Time of the Bells, 1769-1835

CHAPTER EIGHT: The Boston Ships

It was the Boston men who ended the isolation of San Diego and introduced American goods and influences into California. The New England maritime merchants and sailors of Boston and Salem and Marblehead took the American flag to every major port in the world, opened many new routes of trade, and in the long view, gave to America the command of the seas. Most of them went to sea while barely in their teens, and expecting no favors but hard work, asking nothing of others or their government but the right to sail the oceans without hindrance, they built their fortunes on danger and chance, and produced the wealth that enriched New England and all of the struggling United States. Their mansions still stand on Boston’s Beacon Hill and around Salem’s Washington Square, with the dignity of a Century and a half.

The men of Salem, most of them Puritans with several centuries of hard living behind them, pushed their ships on the long runs to the mysterious lands beyond the eastern horizon, across the Atlantic Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope, to Arabia, India, and Sumatra and the Spice Islands, and then China. The reports of the Columbia on the possibilities in the fur trade, and the subsequent successful voyage of the Otter, diverted many of the ships of Boston from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They drove their way down the coast of the Americas and around Cape Horn, the most difficult and most terrifying passage in the world, and then sailed up the Pacific Coast, defying the Spaniards at Val­paraiso and Lima, and then sweeping as far north as Nootka Sound. Turning back south they hunted for furs at San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Diego and the offshore islands, and along the Baja California bays. After a final call at San Blas, on the mainland of Mexico, and with hulls stuffed with rich pelts, they squared away for the run across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands, or the Sandwich Islands, as they were known. In all, 18 months to two years had been spent on the Pacific Coast. Hawaii, or 0 whye, as it was often phonetically spelled in those days, became the heart of the Pacific, and on its shore you could buy anything from Lowell shirting to New England rum, and even the first constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii as drawn by Kamehameha III, reflected New England religious influence with its declaration that “no law shall be enacted which is at variance with the words of the Lord Jehovah.” At Hawaii, after resting on its warm sands and among its friendly people, they would pick up a cargo of sandalwood and proceed to China. China was the rich market for sandalwood and seal skins, and in particu­lar, for the most beautiful of all furs — that of the sea otter. Seal skins were taken in tremendous numbers in warm southern waters, by both Salem and Boston ships, and traded in at Canton. Seal skins sold anywhere from 80 cents to $2, while an otter fur brought from $30 to as much as $120.

The Chinese never heated their homes; they merely piled on clothing. The wealthiest clad themselves in the most valuable fur, that of the otter; the middle class, in seal skin, and the poor, in wadded cotton. Foreigners generally were not welcome in China and cargo-laden ships stopped at Portuguese Macao for “chop” or permission from Chinese officials to proceed to Whampoa, where they were forced to drop anchor and ferry their goods by small boats 12 miles upstream to the hongs of Canton. Though restricted, American traders and seamen got along well with the Chinese and established a relationship that lasted well into the 20th Century. Canton was a place to stir any young Puritan from the cold shores of New England. The river was filled with flower boats with their painted windows and carved in the shape of flowers and birds; mandarin boats with colored silk pennants, and tea­deckers with topsides lacquered in bright colors and with square sails of brown matting. Thousands of persons lived on the little sampans that choked the river shores. At night, the light from paper lanterns cast a soft glow over a strange world. From Canton back to New England was a long way. The ships would catch the northeast monsoon down the China Sea, passing the Borneo coast, sliding through the tight Banka Straits close to the Sumatra coast, and after squeezing through the Sunda Straits and passing Java Head, entering the open water for the crossing of the Indian Ocean to Madagascar. From there it was around the Cape of Good Hope, a stop at St. Helena’s Island in the mid-central At­lantic, and the long open haul to Cape Cod.

The ships in the Canton trade were not large, which reduced losses by storm and accident, and the fewer the sails to handle the less the trouble. But they were fast and safe. They were armed and willing to fight, as the Spaniards at San Diego were to learn. The Spaniards tried to close the door to California but it didn’t work. In the early days, when the possibilities of the fur trade were first realized, more than 10,000 skins valued at three million dollars had found their way from California to China on the Manila Galleons, to be traded for quicksilver, the first being collected and shipped through San Diego in 1786. But various restrictions, rival­ries, unreliability of Indian hunters, and official ineptitude, virtu­ally brought the legitimate trade to a halt. The way was open for a contraband trade that appealed to American adventurers.

The sea otters which they hunted were found all along the coast in the cold Japanese current from the Aleutian Islands to Sebastian Vizcaíno Bay half way down the peninsula of Baja California. Its jet black or deep velvety brown fur cost the lives of hundreds of men, the loss of many ships, and brought nations to the brink of war. The Russians, first in the trade and all the time pushing further and further south, were the most greedy and the most merciless. They enslaved the Aleut Indians as huntsmen, chained their women as hostages, and with spear and rifle slaughtered all the herds they could find. To the Russians, “the Czar is far away, and God does not care.”

In return for the fur, the Chinese traded many kinds of fragrant teas, soft crepes, silks, sugar, carved chests, nankeens, rare china­ware and fans — all in demand in the expanding civilization along our eastern seaboard. For the Americans, the Indians caught otter and traded the pelts in exchange for mirrors, bright pieces of cloth, sheets of copper, scarlet coats, shoes, buttons, blankets, nails, second-hand keys for necklaces, and old government muskets and blunderbusses. For the practical mission fathers, as the trade developed, there were goods and supplies from New England factories that Spain and Mexico had never been able to supply, all of which was to have a profound effect on the future of California.

The situation in the Northwest was fraught with danger at all times, as the Indians were barbarous and deceitful. At least two American vessels met disaster in those waters. At Nootka Sound the ship Boston anchored near a native village, where its tall chief, splashed with red paint and wearing a robe of otter fur, invited the crew to go salmon fishing. When most of them had gone the chief signaled his warriors and they boarded the ship. The captain was beaten and thrown overboard and finished off by other Indians in canoes. All on board were slain and their severed heads arranged in a neat row on the quarterdeck. The ship was beached and ran­sacked. Most of those who had gone fishing were ambushed and killed. Two men held as hostages later were rescued.

John Jacob Astor, a German immigrant who was building a fortune on furs, sent another vessel, the Tonquin, under Capt. Jonathan Thorn, on leave from the U.S. Navy, with a crew of 21 and 33 passengers to build and establish a fort, named Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River. The ship then proceeded to Nootka Sound, where Capt. Thorn invited natives to come aboard for trading. A row ensued, blows were exchanged, and the Indians left. The next day they were back, all smiles. But hidden in furs were knives and each native had marked his man. The officers and crew were knifed and thrown overboard, and 500 natives crowded onto the ship to loot her. Suddenly she blew up. Evidently some sailors had hidden in the hold, and chose to ignite the powder magazines and blow themselves up with the ship to avenge the death of their companions.

The Yankee trader was a sharp one, and they had to watch each other as closely as they did the foreigners. San Diego began to see the sails of many foreign ships, despite everything the Spaniards could do to control illicit trade. American ships traded off the lonely sections of the coast out of reach of officialdom, and at other times put into harbors with sad stories of being short of water and provisions, or being desperately in need of repairs, all generally being merely excuses to remain in port to contact the settlements and buy furs from soldiers, citizens or Indians, gener­ally under cover of darkness. As a matter of fact the padres of Spain and the Puritans of New England got along famously, and when not under the annoying eye of military authority, often traded and bargained, enjoyed convivial hours and many toasts to each other’s health and happiness.

The 104-ton brigantine Betsy, the first of the fur hunting ships to enter San Diego Bay, told port authorities that she had just come from the Hawaiian Islands, and was enroute to China but desperately short of water and wood. Capt. Charles Winship was granted time in port to provision the ship, but in a letter to his brother in Boston he indicated he had not been to the Islands but had been cruising the California coast for otter. Two months later the Betsy showed up at San Blas, not China. Here, the captain had another story. The main mast had been broken in a terrible storm and he had only put into San Blas because he hadn’t been able to find San Diego. The Betsy left San Blas in a hurry, with the appearance of Spanish ships, so much so that Capt. Winship and the supercargo, or business agent, Joseph O’Cain, were left behind. Winship died there at the age of 23, while O’Cain managed to get back to Boston and, in command of another vessel, changed the course of the entire otter trade.

The Betsy reached Canton under the command of the first mate, a Capt. Brown, and he disposed of its cargo of furs, later coming under some suspicion himself. Sullivan Dorr, a representative at Canton for the famous Dorr shipping family of Boston, reported that “as to Capt. Brown’s pillaging the owners of the Betsy, I can’t say; there is sufficient room in this country to cheat owners and it is not improbable that Brown allowed a high price for tea and received a private compensation for so doing … you cannot be too scrupulous about employing men of integrity where you must pay well so that they, may not turn thieves, for there is ample field for villainy here.” The Betsy was a small ship, only 65 feet long, with one deck, two masts and a woman figurehead, and apparently was lost on a return trip to Boston. The 1802 Boston Ship Register is endorsed, “Vessel and papers destroyed by the natives on the Coast of Africa.”

A New York ship, the 240-ton Enterprise, bound for Canton “with skins and dollars,” followed the Betsy into San Diego Bay, in July of 1800, her captain, Ezekial Hubbard, putting forth the familiar plea of the need for bread and wood. The hospitable Spaniards by now were getting a little suspicious and Lt. Don Manuel Rodriguez, who was the presidio commander, required the Enterprise to anchor a league from the harbor and transact busi­ness by small boats, under the supposedly watchful eye of a guard at Ballast Point. Provisioning required six days; then the Enterprise sailed for Ensenada Bay, telling the same story there and getting help, and then repeating it at San Quintin, 200 miles south of San Diego, and at San José del Cabo, at the tip of the peninsula. The Enterprise arrived at Canton in such a leaky condi­tion she had to be sold off.

Following the Betsy and the Enterprise, came the Alexander, the Lelia Byrd and the O’Cain, and all had vivid histories. The Alexander, a ship of 180 tons and 14 guns, and with a crew of 19, arrived in San Diego in 1803, and Capt. John Brown had a new story: His men were down with scurvy and needed time on shore to recuperate. Rodriguez was very sympathetic, permitted the Alexander to remain in the harbor, and provided food and supplies as well. But, as duty was duty, he placed six soldiers on the ship to make sure nothing went wrong. The ailing men were kept at a safe distance from the presidio, but in spite of all the precautions, Rodriguez felt something was being put over on him, and he ordered a search of the ship. His officers found 491 otter furs, which they declared to be contraband and which were confiscated and stored in the presidio warehouse along with other seized furs. It seems that the soldiers also helped themselves to whatever they could slip away from the ship.

Capt. Brown was ordered to leave the port immediately, which he did, and put in at Ensenada on the pretext of needing more supplies but in reality to engage in further contraband. A few months later the Alexander turned up in San Francisco Bay, and Capt. Brown had another long story of needing wood and water. As nobody there was aware of her actions in the south, the Alexander was able to remain for seven days. She was back yet soon after, claiming to be in great distress because of troubles with Indians along the Northwest Coast. By this time, the Spaniards at San Francisco also had had enough of the Alexander and she was forced to leave. The officials at Monterey, however, were in ignorance as to the Alexander‘s tactics, and provided the ship with supplies as well as repairs. Capt. Brown hoisted anchor in the dead of night and sailed away without paying her bills. He had out­foxed the enemy.

Who owned all the furs confiscated at San Diego is not known for certain, but a corporal subsequently asked the governor to re­turn to him 223 furs which he said he had merely pretended to sell to an American frigate, and a padre at San Luis Rey Mission asked for the return of 170 skins which he said mission Indians had sold to the Americans. They were not returned.

The Alexander had always seemed to be in trouble somewhere and in some way. On an earlier voyage to the Northwest Coast and China, her captain, Asa Dodge, after days of what was described as licentious behavior at the Sandwich Islands, had jumped overboard and been lost and, in another incident, the ship’s powder magazine had exploded and killed 10 men. In the end, the 67-footAlexander met the fate of so many of the proud adventurers of the seas. On her way home she was condemned at the Cape of Good Hope, as “unfit for sea,” and sold off.

Now we come to the battle, the famous exchange between the American brig Lelia Byrd and the Spanish fort on Point Guijarros. It had taken more than five years to build and equip a fort near the base of Ballast Point, back almost against the foot of the Point Loma hills. It is assumed it was a three-sided open structure, perhaps 75 to 100 feet in length overall, with its guns thus pointing through apertures south to the harbor entrance, straight ahead to the channel, and north to the customary anchorage between Bal­last Point and what is now Shelter Island. It was built up of dirt, gravel and rocks and then faced with heavy timbers. It did seem to have an esplanade, at least around the base on which the guns were positioned. A flat boat was built to convey soldiers and supplies across the bay from the presidio. Behind the fort were some crude barracks and in a canyon a small dam was built as a reservoir to catch and store water. Various accounts tell of six to 12 guns. They weren’t toys, as the Lelia Byrd discovered. They could blast heavy iron balls through the sides of ships, red-hot ones to set them afire, and balls chained together to foul the rigging. The only difficulty was that the enemy might shoot back.

The Lelia Byrd is described in customs house records as a “fast, Virginia-built brig of 175 tons,” but little is known of her appear­ance. She was purchased at Hamburg, Germany, by Richard J. Cleveland and William Shaler, of Salem, and overhauled and re­fitted. They drew lots for positions, Cleveland becoming master and Shaler, supercargo, or business agent, and decided to enter the Northwest fur trade. They were adventurers as well as traders. At Valparaiso in May of 1802, they found a rival ship, the Hazard, and then went on to San Blas. There, and at Las Tres Marias Islands, they spent six months and, playing politics, managed to dispose of $10,000 worth of goods and buy 1600 otter skins. A rumor reached them of large numbers of otter skins at San Diego and they headed the Lelia Byrd north and passing the fort on Point Guijarros without as much as being hailed, anchored late in the day of March 17, 1803.

Next day, when Lt. Rodriguez with a guard of 12 men came on board, he heard the usual plea of the need of supplies, and promised three cattle, nine arrobas of flour, some salt and 24 chickens, for an assurance that the Lelia Byrd would leave the port promptly. Just to make sure it did not engage in illicit trade, Rodriguez put aboard five soldiers under Sgt. Joaquin Arce.

Capt. Cleveland insists that when Rodriguez came aboard he waited at the rail until his dragoons had lined up, with their hats in one hand and swords in the other, to form an honor guard through which he could pass to go aft.

“We had been told at San Blas that Don Manuel was an especially vain and pompous man; and indeed we found him so, for such a ridiculous display of a little brief authority and pompous parade, I never before wit­nessed. His dress and every movement evinced the most arrant coxcomb.”

Cleveland tried to induce Rodriguez to sell the furs which had been confiscated from the Alexander, but met stern resistance. Cleveland was not to be defeated. He and his men inspected the fort and found eight brass nine-pounders mounted on carriages and a plentiful supply of ball, and “as the examination of the battery belonging to the most jealous and suspicious people on earth was a delicate business, we did not remain long.” While ashore Cleveland learned that some of the soldiers had skins they were willing to sell, if they could do so without getting caught. That night, Cleveland sent two boats around the bay. One did return with some skins. The other boat was seized and the ship’s mate and two sailors bound and placed under guard. The enraged Cleveland armed four of his men and went to the rescue. Appar­ently the captives were released without any shots being fired, but the situation was out of hand and sails were hoisted for a retreat past the guns of Fort Guijarros. Sgt. Arce and his guard were still aboard as helpless hostages.

Cleveland’s narrative of his experiences published as “A Narra­tive of Voyages and Commercial Enterprises,” in 1824, reads as follows:

“Arriving safely on board, we perceived our men to be so indignant at the treatment of their shipmates, as to be ready for the fight, even had the odds been greater against us. We had, however, a disagreeable and very hazardous task to perform; a failure in which would be attended with ruin to us, besides subjecting us to the humiliating treatment of an incensed petty tyrant. Our position, at anchor was about a mile within the fort, of which mention has been made. It was necessary to pass within musketshot of this fort. With a strong wind, the quick passage of the vessel would render the danger trifling; but, unfortunately, we had now but the last expiring breath of the land breeze, sufficient only to give the ship steerage way, and an hour would elapse before we could presume on passing the fort; but no other alternative was left us, that did not present a more dreaded aspect.

“While making our preparations, we perceived that all was bustle and animation on shore; both horse and foot were flocking to the fort. Our six three pounders, which were all brought on the side of the ship bearing on the fort, and our fifteen men was all our force, with which to resist a battery of six nine pounders, and, at least an hundred men. As soon as our sails were loosed and we began to heave up the anchor, a gun without shot was discharged from the battery and the Spanish flag hoisted; perceiving no effect from this, they fired a shot ahead. By this time our anchor was up, all sail was set, and we were gradually approaching the fort. In the hope of preventing their firing, we caused the guard in their uniforms to stand along in the most exposed and conspicuous station; but it had no effect, not even when so near the fort, that they must have been heard imploring them to desist firing, and seen to fall with their faces to the deck, at every renewed discharge of the cannon. We had been subjected to a cannonade of three quarters of an hour, without returning a shot and, fortunately, with injury only to our rigging and sails. When arrived abreast the fort, several shots struck our hull, one between wind and water, which was temporarily stopped by a wad of oakum. We now opened our fire, and, at the first broad­side, saw numbers, probably of those who came to see the fun, scampering away up the hill at the back of the fort. Our second broadside seemed to have caused the complete abandonment of their guns, as none were fired afterwards; nor could we see any person in the fort, excepting a soldier who stood upon the ramparts, waving his hat, as if to desist firing.”

Once out of the range of the fort’s guns, the Lelia Byrd put the terrified Spanish guards ashore and restored their arms. The last heard of them they were shouting “Vivan, utuan los Americanos”!

Rodriguez’ official version of the Battle of March 21 was slightly different. He claimed that the only reason for firing was to prevent the ship leaving with the captive Spaniards aboard, and when Sgt. Arce shouted that they were to be put ashore, the fort with­held its fire. However, when the Lelia Byrd drew abreast of the fort, and its guns opened up, the fire was returned but no damage was done to the fort or its defenders.

The Lelia Byrd sailed on south. At San Quintíin Bay she was visited by Dominican friars from Baja California missions who, upon learning of the ship’s arrival, had come to the bay by horse to pitch camp and engage in trading furs for European goods. Several days went by before any mention was made of the affair at San Diego, and then the subject was broached by a padre, with an air of innocence, who gave an accurate account of all that had happened. An unsealed letter written by the corporal of Fort Guijarros to a superior at Loreto had been passed down the line of missions and evidently had been read by everybody.

According to Cleveland, the corporal accused the commandant of enticing the Lelia Byrd into difficulties, then taking care not to enter the fort until the vessel was beyond cannon shot.

“He was profuse in his apologies to us. Our forbearance so long before returning the fire, our humanity and generosity to the guards, under such provocation, and our ceasing fire when they did, were considered by the corporal as acts of magnanimity which should recommend us to the kindness and hospitality of all good Spaniards.”

The padres vied with each other to serve the Lelia Byrd and “they expressed great disgust with the character and conduct of Rodriguez and called him a poltroon who had subjected the Royal Flag of Spain to insult.”

As for the embittered corporal, José Velásquez, who had written the letter, he was placed under arrest by Rodriguez, not for derelic­tion of duty, but on a charge of trading with the enemy. The American goods found in his possession were seized and sold at auction for $212.

The Lelia Byrd had put into San Quintín Bay to repair damage, which consisted mostly of plugging up the holes in her side. Here, they found the Alexander, and after exchanging notes on their various encounters with the Spaniards, Cleveland and Shaler evidently continued their illusive wanderings and tradings up and down the coast, as a communication to the Viceroy recently found in Mexico reveals the Lelia Byrd, or el pájaro, the bird, as she was known to the Spaniards, had stopped at Monterey and dropped off a “black sailor” at his own request, and then stopped at San Buenaventura, to leave an Irish sailor who liked what he had seen of California. All ports were warned to watch out for her, but for the time being she disappeared.

The Lelia Byrd went on to Canton, where accumulated skins were sold and Cleveland left her to return to Boston on another vessel. Shaler, now in command, headed back for the West Coast and showed up at Guaymas in 1804. The port commandant, warily noting her 14 cannons but carrying out the orders he had received two years before, went aboard for an inspection. The crew took up their arms on the pretext their guns needed cleaning.

Shaler reported he had a cargo of Asian and European goods for trading along the Northwest Coast and had merely stopped at Guaymas for repairs. The port commandant was unable to verify any of the captain’s statements, as all ship’s papers were written in English, and she was allowed to depart. The commandant’s report also gives us a little sidelight on life at sea in those times, in revealing the ship carried a woman and an Indian girl. The Lelia Byrd made two visits off San Diego, in the following year, but they passed without incident. Eventually she went back to the Hawaiian Islands, where Shaler sold her to the king. She wound up in the opium trade in the Orient and rotted away on Whampoa Beach.

Shaler, who later entered the United States Consular Service and served with distinction, produced an account of one of his journeys, as had so many others, and observed that “the conquest of this country would be absolutely nothing; it would fall without an effort to the most inconsiderable force.” He said San Diego Bay was a safe anchorage for ships of any “burthen,” but …

“There is a sorry battery of eight pounders at the entrance; at present it does not merit the least consideration as a fortification, but with a little expense might be made capable of defending this fine harbor. The presidio is about four miles distant from the anchorage. A considerable force would be necessary to hold this post, as a landing might be effected on the back of it, at the false port of San Diego (Mission Bay). The entrance of this port is said to be too shoal for ships.” As for the southern climate, he found it “particularly favorable to horses and mules, as they retain their strength and vigor till past 30 years.” Shaler succumbed to cholera in 1833, at Havana, at the age of 55.

The Hazard, a large ship of Boston, with a crew of 50, and an armament of 22 cannon and 20 swivel guns, first appeared at San Francisco, at the same time as the Alexander, but badly riddled by bullets from an engagement against Indians in the Northwest, and in need of water and wood. Her difficulties must have been obvious, as she was given assistance, and then departed before the arrival of a belated Spanish order that she was to be seized before she and the Alexander could unite for an attack on Spanish presidios. As far as is known no such attack was contemplated. Capt. James Rowan took his vessel down the coast, at times giving his ship another name and repeating the woeful tale of disaster at the hands of Northwest Indians, and finally hauled up off San Diego. What happened here is not known, but if Capt. Rowan had any thought of dealing for the furs that had been confiscated from the Alexander, he was doomed to disappointment. The skins had rotted in the presidio warehouse, a loss of a fortune, and the now ­thoroughly alerted Rodriguez bid the Hazard to be on her way.

It remained for Joseph O’Cain, who had been left at San Blas by the Betsy, to now put the sea otter trade on a more profitable basis. In command of the O’Cain, a ship of 280 tons which carried 18 guns, and was owned primarily by the Winship family of Boston, he sailed for Kodiak Island, in Alaskan waters, where he made a deal with the Russian, Alexander Baranov, the “Lord of the North Pacific,” to supply him with Aleut hunters and their baidarkas, or canoes, and agreeing to share skins and profits. From there O’Cain proceeded directly to San Diego, in January of 1804, and when he was refused provisions, went on to San Quintin Bay, where he unfolded the usual story of having experienced terrible storms and heavy damage. While there his Aleut hunters fanned out over the sea and in a short time took 1100 sea otters. From the padres of Baja California they obtained 700 more. The Russian-­American partnership became the new practice, and Yankee ships with as many as 100 Aleuts ravaged the otter herds of both Cali­fornias. By then the otters were beginning to show some signs of thinning out. In 1805, three ships left Boston for the Northwest fur trade and contract-hunting with the Russians. The Peacock was commanded by O’Cain’s brother-in-law, Oliver Kimball, and the O’Cain, by Jonathan Winship. O’Cain himself was on another new vessel, the Eclipse. Rodriguez was ready for them. When the Peacock appeared off Los Angeles, Rodriguez sent soldiers up from San Diego and seized three of the crew at San Juan Capistrano. The Peacock rushed down to San Diego, and though anchoring at a safe distance from the guns of Fort Guijarros, managed to get two letters ashore, one being a petition to the governor for release of the prisoners, and the other, instructing the prisoners to escape. When the letters were seized and opened, the Peacock gave up and went to Ensenada. The O’Cain, with 100 Aleut hunters, 12 native women and 50 baidarkas, began working the waters of Baja California, the ship innocently visiting the ports of Ensenada and San Quintín while the Aleuts secretly hunted from the off-shore islands. It took some time for the Spaniards to catch up with this one. The Eclipse with O’Cain began cruising the California coast and then, also anchoring just beyond the range of San Diego’s battery, requested food and water, and as usual, met the customary rebuff. When the ship left, Rodriguez sent a guard under Corporal Juan Osuna all the way to Ensenada, just in case. O’Cain was reaching the end of his patience too, and with a force of his own of 15 men, he captured Osuna and his four soldiers and took them as prisoners aboard the Eclipse. He released two of them with a message to Rodriguez that unless the pilot of the Peacock, who had been seized at San Juan Capistrano, was released forthwith, the Eclipse would sail back to San Diego and bombard both the fort and the presidio to the humiliation of the Empire of Spain. It isn’t too clear how it all came out, though there is indication all the prisoners, on both sides, were freed.

California waters were almost becoming American waters, and Spanish pueblos New England colonies. And the fighting ships of the expanding United States were making their strength felt in all parts of the world. They were punishing the pirate cutthroats of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli and assuring the freedom of the seas.