converse with General Kearny while he was at Los Angeles, and consequently possessed no other knowledge of his views and intentions, or of the powers with which he had been invested by the President, than what I derived from report.
On the 19th, Commodore Stockton and suite, with a small escort, left for San Diego. Soon after his departure the battalion was paraded, and the appointment of Colonel Fremont as govenor of California, and Colonel W. H. Russell, as secretary of state, by Commodore Stockton, was read to them by Colonel Russell. It was announced, also, that, although Colonel Fremont had accepted the office of chief civil magistrate of California, he would still retain his military office, and command the battalion as heretofore.
Commodore Shubrick, however, arrived at Monterey on the 23rd of January, in the U.S. ship Independence, and, ranking above Commodore Stockton, assumed the chief command, as appears by the date of a general order published at Monterey, and written on board the United States ship Independence, on February 1st, thanking the volunteers for their services, and announcing the restoration of order. For I should state that an insurrection, headed by Don Francisco Sanchez, had broken out in the upper portion of California some time towards the last of December, which had been put down by a detachment of marines and volunteers. The insurgents had committed some outrages, and among other acts had taken prisoner Lieutenant W. A. Bartlett, acting Alcalde of San Francisco, with some other Americans. An account of the suppression of this affair I find in the "California " newspaper of Februry 6th, 1847, from which it appears, "that a party of one hundred and one men, commanded by Captain Ward Marston, of the United States marines, marched from San Francisco on the 29th December in search of the enemy, whom they discovered on the 2nd of January, about one hundred in number, on the plains of Santa Clara, under the command of Francisco Sanchez. An attack was immediately ordered. The enemy was forced to retire, which they were able to do in safety, after some resistance, in consequence of their superior horses. The affair lasted about an hour, during which time we had one marine slightly wounded in the head, one volunteer of Captain Weber’s command in the leg; and the enemy had one horse killed, and some of their forces supposed to be killed or wounded. In the evening the enemy sent in a flag of truce, with a communication, requesting an interview with the commanding officer of the expedition the next day, which was granted, when an armistice was entered into, preparatory to a settlement of the difficulties. On the 3rd, the expedition was reinforced by the mounted Monterey volunteers, fifty-five men, under the command of Captain W.A.T. Maddox, and on the 7th, by the arrival of Lieutenant Grayson with fifteen men, attached to Captain Maddox’s company. On the 8th a treaty was concluded, by which the enemy surrendered Lieutenant Bartlett, and the other prisoners, as well as all their arms, including one small field-piece, their ammunition and accoutrements, and were permitted to return peaceably to their homes, and the expedition to their respective posts."
A list of the expedition which marched from San Francisco is given as follows: – Captain Ward Marston, commandant; Assistant-surgeon J. Duval, aide-de-camp. A detachment of United States marines, under command of Lieutenant Tansil, thirty-four men; artillery, consisting of one field-piece, under the charge of Master William F. De Iongh, assisted by Mid. John M. Kell, ten men; Interpreter John Pray; mounted company of San José volunteers, under command of Captain C. M. Weber, Lieutenant John Murphy, and acting Lieutenant John Reed, thirty-three men; mounted company of Yerba Buena volunteers, under command of Captain William M. Smith, Lieutenant John Rose, with a small detachment under Captain J. Martin, twelve men.
Thus ended the insurrections, if resistance against invasion can properly be so called, in Upper California.
On the 20th January, the force of sailors and marines which had marched with Commodore Stockton and General Kearny left Los Angeles, to embark at San Pedro for San Diego. On the 21st a national salute was fired by the artillery company belonging to the battalion, in honour of Governor Fremont. On the 22nd, letters were received from San Diego, stating that Colonel Cooke, who followed General Kearny from Santa Fé with a force of four hundred Mormon volunteers, had reached the neighbourhood of that place. Having applied for my discharge from the battalion as soon as we reached Los Angeles, I received it on the 29th, on which day, in company with Captain Hastings, I set out on my return to San Francisco, designing to leave that place on the first favourable opportunity for the United States.
Leave Los Angeles for San Francisco – Don Andres Pico – A Californian returning from the wars – Domestic life at a rancho – Women in favour of peace – Hospitable treatment – Fandango – Singular custom – Arrive at Santa Barbara – Lost in a fog – Valley of the Salinas – Californians wanting Yankee wives – High waters – Arrive at San Francisco.
We left Los Angeles late in the afternoon of the 29th of January, with
two Indian vaqueros, on miserable broken-down horses (the best we could
obtain), and encamped at the deserted rancho at the foot of Couenga plain,
where the treaty of peace had been concluded. After we had been here some
time, two Indians came to the house, who had been sent by the proprietor of
the rancho to herd the cattle. Having nothing to eat with us, a tempting
offer prevailed upon the Indians to milk one of the cows; and we made our
supper and our breakfast next morning on milk. Both of our Indian vaqueros
deserted in the night, carrying with them sundry articles of clothing placed
in their charge. A few days have made a great change in the appearance of
the country. The fresh grass is now several inches in height, and many
flowers are in bloom. The sky is bright, and the temperature is delightful.
On the 30th of January, leaving the mission of San Fernando on our right, at a distance of eight or ten miles, we followed the usually travelled trail next to the hills, on the western side of the plain. As we were passing near a rancho, a well-dressed Californian rode out to us, and, after examining the horses of our miserable caballada, politely claimed one of them as his property. He was told that the horse was drawn from the public caballada, at Los Angeles, and could not be given up. This seemed to satisfy him. After some further conversation, he informed us, that he was Don Andres Pico, the late leader and general of the Californians. The expression of his countenance is intelligent and prepossessing, and his address and manners courteous and pleasing. Shaking hands, and bidding us a very earnest adios, he put spurs to his horse and galloped away.
We were soon after overtaken by a young Californian, who appeared at first rather doubtful whether or not he should make our acquaintance. The ice being broken, however, he became very loquacious and communicative. He stated that he was returning to his home near Santa Barbara, from the wars, in which he had been engaged against his will. The language that he used was, that he, with many others of his acquaintances, were forced to take up arms by the leading men of the country. He was in the two battles of the 8th and 9th of January, below Los Angeles; and he desired never to be in any more battles. He was heartily rejoiced that there was peace, and hoped that there would never be any more wars. He travelled along with us until afternoon, when he fell behind, and we did not see him again until the next day.
After passing two or three deserted houses, we reached an inhabited rancho, situated at the extremity of a valley, and near a narrow gorge in the hills, about four o’clock, and, our jaded animals performing duty with reluctance, we determined to halt for the night, if the prospect of obtaining anything to eat (of which we stood in much need) was flattering. Riding up to the house, a small adobe, with one room, and a shed for a kitchen, the ranchero and the ranchera came out and greeted us with a hearty "Buena tardes, Senores, paisanos amigos," shaking hands, and inviting us at the same time to alight and remain for the night, which invitation we accepted. The kind-hearted ranchera immediately set about preparing supper for us. An Indian muchacha, was seated at the metate (handmill), which is one of the most important articles of the Californian culinary apparatus. While the muchacha ground, or rather crushed, the wheat between the stones, the ranchera, with a platter-shaped basket, cleansed it of dust, chaff, and all impure particles, by tossing the grain in the basket. The flour being manufactured and sifted through a cedazo, or coarse sieve, the labour of kneading the dough was performed by the muchacha. An iron plate was then placed over a rudely-constructed furnace, and the dough, being beaten by hand into tortillas (thin cakes), was baked upon this. What would American housewives say to such a system as this? The viands being prepared, they were set out upon a small table, at which we were invited to seat ourselves. The meal consisted of tortillas, stewed jerk beef, with chile seasoning, milk, and quesadillas, or cheesecakes, green and tough as leather. However, our appetites were excellent, and we enjoyed the repast with a high relish.
Our host and hostess were very inquisitive in regard to the news from below, and as to what would be the effects of the conquest of the country by the Americans. The man stated that he and all his family had refused to join in the late insurrection. We told them that all was peaceable now; that there would be no more wars is California; that we were all Americans, all Californians – hermanos, hermanas, amigos. They expressed their delight at this information by numerous exclamations.
We asked the woman how much the dress which she wore, a miserable calico, cost her? She answered, " seis pesos " (six dollars). When we told her that in a short time, under the American government, she could purchase as good a one " por un peso," she threw up her hands in astonishment, expressing by her features at the same time the most unbounded delight. Her entire wardrobe was soon brought forth, and the price paid for every article named. She then inquired what would be the cost of similar clothing under the American government, which we told her. As we replied, exclamation followed upon exclamation, expressive of her suprise and pleasure, and the whole was concluded with " Viva los Americannos – viva los Americanos !" I wore a large coarse woollen pea-jacket, which the man was very desirous to obtain, offering for it a fine horse. I declined the trade.
In the evening several of the brothers, sisters, and brothers and sisters-in-law of the family collected, and the guitar and violin, which were suspended from a beam in the house, were taken down, and we were entertained by a concert of instrumental and vocal music. Most of the tunes were such as are performed at fandangos. Some plaintive airs were played and sung with much pathos and expression, the whole party joining in the choruses. Although invited to occupy the only room in the house, we declined it, and spread our blankets on the outside.
The next morning (January 31st), when we woke, the sun was shining bright and warm, and the birds were singing gayly in the grove of evergreen oaks near the house. Having made ready to resume our journey, as delicately as possible we offered our kind hostess compensation for the trouble we had given her, which she declined, saying, that although they were not rich, they nevertheless had enough and to spare. We however insisted, and she finally accepted, with the condition that we would also accept of some of her quesadillas and tortillas to carry along with us. The ranchero mounted his horse and rode with us about three or four miles, to place us on the right trail, when, after inviting us very earnestly to call and see him again, and bidding us an affectionate adios, he galloped away.
Travelling over a hilly country, and passing the ruins of several deserted ranchos, the grounds surrounding which were strewn with the bones of slaughtered cattle, we reached, about five o’clock P.M., a cluster of houses in the valley of Santa Clara River, ten miles east of the mission of San Buenaventura. Here we stopped at the house of a man named Sanchez. Our arrival was thought to be worthy of notice, and it was accordingly celebrated in the evening by a fandango given at one of the houses, to which we were invited. The company, to the number of some thirty or forty persons, young and old, were assembled in the largest room of the house, the floor being hard clay. The only furniture contained in the room was a bed and some benches, upon which the company seated themselves when not engaged in dancing.
Among the senoritas assembled were two daughters of an American named Chapman, who has been a resident of the country for many years. They were fair-skinned, and might be called handsome. An elder and married sister was also present. They called themselves Americans, although they did not speak our language, and seemed to be more proud of their American than their Spanish blood.
A singular custom prevails at these fandangos. It is this: during the intervals between the waltzes, quadrilles, and other dances, when the company is seated, a young lady takes the floor solus, and, after showing off her graces for general observation a few minutes, she approaches any gentleman she may select, and performs a variety of pirouettes and other Terpsichorean movements before him for his especial amusement and admiration, until he places on her head his hat or cap, as the case may be, when she dances away with it. The hat or cap has afterwards to be redeemed by some present, and this usually is in money. Not dancing ourselves, we were favoured with numerous special exhibitions of this kind, the cost of each of which was un peso . With a long journey before us, and with purses in a nearly collapsed condition, the drafts upon us became so frequent, that at an early hour, under a plea of fatigue and want of rest, we thought it prudent to beat a retreat, leaving our fair and partial fandangueras to bestow their favours upon others better able to bear them. The motions of the Californian females of all classes in the dance are highly graceful. The waltz is their favourite measure, and in this they appear to excel as much as the men do in horsemanship. During the progress of the dance, the males and females improvise doggerel rhymes complimentary of the personal beauties and graces of those whom they admire, or expressive of their love and devotion, which are chanted with the music of the instruments, and the whole company join in the general chorus at the end of each verse. The din of voices is sometimes almost deafening.
Our host accompanied us to our lodgings on the opposite side of the way. Beds were spread down under the small porch outside, and we laid our bodies upon them, but not to sleep, for the noise of the fandango dancers kept us awake until broad daylight, at which time it broke up.
Hiring fresh horses here, and a vaquero to drive our tired animals after us, we started about 9 o’clock in the morning, and, passing through San Buenaventura, reached Santa Barbara, 45 miles, a little after two in the afternoon. We stopped at the house of Mr. Sparks, who received us with genuine hospitality. Santa Barbara presented a more lively appearance than when we passed here on our way down, most of its population having returned to their homes. Procuring fresh but miserably poor horses, we resumed our journey on the afternoon of the 2nd of February, and encamped at the rancho of Dr. Den, situated on the plain of Santa Barbara, near the sea shore. The soil of this plain is of the most fertile composition. The fresh grass is now six or eight inches high, and the varieties are numerous. Many of the early flowers are in bloom. I noticed a large wheat field near the house, and its appearance was such as to promise a rich harvest.
The rain fell heavily on the morning of the 3rd, but continuing our journey we crossed the St. Ynes Mountain, and, passing the mission by that name, reached the rancho of Mr. Faxon after dark, where we halted for the night. Around the mission of St. Ynes I noticed, as we passed, immense quantities of cattle bones thickly strewn in all directions. Acres of ground were white with these remains of the immense herds belonging to this mission in the days of its prosperity, slaughtered for their hides and tallow. We met two or three elegantly dressed Californians to-day, who accosted us with much civility and apparent friendliness.
Mr. Faxon is an Englishman by birth, and has resided in California about thirty years. He is married to a Californian lady, and has a family of interesting and beautiful children. A large portion of the land belonging to his rancho is admirably adapted to agriculture, and he raises crops of corn and vegetables as well as wheat without irrigation. He informed me that the yield of wheat on his rancho was fully seventy bushels to the acre. Mr. F. showed me specimens of lead ore from which he moulds his bullets, taken from an inexhaustible mine in the Tular Valley, some fifty miles distant from this. It is certainly the richest ore that I have ever seen, appearing almost like the pure metal. He also showed me a caustic alkali, produced by burning a plant or shrub which grows in great abundance in the Tular Valley. This substance is used by him in the manufacture of soap.
About noon on the 4th, we halted at the rancho of Captain Dana, where we procured fresh horses, leaving our wretchedly lean and tired animals, and, proceeding on, stopped for the night at the rancho of Mr. Branch, an intelligent American, originally from the state of New York, who has been settled in the country a number of years. His rancho is situated on what is called the arroyo grande, a small stream which empties into the Pacific some two or three miles from the house. The house is new, and constructed after American models of farm-houses, with neat and comfortable apartments, chimneys and fireplaces. The arable lands here are finely adapted to the culture of maize, wheat, and potatoes.
Our horses straying, it was twelve o’clock on the 5th before we found them. The rain had fallen steadily and heavily all night, and during the forenoon, and was pouring down when we started. We passed through the mission of San Luis Obispo just before sunset, intending to halt at a rancho about three miles distant in canada . But, the storm increasing in strength, it became suddenly so dark in the mountain-gorge, that we could not distinguish the trail, and, after wandering about some time, vainly attempting to find the house, we were compelled to bivouac, wet to our skins, without fire or shelter, and the rain pouring down in torrents.
The next morning (Feb. 6), in hunting up our loose horses, we discovered the house about half a mile distant from our camp. Continuing our journey, we halted about nine o’clock at a rancho near the ruins of Santa Margarita. A solitary Indian was the only occupant of the house, and only inhabitant of the place; and he could furnish us with no food. Passing two or three other deserted ranchos, we reached the house of a Mexican about one o’clock, where we obtained a meal of fried eggs and tortillas, after having been without food thirty hours. Late in the afternoon we arrived at the mission of San Miguel, now occupied by an Englishman named Reed, his mestiza wife, and one child, with two or three Indian vaqueros. Crossing the Salinas in the morning (Feb. 7), we continued down its eastern side, and encamped in a wide bottom under a large live oak. A quesadilla was all we had to eat. This was divided, one-half being reserved for breakfast. The fresh vegetation has so much changed the face of the country on this river since we passed along here in December, that I scarcely recognise it. The grass is six or eight inches high in the bottom, the blades standing so thick as to present a matted appearance, and the hills are brilliant with flowers – pink, purple, blue, and yellow.
On the 8th we continued down the eastern bank of the Salinas, passing through several large and fertile bottoms, and reaching the rancho of San Lorenzo about twelve o’clock. This rancho, as we learned from the proprietors, is owned by two bachelor brothers, one of whom told me that he had not been off his lands but once or twice for several years. Large herds of fat cattle and horses were grazing upon the luxuriant grasses of the plain, and there were several extensive inclosures sowed in wheat, which presented all the indications of an abundant harvest. But, with all these natural resources surrounding him the elder brother told us that he had nothing to eat in his house but fresh beef. A quantity of the choice pieces of a fat beef was roasted by an Indian boy, which we enjoyed with all the relish of hungry men. Our host, a gentleman of intelligence and politeness, made apology after apology for his rude style of living, a principal excuse being that he had no wife. He inquired, with apparent earnestness, if we could not send him two pretty accomplished and capable American women, whom they could marry; and then they would build a fine house, have bread, butter, cheese, and all the delicacies, luxuries, and elegancies of life in abundance. He appeared to be well pleased with the conquest of the country by the Americans, and desirous that they should not give it up. When we resumed our journey in the afternoon, he rode with us four or five miles to show us the way, and, on taking his leave, invited us to return again, when he said he hoped his accommodations would be much improved. Riding 15 miles, we halted at a tule-cabin, where we remained until two o’clock in the morning, when, the moon shining brightly, we mounted our horses, and continued our journey.
We reached the Monterey road just at daylight. My intention had been to visit Monterey; but the Salinas being unfordable, and there being no ferry, it was not possible to do it without swimming the river, which I did not feel inclined to do. Monterey is situated on the bay by that name, about 90 miles by water south of San Francisco. The bay affords a good anchorage and landing in calm weather, being exposed only to the northers, which blow violently. The town contains about 1500 inhabitants, and is rapidly increasing in wealth and population. Arriving at the rancho of Don Joaquin Gomez, we found no one but a mestiza servant at home, and could obtain nothing to eat but a quesadilla . All the streams, large and small, are much swollen by late heavy rains, and the travelling is consequently very laborious and difficult. Resting our horses a short time, we crossed the mountains, and reached the mission of San Juan Bautista about noon.
At San Juan we met with Messrs. Grayson, Boggs, and a party of volunteers returning from Monterey to San Francisco, having been discharged since the suppression of the rebellion in this part of California, headed by Francisco Sanchez. Here we learned, for the first time, the arrival at Monterey of Commodore Shubrick in the ship Independence, and of the Lexington with Captain Tomkins’s company of artillery, and freighted otherwise with munitions, stores, and tools necessary to the erection and defence of durable fortifications at Monterey and San Francisco.
Seven or eight miles beyond San Juan, we found that the waters of the arroyo had risen so as to inundate a wide valley which we were ompelled to cross. After making several ineffectual attempts to reach the opposite side, wading through the water, and sometimes falling into deep holes from which it was difficult for either men or horses to extricate themselves, we encamped for the night on a small elevation in the valley, entirely surrounded by water. Our condition was miserable enough. Tired, wet, and hungry, we laid down for the night on the damp ground.
The next day (Feb. 10), about eleven o’clock, we succeeded in finding a ford across the valley and stream, and procured dinner at a soap-factory on the opposite side, belonging to T. O. Larkin, Esq. Continuing on, we encamped at a rancho occupied by an Englishman as mayor domo . He was very glad to see us, and treated us with unbounded hospitality, furnishing a superabundance of beef and frijoles for our consumption. On the 11th, about three P.M., we arrived at the Pueblo de San José, and, finding there a launch employed by Messrs. Howard and Mellus in colecting hides, bound for San Francisco, we embarked in her, and on the morning of the 13th arrived at that place. We found lying here the U.S. sloop Warren, and Lieutenant Radford politely furnished us with a boat to land. In the afternoon the Cyane, Commander Dupont, with Gen. Kearny on board, and the store-ship Erie, with Col. Mason on board, arrived in the harbour. Col. Mason is from the United States direct, via Panama, and brings late and interesting intelligence.
The Cyane and Warren have just returned from a cruise on the southern Pacific coast of Mexico. The town of Guymas had been taken by bombardment. The Cyane had captured, during her cruize, fourteen prizes, besides several guns at San Blas. The boats of the Warren, under the command of Lieut. Radford, performed the gallant feat of cutting out of the harbour of Mazatlan the Mexican schooner Malek Abdel.
Landing in San Francisco, I found my wardrobe, which I had deposited in the care of Capt. Leidesdorff, and the first time for nearly five months dressed myself in a civilized costume. Having been during that time almost constantly in motion, and exposed to many hardships and privations, it was, as may be supposed, no small satisfaction to find once more a place where I could repose for a short time at least.
Progress of the town of San Francisco – Capt. Dupont Gen. Kearny – The presidio – Appointed Alcalde – Gen. Kearny’s proclamation – Arrival of Col. Stevenson’s regiment – Horse-thief Indians – Administration of justice in California – Sale of lots in San Francisco.
WHEREVER the Anglo-Saxon race plant themselves, progress is certain to be
displayed in some form or other. Such is their "go-ahead" energy, that
things cannot stand still where they are, whatever may be the circumstances
surrounding them. Notwithstanding the wars and insurrections, I found the
town of San Francisco, on my arrival here, visibly improved. An American
population had flowed into it; lots, which heretofore have been considered
almost valueless, were selling at high prices; new houses had been built,
and were in progress; new commercial houses had been established; hotels had
been opened for the accommodation of the travelling and business public; and
the publication of a newspaper had been commenced. The little village of two
hundred souls, when I arrived here in September last, is fast becoming a
town of importance. Ships freighted with full cargoes are entering the port,
and landing their merchandise to be disposed of at wholesale and retail on
shore, instead of the former mode of vending them afloat in the harbour.
There is a prevailing air of activity, enterprise, and energy; and men, in
view of the advantageous position of the town for commerce, are making large
calculations upon the future; calculations which I believe will be fully
On the 15th I dined on board the sloop-of-war Cyane, with Commander Dupont, to whom I had the good fortune to be the bearer from home of a letter of introduction. I say "good fortune," because I conceive it to be one of the greatest of social blessings, as well as pleasures, to be made acquainted with a truly upright and honourable man – one whose integrity never bends to wrongful or pusillanimous expediency; – one who, armed intellectually with the panoply of justice, has courage to sustain it under any and all circumstances; – one whose ambition is, in a public capacity, to serve his country, and not to serve himself; – one who waits for his country to judge of his acts, and, if worthy, to place the laurel wreath upon his head, disdaining a self-wrought and self-assumed coronal. Capt. Dupont is a native of Delaware; and that gallant and patriotic state should feel proud of such a son. He is one of whom all men, on sea or on land, with whom his duties as an officer or citizen of our republic brings him in contact, speak well; and whose private virtues, as well as professional merits, are deserving of the warmest admiration and the highest honours.
Although I have long known Gen. S. W. Kearny from reputation, and saw him at Los Angeles, I was here introduced to him for the first time. Gen. K. is a man rising fifty years of age. His height is about five feet ten or eleven inches. His figure is all that is required by symmetry. His features are regular, almost Grecian; his eye is blue, and has an eagle-like expression, when excited by stern or angry emotion; but, in ordinary social intercourse, the whole expression of his countenance is mild and pleasing, and his manners and conversation are unaffected, urbane, and conciliatory, without the slightest exhibition of vanity or egotism. He appears the cool, brave, and energetic soldier; the strict disciplinarian, without tyranny; the man, in short, determined to perform his duty, in whatever situation he may be placed, leaving consequences to follow in their natural course. These, my first impressions, were fully confirmed by subsequent intercourse, in situations and under circumstances which, by experience, I have found an unfailing alembic for the trial of character – a crucible wherein, if the metal be impure, the drossy substances are sure to display themselves. It is not my province to extol or pronounce judgment upon his acts; they are a part of the military and civil history of our country, and as such will be applauded or condemned, according to the estimate that may be placed upon them. But I may be allowed to express the opinion, that no man, placed under the same circumstances, ever aimed to perform his duty with more uprightness and more fidelity to the interests and honour of his country, or who, to shed lustre upon his country, ever braved greater dangers, or endured more hardships and privations, and all without vaunting his performances and sacrifices.
On the 16th, in company of Gen. Kearny, Capt. Turner, and Lieuts. Warner and Hallock, of the U.S. Engineer Corps, I rode to the Presidio of San Francisco, and the old fortification at the mount of the bay. The presidio is about three miles from the town, and consists of several blocks of adobe buildings, covered with tiles. The walls of most of the buildings are crumbling for the want of care in protecting them from the annual rains; and without this care they will soon become heaps of mud. The fort is erected upon a commanding position, about a mile and a half from the entrance to the bay. Its walls are substantially constructed of burnt brick, and are of sufficient thickness and strength to resist heavy battering. There are nine or ten embrasures. Like everything else in the country belonging to the public, the fort is fast falling into ruins. There has been no garrison here for several years; the guns are dismounted, and half decomposed by long exposure to the weather, and from want of care. Some of them have sunk into the ground.
On the 20th I was waited upon by Gen. Kearny, and requested to accept the office of alcalde, or chief magistrate, of the district of San Francisco. There being no opportunity of returning to the United States immediately, I accepted of the proposed appointment, and on the 22d was sworn into office, my predecessor, Lieut. W. A. Bartlett, of the navy being ordered to his ship by the commanding officer of the squadron.
The annual salute in celebration of the birthday of the immortal and illustrious founder of our republic, required by law from all the ships of the navy in commission, in whatever part of the world they may be at the time, strikes us more forcibly when in a far-off country, as being a beautiful and appropriate tribute to the unapproachable virtues and heroism of that great benefactor of the human race, than when we are nearer home, or upon our own soil. The U.S. ships in the harbour, at twelve o’clock on the 22d, each fired a national salute; and the day being calm and beautiful, the reports bounded from hill to hill, and were echoed and reechoed until the sound died away, apparently in the distant gorges of the Sierra Nevada. This was a voice from the soul of WASHINGTON, speaking in majestic and thunder-tones to the green and flowery valley, the gentle hills and lofty mountains of California, and consecrating them as the future abode of millions upon millions of the sons of liberty. The merchant and whale ships lying at anchor, catching the enthusiasm, joined in the salute; and for a time the harbour and bay in front of the town were enveloped in clouds of gunpowder smoke.
General Kearny left San Francisco, in the frigate Savannah, Captain Mervine, on the 23d, for Monterey, and soon after his arrival at that place issued the following proclamation: –
PROCLAMATION TO THE PEOPLE OF CALIFORNIA.
The President of the United States having instructed the undersigned to
take charge of the civil government of California, he enters upon his duties
with an ardent desire to promote, as far as he is able, the interests of the
country and the welfare of its inhabitants.
The undersigned has instructions from the President to respect and protect the religious institutions of California, and to see that the religious rights of the people are in the amplest manner preserved to them, the constitution of the United States allowing every man to worship his Creator in such a manner as his own conscience may dictate to him.
The undersigned is also instructed to protect the persons and property of the quiet and peaceable inhabitants of the country against all or any of their enemies, whether from abroad or at home; and when he now assures the Californians that it will be his duty and his pleasure to comply with those instructions, he calls upon them all to exert themselves in preserving order and tranquillity, in promoting harmony and concord, and in maintaining the authority and efficiency of the laws.
It is the wish and design of the United States to provide for California, with the least possible delay, a free government, similar to those in her other territories; and the people will soon be called upon to exercise their rights as freemen, in electing their own representatives, to make such laws as may be deemed best for their interest and welfare. But until this can be done, the laws now in existence, and not in conflict with the constitution of the United States, will be continued until changed by competent authority; and those persons who hold office will continue in the same for the present, provided they swear to support that constitution, and to faithfully perform their duty.
The undersigned hereby absolves all the inhabitants of California from any further allegiance to the republic of Mexico, and will consider them as citizens of the United States; those who remain quiet and peaceable will be respected in their rights and protected in them. Should any take up arms against or oppose the government of this territory, or instigate others to do do, they will be considered as enemies, and treated accordingly.
When Mexico forced a war upon the United States, time did not permit the latter to invite the Californians as friends to join her standard, but compelled her to take possession of the country to prevent any European power from seizing upon it, and, in doing so, some excesses and unauthorized acts were no doubt committed by persons employed in the service of the United States, by which a few of the inhabitants have met with a loss of property; such losses will be duly investigated, and those entitled to remuneration will receive it.
California has for many years suffered greatly from domestic troubles; civil wars have been the poisoned fountains which have sent forth trouble and pestilence over her beautiful land. Now those fountains are dried up; the star-spangled banner floats over California, and as long as the sun continues to shine upon her, so long will it float there, over the natives of the land, as well as others who have found a home in herbosom; and under it agriculture must improve, and the arts and sciences flourish, as seed in a rich and fertile soil.
The Americans and Californians are now but one people; let us cherish one wish, one hope, and let that be for the peace and quiet of our country. Let us, as a band of brothers, unite and emulate each other in our exertions to benefit and improve this our beautiful, and which soon must be our happy and prosperous, home.
Done at Monterey, capital of California, this first day of March, A.D. 1847, and in the seventy-first year of independence of the United States.
S. W. KEARNY,
Brig.-Gen. U.S.A., and Governor of California.
The proclamation of General Kearny gave great satisfaction to the native
as well as the emigrant population of the country. Several of the alcaldes
of the district of my jurisdiction, as well as private individuals (natives
of the country), expressed, by letter and orally, their approbation of the
sentiments of the proclamation in the warmest terms. They said that they
were heartily willing to become Americans upon these terms, and hoped that
there would be the least possible delay in admitting them to the rights of
American citizenship. There was a general expectation among natives as well
as foreigners, that a representative form of territorial government would be
immediately established by General Kearny. Why this was not done, is
explained by the recent publication of General Scott’s letter to General
Kearny, dated November 3rd, 1846, of which Colonel Mason was the bearer, he
having left the United States on the 7th November. In this letter General
Scott says: –
"As a guide to the civil governor of Upper California, in our hands, see the letter of June 3rd (last), addressed to you by the Secretary of War. You will not, however, formally declare the province to be annexed. Permanent incorporation of the territory must depend on the government of the United States.
"After occupying with our forces all necessary points in Upper California, and establishing a temporary civil government therein, as well as assuring yourself of its internal tranquillity, and the absence of any danger of reconquest on the part of Mexico, you may charge Colonel Mason, United States first dragoons, the bearer of this open letter, or land officer next in rank to your own, with your several duties, and return yourself, with a sufficient escort of troops, to St. Louis, Missouri; but the body of the United States dragoons that accompanied you to California will remain there until further orders."
The transport ships Thomas H. Perkins, Loo Choo, Susan Drew, and Brutus, with Colonel Stevenson’s regiment, arrived at San Francisco during the months of March and April. These vessels were freighted with a vast quantity of munitions, stores, tools, saw-mills, grist-mills, etc., etc., to be employed in the fortification of the principal harbours on the coast – San Francisco, Monterey, and San Diego. The regiment of Col. Stevenson was separated into different commands, portions of it being stationed at San Francisco, Sonoma, Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles; and some companies employed against the horse-thief Indians of the Sierra Nevada and the Tulares.
As good an account of these horse-thief Indians, and their depredations, as I have seen, I find in the "California Star," of March 28th, 1847, written by a gentleman who has been a resident of California for a number of years, and who has been a sufferer. It is subjoined: –
"During the Spanish regime, such a thing as a horse-thief was unknown in the country; but as soon as the Mexicans took possession, their characteristic anarchy began to prevail, and the Indians to desert from the missions. The first Indian horse-thief known in this part of the country was a neophyte of the mission of Santa Clara, George, who flourished about twenty years ago. He absconded from his mission to the river of Stanislaus, of which he was a native. From thence he returned to the settlements, and began to steal horses, which at that time were very numerous. After pursuing his depredations for some time, he was at last pursued and killed on his return from one of his forages. The mission of Santa Clara has been, from that time to the present day, the greatest nursery for horse-thieves, as the Stanislaus river has been and is their principal rendezvous. I have taken some pains to inquire among some of the most intelligent and respectable of the native inhabitants, as to the probable number of horses that have been stolen between Monterey and San Francisco within the last twenty years, and the result has been that more than one hundred thousand can be distinctly enumerated, and that the total amount would probably be double that number. Nearly all these horses have been eaten! From the river of Stanislaus, as a central point, the evil has spread to the north and south, and at present extends from the vicinity of the Mickélemes [Mokelumne] River on the north, to the sources of the St. Joaquin on the south. These Indians inhabit all the western declivity of the great snowy mountains, within these limits, and have become so habituated to living on horseflesh, that it is now with them the principal means of subsistence.
"In past time they have been repeatedly pursued, and many of them killed, and whole villages destroyed, but, so far from being deterred, they are continually becoming more bold and daring in their robberies, as horses become scarcer and more carefully guarded. About twenty persons have been killed by them within the knowledge of the writer. Among others, Mr. Lindsay and Mr. Wilson were killed by them not long ago. Only about one month since, they shot and dangerously wounded four persons employed on the farm of Mr. Weber, near the Pueblo of St. Joseph, and at the same time stole the horses of the farm, and those also from the farms of Captain Fisher and Mr. Burnal, in the same vicinity; in all, about two hundred head. Within the last ten days numerous parties of them have been committing depredations on many of the farms in the jurisdiction of the Contra Costa, and scarcely a night passes but we hear of their having stolen horses from some one. Three days ago, a party of them were met by some young men who had been out catching wild horses on the plains of the St. Joaquin, but as they were mounted on tired animals, they were only able to recapture the stolen horses, but could not overtake the thieves."
It has not been within the scope of my design, in writing out these notes, to enter into the minute details of the conquest and occupation of California by the forces of the United States. To do so would require more space than I have allowed myself, and the matter would be more voluminous than interesting or important. My intention has been to give such a sketch of the military operations in California, during my residence and travels in the country, as to afford to the reader a general and correct idea of the events transpiring at the time. No important circumstance, I think, has escaped my attention.
Among the officers of the army stationed at San Francisco, with whom I became acquainted, were Major Hardie, in command of the troops, Captain Folsom, acting quarter-master-general in California, and Lieutenant Warner, of the engineer corps. Lieutenant Warner marched with General Kearny from the United States, and was at the battle of San Pasqual. I have seen the coat which he wore on that occasion, pierced in seven different places by the lances of the enemy. He did not make this exhibition himself; and I never heard him refer to the subject but once, and then it was with the modesty of a veteran campaigner.
The corps of topographical engineers accompanying General Kearny, under the command of Captain Emory, will, doubtless, furnish in their report much interesting and valuable information. Mr. Stanley, the artist of the expedition, completed his sketches in oil, at San Francisco; and a more truthful, interesting, and valuable series of paintings, delineating mountain scenery, the floral exhibitions on the route, the savage tribes between Santa Fé and California – combined with camp-life and marches through the desert and wilderness – has never, and probably never will be, exhibited. Mr. Stanley informed me that he was preparing a work on the savage tribes of North America and of the islands of the Pacific, which, when completed on his plan, will be the most comprehensive and descriptive of the subject of any that has been published.
Legal proceedings are much less complex in California than in the United States. There is no written statute law in the country. The only law books I could find were a digested code entitled, "Laws of Spain and the Indies," published in Spain about a hundred years ago, and a small pamphlet defining the powers of various judicial officers, emanating from the Mexican government since the revolution. A late Mexican governor of California, on being required by a magistrate to instruct him as to the manner in which he should administer the law within his jurisdiction, replied, "Administer it in accordance with the principles of natural right and justice," and this is the foundation of Californian jurisprudence. The local bandos, or laws, are enacted, adjudicated, and executed by the local magistrates, or alcaldes. The alcalde has jurisdiction in all municipal matters, and in cases for minor offences, and for debt in sums not over one hundred dollars. In cases of heinous or capital offences, the alcalde has simply an examining power, the testimony being taken down in writing, and transmitto the juez de primera instancia, or first judge of the district, before whom the case is tried. Civil actions, for sums over one hundred dollars, must also be tried before the juez de primera instancia, and from him there is an appeal to the prefect, or the governor of the province. The trial by hombres buenos, or good men, is one of the established legal tribunals when either of the parties demand it, and is similar to our trial by jury; the difference being in the number, the hombres buenos usually consisting of three or five, as they may be ordered by the magistrate, or requested by the litigants, and our jury of twelve. With honest and intelligent magistrates, the system operates advantageously, as justice is speedy and certain; but the reverse of this, with corrupt and ignorant magistrates, too frequently in power, the consequences of the system are as bad as can well be imagined.
The policy of the Mexican government has been to encourage in certain localities the erection of pueblos, or towns, and for this purpose they have made grants of land to the local authorities, or municipalities, within certain defined limits, to be regranted upon application, in lots of fifty or one hundred varas, as the case may be, to persons declaring their intention to settle and to do business in the town. For these grants to individuals a certain sum of money is paid, which goes into the treasury of the municipality. The magistrates, however, without special permission, have no power to grant lots of land within a certain number of feet of or below high-water mark. The power is reserved to be exercised by the governor of the province. It being necessary for the convenient landing of ships, and for the discharging and receiving of their cargoes, that the beach in front of the town of San Francisco should be improved with wharfs, etc., etc., and that titles should be granted to individuals who otherwise would make no durable improvements. As magistrate of the town, in compliance with the request of numerous citizens, I solicited from General Kearny, the acting governor, a relinquishment, on the part of the general government, of the beach lands in front of the town in favour of the municipality, under certain conditions. This was granted by the Governor, who issued a decree dated 10th March, permitting the sales by auction of all such grounds adjacent to the water-side as might be found adapted to commercial purposes, with the exception of such lots as might be selected for the use of the United States government, by its proper officers. The sales accordingly took place, the lots were eagerly purchased, and the port has already become a place of considerable commercial activity.
First settlement of the missionaries – Population – Characteristics of white population – Employments – Pleasures and amusements – Position of women – Soil – Grasses – Vegetable productions – Agriculture – Fruits – Cattle – Horses – Wild animals – Minerals – Climate – Flora – Water-power – Timber – Religion.
IT was during the month of November, 1602, the sun just retiring behind
the distant high land which forms the background of a spacious harbour at
the southernmost point of Alta California, that a small fleet of vessels
might have been seen directing their course as if in search of a place of
anchorage; their light sails drawn up, while the larger ones, swelling now
and then to the action of the breeze, bore them majestically along, forcing
their way through the immense and almost impenetrable barrier of sea-weed,
to a haven which, at the remote period stated, was considered the unexplored
region of the North. The fleet referred to hauled their wind to the shore,
and, passing a bluff point of land on their left, soon came to anchor; but
not until the shades of night had cast a gloom over the scene so recently
lighted up with the gorgeous rays of a setting sun.
This was the commencement, or rather preliminary mark, of civilization in this country, by the Spaniards, (if so it can be called,) and on the following morning a detachment was landed, accompanied by a friar, to make careful investigation of the long ridge of high land which serves as a protection to the harbour from the heavy north-west gales. They found, as reported, an abundance of small oak and other trees, together with a great variety of useful and aromatic herbs; and from its summit they beheld the extent and beauty of the port, reaching, as they said, full three leagues from where the vessel lay at anchor. A large tent was erected on the sandy beach, to answer the purposes of a church, where the friar might perform mass, and by directions of the commanding officers, the boats were drawn up for repairing, wells were dug, parties were sent off to cut wood, while guards were placed at convenient distances to give notice of the approach of any hostile force. The latter precaution was hardly carried into effect, ere a large body of naked Indians were seen moving along the shore, armed with bows and arrows. A friar, protected by six soldiers, was dispatched to meet them, who, making signs of peace by exhibiting a white flag and throwing handfuls of sand high into the air, influenced them to lay aside their arms, when, affectionately embracing them, the good old friar distributed presents of beads and necklaces, with which they eagerly adorned their persons. This manifestation of good feeling induced them to draw near to where the commander had landed with his men, but perceiving so large a number, they retreated to a neighbouring knoll, and from thence sent forward to the Spaniards ten aged females, who, possessing apparently so much affability, were presented immediately with gifts, and instructed to go and inform their people of the friendly disposition cherished for them by the white strangers. This was sufficient to implant a free intercourse with the Indians, who daily visited the Spaniards, and bartered off their skins and furs in exchange for bread and trinkets. But at length the time arrived for the fleet to depart, and they proceeded northward, visiting in their course Monterey and Mendocino, where the same favourable result attended the enterprise as at other places, and they returned in safety to New Spain.
So successful had been the character of this expedition throughout the entire period of its execution, that an enthusiasm prevailed in the minds of the Spaniards, which could only be assuaged by an attempt to conquer and christianize the inhabitants of that distant portion of the American continent. Many were the fruitless results of the Spanish adventurer – numerous were the statements of his toil and labour, till at length a formidable attempt, under the patronage and direction of Don Gaspar de Portala and Father Junipero Serra, successfully achieved the desired object for which it was planned and executed.
At San Diego, where, a century and a half before, the primitive navigators under Cortez communed with the rude and unsophisticated native – there, where the zealous devotee erected his altar on the burning sand, and with offerings of incense and prayer hallowed it to God, as the birthplace of Christianity in that region – upon that sainted spot commenced the spiritual conquest, the cross was erected, and the holy missionaries who accompanied the expedition entered heart and soul upon their religious duties. Successful in all they undertook, their first establishment in a short time was completed, and drawing around it the converted Indians in large numbers, the rude and uncultivated fields gave place to agricultural improvement – the arts and sciences gradually obtained foundation where before all was darkness, and day after day hundreds were added to the folds of the holy and apostolic church. Thus triumphantly proceeded the labours of the Spanish conquerors! In course of time other institutions were founded at Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco, where at each place a military fortress was erected, which served for their protection, and to keep in check such of the natives who were disinclined to observe the regulations of the community.
The natives formed an ardent and almost adorable attachment for their spiritual fathers, and were happy, quite happy, under their jurisdiction. Ever ready to obey them, the labour in the field and workshop met with ready compliance, and so prosperous were the institutions that many of them became wealthy, in the increase of their cattle and great abundance of their granaries. It was no unusual sight to behold the plains for leagues literally spotted with bullocks, and large fields of corn and wheat covering acres of ground. This state of things continued until the period when Mexico underwent a change in its political form of government, which so disheartened the feelings of the loyal missionaries, that they became regardless of their establishments, and suffered them to decline for want of attention to their interests. At length, civil discord and anarchy among the Californians prepared a more effective measure for their destruction, and they were left to the superintendence of individuals who plundered them of all that was desirable or capable of removal. Thus, the government commenced the robbery, and its hirelings carried it out to the letter, destroying and laying waste wherever they were placed. In order to give the inhabitants a share of the spoils, some of them were permitted to slaughter the cattle by contract, which was an equal division of the proceeds, and the contractors were careful, when they delivered one hide to a mission, to reserve two for themselves, in this way following up the example of their superiors.
This important revolution in the systematic order of the monastic institutions took place in 1836, at which period the most important of them possessed property, exclusive of their lands and tenements, to the value of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. At the present day they have but a little more than dilapidated walls and restricted boundaries of territory. Notwithstanding this wanton devastation of property, contrary to the opinion of many who were strongly in favour of supporting these religious institutions, the result proved beneficial to the country at large. Individual enterprise succeeded as the lands became distributed, so that the Californian beheld himself no longer dependent on the bounty of his spiritual directors, but, on the contrary, he was enabled to give support to them, from the increase and abundance of his own possessions.
Subsequent to the expulsion of the Mexicans, numbers of new farms were created, and hundreds of Americans were scattered over the country. Previous to 1830, the actual possessions of horned cattle by the rancheros did not exceed one hundred thousand; but in 1842, according to a fair estimate, made by one on the spot, the number had increased to four hundred thousand; so that the aggregate is equal to that held by the missions when in their most flourishing condition. The present number is not much, if any, short of one million.
Presuming a statistical knowledge of this country, before and after the missionary institutions were secularized, may be interesting, I will insert the following returns of 1831 and 1842, to contrast the same with its present condition: –
1st. In 1832 the white population throughout Alta-California did not exceed 4,500, while the Indians of the twenty-one missions amounted to 19,000; in 1842, the former had increased to 7,000, and the latter decreased to about 5,000.
2nd. In the former year, the number of horned cattle, including individual possessions, amounted to 500,000; in the latter, to 40,000.
3rd. At the same period, the number of sheep, goats, and pigs, was 321,000; at the latter, 32,000.
4th. In 1831 the number of horses, asses, mules, etc., was 64,000; in 1842 it was 30,000.
5th. The produce in corn, etc., had decreased in a much greater proportion – that of seventy to four.
The amount of duties raised at the custom-house in Monterey, from 1839 to 1842, was as follows, viz.: –
1839 .......... 85,613 dollars.
1840 .......... 72,308 "
1841 .......... 101,150 "
1842 .......... 73,729 "
The net amount of revenue seldom exceeding in any year eighty thousand
dollars; so that, when a deficiency took place, to supply the expenditures
of government, it had been usual to call upon the missions for aid.
The value of the hides and tallow derived from the annual matanzas may be estimated at 372,000 dollars. These two commodities, with the exception of some beaver, sea-otter, and other furs, comprise the most important part of the exportations, which in addition, would augment the value of exports to 400,000 dollars.
The permanent population of that portion of Upper California situated between the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific, I estimate at 25,000. Of this number, 8,000 are Hispano-Americans, 5,000 foreigners, chiefly from the United States, and 12,000 christianized Indians. There are considerable numbers of wild or Gentile Indians, inhabiting the valley of the San Joaquin and the gorges of the Sierra, not included in this estimate. They are probably as numerous as the Christian Indians. The Indian population inhabiting the region of the Great Salt Lake, Mary’s River, the oases of the Great Desert Basin, and the country bordering the Rio Colorado and its tributaries, being spread over a vast extent of territory, are scarcely seen, although the aggregate number is considerable.
The Californians do not differ materially from the Mexicans, from whom they are descended, in other provinces of that country. Physically and intellectually, the men, probably, are superior to the same race farther south, and inhabiting the countries contiguous to the city of Mexico. The inter-mixture of blood with the Indian and negro races has been less, although it is very perceptible.
The men, as a general fact, are well made, with pleasing sprightly countenances, and possessing much grace and ease of manners, and vivacity of conversation. But hitherto they have had little knowledge of the world and of events, beyond what they have heard through Mexico, and derived from the supercargoes of merchant-ships and whalemen touching upon the coast. There are no public schools in the country – at least I never heard of one. There are but few books. General Valléjo has a library with many valuable books, and this is the only one I saw, although there are others; but they are rare, and confined to a few families.
The men are almost constantly on horseback, and as horsemen excel any I have seen in other parts of the world. From the nature of their pursuits and amusements, they have brought horsemanship to a perfection challenging admiration and exciting astonishment. They are trained to the horse and the use of the lasso ( riata, as it is here called) from their infancy. The first act of a child, when he is able to stand alone, is to throw his toy lasso around the neck of a kitten; his next feat is performed on the dog; his next upon a goat or calf; and so on, until he mounts the horse, and demonstrates his skill upon horses and cattle. The crowning feat of dexterity with the riata, and of horsemanship, combined with daring courage, is the lassoing of the grisly bear. This feat is performed frequently upon this large and ferocious animal, but it is sometimes fatal to the performer and his horse. Well drilled, with experienced military leaders, such as would inspire them with confidence in their skill and prowess, the Californians ought to be the finest cavalry in the world. The Californian saddle is, I venture to assert, the best that has been invented, for the horse and the rider. Seated in one of these, it is scarcely possible to be unseated by any ordinary casualty. The bridle-bit is clumsily made, but so constructed that the horse is compelled to obey the rider upon the slightest intimation. The spurs are of immense size, but they answer to an experienced horseman the double purpose of exciting the horse, and of maintaining the rider in his seat under difficult circumstances.
For the pleasures of the table they care but little. With his horse and trappings, his sarape and blanket, a piece of beef and a tortilla, the Californian is content, so far as his personal comforts are concerned. But he is ardent in his pursuit of amusement and pleasure, and these consist chiefly in the fandango, the game of monte, horse-racing, and bull and bear-baiting. They gamble freely and desperately, but pay their losses with the most strict punctuality, at any and every sacrifice, and manifest but little concern about them. They are obedient to their magistrates, and in all disputed cases decided by them, acquiesce without uttering a word of complaint. They have been accused of treachery and insincerity. Whatever may have been the grounds for these accusations in particular instances, I know not; but, judging from my own observation and experience, they are as free from these qualities as our own people.
While the men are employed in attending to the herds of cattle and horses, and engaged in their other amusements, the women (I speak of the middle classes on the ranchos) superintend and perform most of the drudgery appertaining to housekeeping, and the cultivation of the gardens, from whence are drawn such vegetables as are consumed at the table. These are few, consisting of frijoles, potatoes, onions, and chiles . The assistants in these labours are the Indian men and women, legally reduced to servitude.
The soil of that portion of California between the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific will compare, in point of fertility, with any that I have seen elsewhere. As I have already described such portions of it as have come under my observation, it is unnecessary for me here to descend to particulars. Wheat, barley, and other small grains, with hemp, flax, and tobacco, can be produced in all the valleys, without irrigation. To produce maize, potatoes, and other garden vegetables, irrigation is necessary. Oats and mustard grow spontaneously, with such rankness as to be considered nuisances upon the soil. I have forced my way through thousands of acres of these, higher than my head when mounted on a horse. The oats grow to the summits of the hills, but they are not here so tall and rank as in the valleys.
The varieties of grasses are greater than on the Atlantic side of the continent, and far more nutritious. I have seen seven different kinds of clover, several of them in a dry state, depositing a seed upon the ground so abundant as to cover it, which is lapped up by the cattle and horses and other animals, as corn or oats, when threshed, would be with us. All the grasses, and they cover the entire country, are heavily seeded, and, when ripe, are as fattening to stock as the grains which we feed to our beef, horses, and hogs. Hence it is unnecessary to the sustenance or fattening of stock to raise corn for their consumption.
Agriculture is in its rudest state. The farming implements which have been used by the Californians, with few exceptions, are the same as were used three hundred years ago, when Mexico was conquered by Cortez. A description of them would be tedious. The plough, however, which merely scratches the ground, is the fork of a small tree. It is the same pattern as the Roman plough, two thousand years ago. Other agricultural implements are of the same description. The Americans, and other foreigners, are, however, introducing the American plough, and other American farming tools, the consequence of which has already been, to some extent, to produce a revolution in agriculture. The crops of wheat and barley, which I saw about the 1st of June, while passing through the country on my journey to the United States, exceeded in promise any which I have seen in the United States. It was reported to me that Captain Sutter’s crop of wheat, for 1847, would amount to 75,000 bushels.
The natural vegetable productions of California have been sufficiently noticed in the course of this work, for the reader to form a correct estimate of the capabilities of the soil and climate. It is supposed by some, that cotton, sugar, and rice, could be produced here. I do not doubt but there are portions of the country where these crops would thrive; but I question whether, generally, they could be cultivated to advantage. Nearly all the fruits of the temperate and tropical climates are produced in perfection in California, as has before been stated.
The principal product of the country has been its cattle and horses. The cattle are, I think, the largest and finest I ever saw, and the beef is more delicious. There are immense herds of these, to which I have previously referred; and their hides and tallow, when slaughtered, have hitherto composed the principal exports from the country. If I were to hazard an estimate of the number of hides annually exported, it would be conjectural, and not worth much. I would suppose, however, at this time (1847), that the number would not fall much short of 150,000, and a corresponding number of arrobas (25 pounds) of tallow. The average value of cattle is about five dollars per head.
The horses and mules are correspondingly numerous with the cattle; and although the most of them are used in the country, considerable numbers are driven to Sonora, New Mexico, and other southern provinces, and some of them to the United States, for a market. They are smaller than American horses, and I do not think them equal for continous hard service; but on short trips, for riding, their speed and endurance are not often, if ever, equalled by our breed of horses. The value of good horses is from ten to twenty-five dollars; of mares, five dollars. The prices have, however, since the Americans came into the country, become fluctuating, and the value of both horses and cattle is increasing rapidly.
The wild animals of California are the wild-horse, the elk, the black-tailed deer, antelope, grizly bear, all in large numbers. Added to these are the beaver, otter, coyote, hare, squirrel, and the usual variety of other small animals. There is not so great a variety of small birds as I have seen elsewhere. I do not consider that the country presents strong attractions for the ornithologist. But what is wanting in variety is made up in numbers. The bays and indentations on the coast, as well as the rivers and lakes interior, swarm with myriads of wild geese, ducks, swans, and other water birds. The geese and ducks are a mongrel race, their plumage being variegated, the same as our barn-yard fowls. Some of the islands in the harbour, near San Francisco, are white with the guano deposited by these birds; and boat-loads of eggs are taken from them. The pheasant and partridge are abundant in the mountains.
In regard to the minerals of California, not much is yet known. It has been the policy of the owners of land upon which there existed minerals to conceal them as much as possible. A reason for this has been, that the law of Mexico is such, that if one man discovers a mine of any kind upon another man’s land, and the proprietor does not work it, the former may denounce the mine, and take possession of it, and hold it so long as he continues to work it. Hence the proprietors of land upon which there are valuable mineral ores conceal their existence as much as possible. While in California I saw quicksilver, silver, lead, and iron ores, and the specimens were taken from mines said to be inexhaustible. From good authority I learned the existence of gold and copper mines, the metals being combined; and I saw specimens of coal taken from two or three different points, but I do not know what the indications were as to quality. Brimstone, saltpetre, muriate and carbonate of soda, and bitumen, are abundant. There is little doubt that California is as rich in minerals of all kinds as any portion of Mexico.
I have taken much pains to describe to the reader, from day to day, and at different points during my travels in California, the temperature and weather. It is rarely so cold in the settled portions of California as to congeal water. But twice only while here I saw ice, and then not thicker than window-glass. I saw no snow resting upon the ground. The annual rains commence in November, and continue, with intervals of pleasant springlike weather, until May. From May to November, usually, no rain falls. There are, however, exceptions. Rain sometimes falls in August. The thermometer, at any season of the year, rarely sinks below 50̊ or rises above 80̊. In certain positions on the coast, and especially at San Francisco, the winds rise diurnally, and blowing fresh upon the shore render the temperature cool in midsummer. In the winter the wind blows from the land, and the temperature at these points is warmer. These local peculiarities of climate are not descriptive of the general climate of the interior.
For salubrity I do not think there is any climate in the world superior to that of the coast of California. I was in the country nearly a year, exposed much of the time ] great hardships and privations, sleeping, for the most part, in the open air, and I never felt while there the first pang of disease, or the slightest indication of bad health. On some portions of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, where vegetation is rank, and decays in the autumn, the malaria produces chills and fever, but generally the attacks are slight, and yield easily to medicine. The atmosphere is so pure and preservative along the coast, that I never saw putrified flesh, although I have seen, in midsummer, dead carcasses lying exposed to the sun and weather for months. They emitted no offensive smell. There is but little disease in the country arising from the climate.
The botany and flora of California are rich, and will hereafter form a fruitful field of discovery to the naturalist. There are numerous plants reported to possess extraordinary medical virtues. The "soap-plant" (amole) is one which appears to be among the most serviceable. The root, which is the saponaceous portion of the plant, resembles the onion, but possesses the quality of cleansing linen equal to any "oleic soap" manufactured by my friends Cornwall and Brother, of Louisville, Ky.
There is another plant in high estimation with the Californians, called canchalagua, which is held by them as an antidote for all the diseases to which they are subject, but in particular for cases of fever and ague. For purifying the blood, and regulating the system, I think it surpasses all the medicinal herbs that have been brought into notice, and it must become, in time, one of the most important articles in the practice of medicine. In the season for flowers, which is generally during the months of May and June, its pretty pink-coloured blossoms form a conspicuous display in the great variety which adorn the fields of California.
The water-power in California is ample for any required mill purposes. Timber for lumber is not so convenient as is desirable. There is, however, a sufficiency of it, which, when improvements are made, will be more accessible. The timber on the Sierra Nevada, the most magnificent in the world, cannot be, at present, available. The evergreen oak, that grows generally in the valleys, is not valuable, except for fuel. But in the caZadas of the hills, and at several places on the coast, particularly at Santa Cruz and Bodega, there is an amount of pine and fir, adapted for lumber, that will not be consumed for a long time.
The religion of the Californians is the Roman Catholic, and, like the people of all Roman Catholic countries, they appear to be devotedly attached to the forms of their religion. That there are some, I will not say how many, paganish grafts upon the laws, formalities, and ceremonies, as prescribed by the "Holy Church Universal" for its government and observance, is undeniable, but these probably do not materially affect the system. The females, I noticed, were nearly all devoutly attached to their religious institutions. I have seen, on festival or saint days, the entire floor of a church occupied by pious women, with their children, kneeling in devout worship, and chanting with much fervency some dismal hymn appertaining to the service. There are but few of the Jesuit fathers who established the missions now remaining in the country. The services are performed at several of the churches that I visited, by native Indians, educated by the padres previous to their expulsion by the Mexican government.
I left San Francisco on my return to the United States, on the 2d of June. On the 18th I joined, at Johnson’s settlement on the Sacramento, the party of General Kearny, consisting of General K., Captain Turner, his aid-de-camp, Major Swords, Major Cooke, Dr. Saunderson, and the Honorable W. P. Hall. Colonel Fremont and his exploring party returned to the United States at the same time. We left the valley of the Sacramento on the 19th of June, and reached Fort Leavenworth on the 22d of August, making the journey in sixty-four days. The limits prescribed for his volume will not allow me to sketch the incidents of this journey. Should it appear desirable hereafter, it may be done.
What I Saw in California:
Part 1: Independence, Missouri, to the Green River
Part 2: Hastings Cutoff to California
Part 3: The Donner Party
Part 4: In Northern California
Part 5: To Southern California and Back
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