The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1973, Volume 19, Number 4
Cover: Morning on the Bay by Alfred Mitchell

By Sally Cavell Johns

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The War with Mexico began in May, 1846, without full support of the United States Congress. The necessity and justification for the war is still a debatable issue among historians.1 Nevertheless, after the outbreak of hostilities in Texas, United States territorial ambitions included New Mexico and California. In the latter area, an easy conquest at first seemed assured, but the Americans soon found that the Californios could fight effectively in defense of their homeland. For a few short months, Spanish-speaking vaqueros turned the tide against numerically superior forces. Finally, at the Battle of San Pasqual, the aroused California lancers would show the Army of the West just how deadly an opponent they could be.

The initial success of American forces in the conquest of California in July, 1846, can largely be attributed to a lack of organized resistance on the part of the Californios. Mexico had neglected its most northern province after the War for Independence in 1821 had broken ties with Spain. The Californios wanted to manage their own affairs, but lacked experience in self-government. The unsettled political climate following the expulsion of the last governor appointed in Mexico had caused some residents to regard American rule as the best hope for future tranquility and progress.2 Jealousy and rivalry had weakened the effectiveness of local California leaders who did little to unite their followers in a determined stand against the intruders. While some Spanish-speaking residents actually joined the United States forces, many resented a foreign flag waving over their peaceful pueblos. Resistance grew as American occupation progressed throughout the province.

Deplorable conditions in California during the spring of 1846 may be attributed to internal dissension and the lack of common goals between the northern and southern part of the province. Pío Pico,3 the civil governor, controlled the legislature, which had transferred its meeting place to Los Angeles. At the same time José Castro,4 the military comandante, had possession of the custom house in Monterey and its revenues. The damaging quarrel between these two men, each of whom had his personal spheres of influence, divided the territory. Both attempted to raise armies, but for defense against each other rather than for resistance to any foreign invasion.5

After the arrival of the United States Navy in Monterey on July 2, 1846, the two California leaders made a half-hearted attempt at cooperation. On July 12, Governor Pico, with a force of 100 men, met with General Castro and his followers at a ranch just north of San Luis Obispo to make up their differences, at least outwardly.6 Since the soldiers still exhibited a lack of unity and trust in their fellow Californians, the two armies then marched in separate units toward Los Angeles.7

The Reverend Walter Colton,8 a chaplain in the United States Navy, had the opportunity of observing the Californios before they left Monterey and wrote that José Castro was

…an officer of high pretensions, but utterly deficient in strength and steadiness of purpose, … His followers had gathered to him with as little discipline, sobriety, and order, as would characterize a bear-hunt. Their prime impulse lay in the excitement which the camp presented. It was the same thing to them whether their weapon was a rifle or a guitar, —whether they were going to a skirmish or a fandango. With six or eight hundred of these waltzing warriors General Castro was now on his march into the southern department, with the evident purpose of taking up his position near the Pueblo de los Angeles.9

Castro established his force a short distance from Los Angeles and on August 7, wrote to Commodore Robert F. Stockton,10 implying a willingness to discuss a means of preventing hostilities. In reply, Stockton stated that he would halt his forces and negotiate a treaty if the general raised the American flag in California.11 Two days later Castro addressed a letter to the commodore flatly refusing to hoist a foreign flag over the territory.12 On the same day Castro wrote to Governor Pico announcing his decision to leave the area.

On August 10, Pío Pico decided the best course of action would be to depart for Mexico. In his last official act before leaving Los Angeles, he issued a proclamation to the people explaining that the government was “. . . completely lacking in all resources to carry on a war.”13 He warned the populace not to yield to the deceitful promises of the invaders, but added:

Fellow citizens: I recommend unity, order, and civility to you so as not to give the enemy the least occasion to judge you of being anti-social, and that you may not be the object of his chastisement.14

Following the departures of Pío Pico and José Castro, the United States naval forces entered Los Angeles without opposition and raised the Stars and Stripes. On August 31, Stockton appointed Captain Archibald Gillespie15 military commandant of the town, with instructions to be vigilant, firm and strict, and “…by no means permit anyone to escape.”16 Gillespie then proceeded to demonstrate such a gross lack of tact and understanding in his handling of the citizens that people rose in anger and indignation.17

On September 23, the first attack on Gillespie’s small garrison in Los Angeles failed to dislodge the Americans; but four days later, the Californios gained a victory over their foe at the Chino Rancho of Isaac Williams.18 Encouraged by their success, the local inhabitants then gathered a large force which surrounded the detachment in the pueblo and forced Gillespie to evacuate his post on September 30. He and his men retreated to San Pedro and there, on the evening of October 4, took refuge on a merchant ship at anchor in the harbor.19

José Castro and Pío Pico had been in Sonora since August and the Californios had no official leader. When the citizens in Los Angeles revolted, they chose José Maria Flores, 20 a lieutenant-colonel in the Mexican army, to be comandante general. José Antonio Carrillo,21 a native Californian who had served in the army under Castro, acted as second in command with the rank of mayor general. Andrés Pico,22 a former lieutenant, became the third major officer in the newly formed army, with the title of comandante de escuadron.23

The Californios issued a proclamation on September 24, 1846, calling for the populace to take up arms against the invaders and drive them out of the territory. The revolt spread northward, forcing the dozen Americans holding Santa Barbara to flee to the mountains.24 Flores appointed a local ranchero, Don Agustin Janssens,25 military commandant of the area, with orders to hold the line from Santa Inés to San Luis Obispo.26

When news of the revolt reached Commodore Stockton in Monterey, he immediately ordered the Savannah27 to sail for San Pedro where she arrived on October 5.28 At eight o’clock the next morning a party of 310 men, sailors, marines, and volunteers, landed and began the march toward Los Angeles. After fourteen miles of walking, the foot-sore detachment halted at two o’clock in the afternoon at the Dominguez ranch where they remained for the rest of the day. During the night the Californios harassed the encampment, allowing the sailors, tired by their unaccustomed role as infantrymen, little rest.29

The next day the Californios, ably commanded by José Antonio Carrillo, so adeptly maneuvered. their one small cannon mounted on a wagon that the Americans had to halt their advance. In this engagement, known as the “Battle of the Old Woman’s Gun,”30 the lancers demonstrated their superb horsemanship and effective use of limited weapons. A council of naval officers decided that any attempt to retake Los Angeles without horses and artillery would be hopeless, so the detachment retraced its steps and re-embarked on the Savannah on October 9.31 During this encounter, four sailors were killed and six additional men received wounds.32

The American force remained on the Savannah, which stayed just outside San Pedro harbor, until the Congress33 arrived on October 26 with Commodore Stockton aboard. The next morning sailors, marines, and volunteers from the two ships made a successful landing. Stockton had expected Major John Charles Frémont to reach Los Angeles with volunteers and horses from the north, but these reinforcements failed to arrive.34 The Californios constantly harassed the American camp and drove off all the animals in the area, so Stockton’s men were unable to obtain horses for the transportation of provisions. The commodore considered the retaking of Los Angeles impossible under the circumstances and ordered his men back to the ships. On October 26, the Congress sailed for San Diego with Stockton and Gillespie.35

The previous month, on September 15, Gillespie had sent Bear Flag leader Ezekiel Merritt36 with a dozen volunteers to protect San Diego. They were requested by Captain Henry Delano Fitch37 who had feared trouble from roving bands of Mexicans from Sonora.38 When the revolt spread, after the Americans’ enforced departure from San Pedro, the Californios sent a company of men southward to retake the area.39

At the approach of the insurgents, John Bidwell40 abandoned his post at Mission San Luis Rey41 and joined Merritt in San Diego. Rumors of a plot to kill the Americans in town, plus the approach of the Californios, alarmed the small United States garrison. These men, along with the American residents and a number of friendly local citizens, boarded a whaling ship at anchor in the bay. Bidwell then went by boat to San Pedro to ask for reinforcements.42

During the second week of October, Merritt, with about forty men, including the whalers, reoccupied San Diego. Thirty-five sailors and fifteen volunteers from the Savannah joined the force in the pueblo on October 16. For the next two weeks the Americans worked to fortify their position at the west end of town, while the Californios appeared on Presidio Hill above the plaza, occasionally firing on the sailors as they raised or lowered their flag. The insurgents drove off stock from neighboring ranches and almost succeeded in starving out the stranded garrison.43

When Commodore Stockton arrived in San Diego on October 31, he found the besieged town desperately in need of supplies and completely lacking the animals necessary for an assault on Los Angeles.44 Although the Californios continued to annoy the American detachment, the local inhabitants of the town welcomed Stockton and his officers at a dance.45 Gillespie and the volunteers remained in San Diego to procure horses and cattle, while Stockton sailed back to San Pedro to dispatch the Savannah north to aid Frémont, who was also experiencing difficulty obtaining mounts for his men.46

During Stockton’s absence, the Americans at San Diego scoured the surrounding area in an effort to obtain supplies, while the Californios did everything possible to thwart their efforts. When the commodore returned to the pueblo on November 18, José Antonio Carrillo attacked the town but was unsuccessful in expelling the naval forces now firmly established at the port.41

In November, 1846, the United States Navy held the ports of San Diego and Monterey, but the insurgents controlled all the rest of the territory south of San Francisco Bay. Pío Pico, now in Sonora, wrote the Mexican government on November, 15, joyfully describing the victory of the Californios in Los Angeles. He praised Flores for the success of the war, but went on the say, “The State of California finds itself unarmed for the most part without ammunition or other articles of war so indispensable in sustaining a long conflict. . . .”48 Pico renewed an earlier request that Mexico send soldiers to help the local population resist the Americans. The central government, however, had far too many problems of its own and failed to send the desperately needed assistance to remote California.

The opposing commanders, Stockton and Flores, faced similar problems of manpower and supplies—two essentials in waging war. Flores lacked guns and ammunition; Stockton needed horses and food. The commodore had the advantage of a disciplined naval force which would obey commands; while Flores had to contend with volunteers who might decide to go home at any moment. He also faced the old problem of local rivalry and a scarcity of trained military officers loyal to the cause. In the meantime, Frémont had successfully enlisted volunteers from among the American immigrants pouring into northern California. But, he too found himself hampered by the lack of mounts for an overland march. The Californios held the greater extent of land and, most important, were able to frustrate the Americans’ efforts to obtain supplies.

Several years later Frémont wrote:

Flores’ plan of campaign was to confine our naval forces strictly to the seaports which they held under the guns of their men-of-war; the Californians meanwhile to hold possession of their whole interior country, leaving the fate of California, as an integral part of the Mexican territory, to be decided by the negotiations between the two governments at the close of the war. … His intention was, to make it impossible for the Americans to move from their ships, by driving all the stock into the interior; …49

During the months of October and November, Flores appeared to execute this plan with some success. He appointed Manuel Castro50 commander-in-chief in the north, where the Californios; prevented attempts by the Americans to acquire horses for the march south to Los Angeles.51

Joseph Warren Revere,52 a naval lieutenant stationed at Monterey during the latter part of 1846, wrote:

In the existing state of affairs, the Californian movement, although ultimately hopeless, possessed the elements of temporary success. Their forces were easily kept on foot—for the Califorians are a hardy race, and will undergo any amount of fatigue, so long as they are well mounted. In their own climate they are regular Cossacks, so far as regards sleeping at night in the open air, and subsisting on the country people, whether friends or foes. They are the best fellows in the world to send on foraging expeditions, and they will be sure to quarter themselves on somebody. They had the advantage of a perfect knowledge of the country, and possessed the secret sympathy of many of the rancheros who took no active part in the rebellion. They thus enjoyed a monopoly of the horses; and all the beef, tortillas, and other articles of the commissariat which they required, were to be had by them everywhere.53

In addition to their knowledge of the terrain and their ability to live off the land, Lieutenant Revere indicated that:

The Californians had complete possession of the principal points, and possessed great advantages from their superior skill in horsemanship. Their good-understanding and persuasive arts with the rancheros, and their facilities for driving cattle, placed the American forces in a quandary for supplies of provisions, which were not to be obtained without active effort.54

In the south, Flores maintained his headquarters in Los Angeles and sent a detachment of troops under his command against the American forces in San Diego. José Antonio Carrillo had attacked the port on November 18, before returning to Los Angeles. On November 22, Flores ordered Major Andrés Pico55 with 100 men to San Luis Rey to cut off the retreat of a group of Americans whom the Californios believed were headed for Santa Isabel.56 The general instructed Captain Leonardo Cota57 to cooperate with Pico. When two days later the report circulated that the enemy had returned to San Diego, Flores ordered Andrés Pico to make a reconnaissance in the region, while the latter continued to make his headquarters at San Luis Rey.58

Don Andrés Pico, younger brother of Pío, now commanded the Californian forces which surrounded the southern harbor. He knew the country well since he had served as a lieutenant in San Diego in 1839 and presently owned land in the area. Edwin Bryant,59 in a description of Pico, wrote, “The expression of his countenance is intelligent and prepossessing; and his address and manners courteous and pleasing.”60 A sailor described him as “a fine, manly, warm-hearted and honorable gentleman. …”61 A New England merchant living in California recalled Pico as a kind and hospitable man who “was held in the greatest esteem by Americans who knew him.”62 Despite his cordiality, Pico had to defend his province from outside invaders.

On December 2, 1846, the trail-worn Army of the West, under the command of General Stephen Watts Kearny,63 reached the ranch of Jonathan Trumbull Warner.64 The men had survived a perilous sixty-mile trek across the desert without loss of life and arrived in California in good spirits. For the prior month, however, the officers had been concerned about the animals, and many beasts had died during the final week.65 The condition of the remaining mounts required that an effort be made to find replacements. A detachment of twenty-five men managed to obtain horses and mules,66 but the new stock proved to be of questionable value since most of them were unbroken.

At the Warner Ranch, news that the Californios controlled most of the area supplanted the earlier report of an American victory and occupation.67 That initial erroneous intelligence had prompted the general to reduce his strength to 103 dragoons.68

Kearny had now only a meager force with which to enter a territory presently in the hands of the enemy. He dispatched a letter to Stockton in San Diego requesting that a party be sent to join his dragoons “as quickly as possible.”69

The following day Stockton received the message and immediately sent a detachment of mounted riflemen under the command of Captain Gillespie. The force included Rafael Machado,70 a native San Diegan, and Navy Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale71 in charge of a four-pounder fieldpiece. The company marching to join the Army of the West totaled thirty-nine men.

In early December, Leonardo Cota and José Alipas,72 with a detachment of lancers, camped at the Santa Margarita Rancho.73 While there, they learned that Gillespie had left San Diego and headed for the mountains northeast of the pueblo. These Californios believed that the Americans were searching for supplies. Cota and Alipas planned to work in cooperation with Pico’s force to cut off all resources and drive away stock in the area.74

Among the native Californians, conflicting views existed as to whether Andrés Pico knew of the presence of the Army of the West prior to December 5. One source claimed that he did know of the American forces marching into the area and had left Los Angeles with thirty men expressly to attack the enemy. Another source, however, recounted that Pico had no knowledge of the dragoons until the night before the Battle of San Pasqual; a third stated that Don Andrés had no desire to fight Kearny, but circumstances forced him into a battle.75

Additional recollections by early Californios do little to clarify the situation. A prominent northern Californian recalled that Pico took his force south “to molest the enemy that occupied San Diego.”76 A member of Cota’s unit stated that when Don Andrés joined them he brought no news from Los Angeles.77 A soldier with Pico related that Don Andrés’ sister warned him of the approach of the Americans.78

The combined Californian forces under Major Pico and Lieutenant Cota may have totaled the estimated 150 men which Stockton reported to General Kearny.79 The commodore’s information that two enemy groups occupied the countryside appears correct. Gillespie had been scouring the territory for horses,80 and the Californios were attempting to prevent him from obtaining any mounts. The likelihood of Pico’s having advance knowledge of the American troops entering the area from the east seems doubtful considering his actions. Just prior to December 5, Don Andrés divided his force, sending part of it to El Cajon.81 Since Pico had between seventy-two and eighty men at San Pasqual,82 this accounts for the fact that the number was smaller than Stockton reported. That Pico had separated his men into two groups, adds weight to the opinion that he had no previous knowledge of Kearny’s arrival.

On the cold, wet evening of December 5, 1846, Pico and his men rode into the little Indian Village of San Pasqual.83 The Californios commandeered the huts in the village and kindled fires to cook their dinner. The Indians, who feared the lancers, fled to the hills to await the departure of these vaqueros.84

The Californios who camped that night in the village possessed only a few firearms which had been originally obtained from the British. The most common weapon was the steel-tipped eight-foot lance which they wielded with great ability. Much of the force consisted of young vaqueros, skilled in horsemanship, who could effectively use their long reatas.85

Shortly after sunset an Indian came into camp86 with the information that American soldiers had advanced into the area. Kearny had captured this man and later released him; however, Pico did not appear to believe his report.81

Some of the Californios favored abandoning the opposition to the United States because of their lack of resources for waging war. Several felt that Pico would surrender at the earliest opportunity and that he would be sustained in doing so. While most of the horses grazed at some distance from the huts, a few remained close to their owners. José Serrano,88 a local ranchero, kept his mount near so he could avoid personal detention in the event that Pico capitulated.89

The Californios sleeping in the Indian village held varying opinions as to what lay in store for them. For the most part, they were not regularly trained soldiers, but simply a group of men recruited to defend their homeland. They lacked the usual equipment for fighting a battle and possessed no heavy weapons of any kind. Their lances and reatas seemed to be questionable arms in the face of carbines and howitzers. Their one great advantage lay in their fine horses which they rode with superb ability.

The Army of the West camped near Santa Maria Rancho after dark on the evening of December fifth. The force from San Diego stopped several miles away so that sufficient grass could be found for all the animals. After supper Gillespie sent Beale to ascertain what plans Kearny had for the morrow.90

The officers gathered that night in the general’s tent for a strategy session. Beale advised that a fight with the enemy be avoided due to the poor physical condition of the dragoons and their mounts.91 Kearny first determined that Captain Benjamin Moore92 should make an immediate surprise attack upon the enemy, but altered this plan.93 Instead, he decided to send a scouting party, against the counsel of his officers who feared that such a move might alert the foe.94

Kearny sent Lieutenant Thomas C. Hammond95 on a reconnaissance mission to ascertain the strength and position of the enemy. A short distance from the Indian village, the scouting party halted. Rafael Machado, who knew the country and the natives, crawled forward and learned from an Indian that the Californios slept in the huts unaware, or unconvinced, that a considerable American force was in the vicinity.96

On the hill outside the silent village of San Pasqual, Hammond, whose impatience clouded his judgment, rode with clanging saber down into the village.97 The noise awoke the sentries who still seemed to doubt the existence of an enemy. The dragoons then compounded their first error; in a hurried retreat they dropped a military jacket98 which the Californios found and delivered to Pico. No commander would remain in bed with such indisputable evidence at hand. The awakened lancers then saddled their horses and prepared for battle.

Hammond returned to the American camp to report on the enemy’s position, and Kearny determined to attack the enemy at daybreak. At two o’clock on the rainy morning of December 6, 1846, the dragoons saddled their jaded mounts.99 Light had not yet dawned when the Army of the West reached the southeast entrance to the valley. Forty miles away lay their appointed destination—San Diego. Somewhere ahead, the Californios waited to frustrate their arrival.

The troops descended the hill until they were within half a mile of the valley floor. Across the expanse glowed the fires of the Indian village. The Californios waited on their fresh mounts as Captain Abraham Johnston100 led a furious charge onto the plain accompanied by deafening shouts from the Americans. The advance guard of twelve dragoons, mounted on the best horses, soon out-distanced the main force and engaged the enemy in a brief skirmish in which the Californios out-numbered the troopers. Johnston and a private lay dead by the time the main body of soldiers reached the point of conflict.101

After the first short encounter, the Californios galloped off;102 the dragoons gave chase at full speed for the next mile. The trail-weary mules could not keep pace with the newly acquired horses and the disparity of mounts caused the troopers to become widely separated in the headlong chase. The American force, strung out across the valley, presented an inviting picture of disarray. The well-mounted lancers were among the best horsemen in the world and they knew the terrain. From behind a rocky point, slightly hidden from view, the Californios turned upon their pursuers, who realized too late the folly of their charge.103

Captain Moore led the second charge with about forty of the better-mounted officers and men setting the pace.104 As the lancers charged the disorderly ranks, the dragoons found themselves at a great disadvantage. The rain of the night before had dampened their powder and many weapons failed to fire.105 While the troopers struggled with their faulty arms and fought with short sabers, the Californios decimated the ranks of the opposition with their long lances. The vaqueros effectively used their reatas to catch the Americans and yank them from their saddles.106 In hand-to-hand fighting, the soldiers on dilapidated mules and half-broken horses were no match for the quick maneuvering adversary.

The lancers had galloped away by the time the remainder of the dragoons reached the scene of conflict. The battle lasted about one half-hour on the December morning and involved less than half of the Americans who rode into the valley of San Pasqual.107 The Army of the West had possession of the field—a field strewn with the crumpled forms of eighteen American soldiers and three others who would soon die of wounds. An additional seventeen men sustained injuries, while the Californios rode off with no more than a dozen wounded.108

The next day the dragoons became entrapped on Mule Hill, where the men suffered dreadfully for three days from lack of food, water, and wood for fires.109 Only with the timely arrival on December 11 of a detachment of sailors and marines from San Diego were the soldiers able to escape the Californios who had surrounded them.110

Kearny’s now diminished army joined forces with Stockton’s men in the march to Los Angeles, where the final battle occurred on January 9, 1847.111 Four days later Andrés Pico surrendered to Frémont and hostilities in California ended.112

General Kearny in his official report claimed victory at the Battle of San Pasqual,113 but neither Stockton114 nor the Californios felt that the Army of the West had won. Local inhabitants looked upon December 6 as a day of triumph for their lancers.115

The vaqueros had failed to take advantage of their opportunity to annihilate the dragoons, but Pico had been waiting for additional troops to arrive from the north. The revolt against Flores’s authority on December 4 in Los Angeles had deterred him from sending reinforcements,116 so once again internal conflict had prevented the Californios from making effective use of their manpower.

The lancers had demonstrated their ability to fight, but brilliant horsemanship alone was not enough to defeat the American forces. Andrés Pico wrote his assessment of the situation in a letter dated April 15, 1847.



… the morale of the people had fallen, due to a lack of resources…. together with my compatriots we made the last efforts, notwithstanding the extreme lack of powder, arms, men, and all kinds of supplies.117

The vaqueros had risen in indignation to resist the unreasonable demands of the intruders, but failed to generate sufficient unity to erase the years of internal dissension among their leaders. In the cold, gray dawn of December 6, 1846, the lancers had ridden forth to engage the Army of the West in the bloodiest, most hotly contested encounter fought during the conquest of California. The United States won the War with Mexico, but Californios would recall with pride the Battle of San Pasqual.




1. Ramón E. Ruiz, ed., The Mexican War. Was it Manifest Destiny? (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963); and Glenn W. Price, Origins of the War with Mexico (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967).

2. The Californios expelled Manuel Micheltorena in February, 1845, and established home rule.

3. Thomas Larkin, U.S. Consul in Monterey, commented about Pío Pico: “Ranchero aged 45 years. Born in California. Married. A man of wealth, good local information, of great influence, standing and popularity. Always engaged in politics of his country, many years in Office.” Thomas Oliver Larkin, The Larkin Papers, ed. by George P. Hammond (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953), Vol. IV, p. 323.

4. José Castro: “Born in California. Aged 36 years. Of a medium family. From his youth been in public life, rising from a subordinate situation to Lieutenant Colonel by appointment from the President…. A partisan Officer, not of much talent or general information.” Ibid., p. 327.

5. The quarrel between Pico and Castro was continuous and fruitless. They distrusted each other and both sought to gain control of the province. Herbert Howe Bancroft, History of California (San Francisco: The History Company, 1886), Vol. V, pp. 32 – 53.

6. Francis Fish Temple, “Recollections,” MS, Bancroft Library, 1877, p. 9.

7. A member of Pico’s army stated that they had three cannons in Los Angeles which he denied because the officers from the north would demand them. Juan Bautista Moreno, “Vida Militar,” MS, Bancroft Library, 1878, p. 4.

8. Colton, a former Congregationalist minister, came to California on the Congress and was appointed alcalde of Monterey on July 28, 1846.

9. Walter Colton, Three Years in California (New York: A. S. Barnes and Co., 1854), pp. 14 – 15.

10. Stockton, a member of a famous New Jersey political family, joined the navy as a midshipman in 1811 and reached the rank of captain in 1838. He resigned from the Navy in 1850, entered politics and became a United States Senator in 1851. Samuel John Bagard, A Sketch of the Lift of Com. Robert Stockton (New York: Derby and Jackson, 1856).

11. Stockton’s letter to José Castro may be found in Ernest A. Wiltse, “The British Vice-consul in California and the Events of 1846,” California Historical Society Quarterly, X (June, 1931), 120.

12. For Castro’s letter see Ibid., p. 122.

13. Pico’s proclamation on August 10, 1846, in George Tays, ed., “Pío Pico’s Correspondence with the Mexican Government,” California Historical Society Quarterly, XIII (June, 1934), 122.

14. Ibid., p. 123.

15. Gillespie came to California by way of Mexico as a secret agent for President Polk. He delivered a message to Thomas Larkin and then joined Frémont’s exploring party. Werner H. Marti, Messenger of Destiny (San Francisco: J. Howell-Books, 1960).

16. For Gillespie’s own report see George W. Ames, Jr., ed., “Gillespie and the Conquest of California,” California Historical Society Quarterly, XVII (September, 1938), 284.

17. Thomas Larkin, The United States Consul in Monterey, who had worked to bring about a peaceful surrender of California, blamed Gillespie for the revolt in Los Angeles. Larkin, Papers, Vol. V, pp. 311 – 12.

18. Isaac Williams, an American fur trapper, came to California in 1832. He married María Lugo and in 1841 received her father’s ranch at Chino. Joseph S. Wood, “Isaac Williams,” The Mountain Men, ed. by LeRoy Hafen (Glendale: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1969), pp. 371 – 79.

19. Ames, “Gillespie,” pp. 326 – 32.

20. In 1842, Flores came to California with Governor Micheltorena as his secretary. After the governor’s departure, Flores served in the army under Castro and in August, 1846, surrendered to Stockton. He broke his parole when he became the leader of the Californios. Herbert Howe Bancroft, California Pioneer Register and Index (Baltimore: Regional Publishing Co., 1964), p. 144.

21. José Antonio Carrillo: “Army Officer, born in California. Aged 55 years. A man of small property, of one of the oldest Californian families…. Was some years member of Congress in Mexico.” Larkin, Papers, pp. 323 – 24.

22. Andrés Pico, the brother of Pío Pico, was born in San Diego in 1810 and served as a lieutenant in the San Diego Company in 1839. He was in charge of the San Luis Rey Mission and also held land at Santa Margarita, San Juan Capistrano and Temecula. Bancroft, Register, p. 284.

23. Commander of the troop of horses.

24. William A. Streeter, “Recollections of Historical Events in California, 1843 – 1878,” California Historical Society Quarterly, XVIII (June, 1939), 161 – 62.

25. Janssens, a Belgian, came to California in 1834 from Mexico. He married María Antonia. the daughter of Vicente Pico, and in 1844, obtained the rancho of Lomas de la Purficacion in Santa Barbara. Bancroft, Register, p. 199.

26. Victor Eugene Agustin Janssens, The Life and Adventures in California of Don Augustin Janssens, 1834 – 1856, ed., by William H. Ellison and Francis Price (San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1953), pp. 127 – 28.

27. The Savannah, a frigate of 44 guns, arrived in Monterey on July 7, 1846, as Captain John Drake Sloat’s flagship. The ship was transferred to Robert F. Stockton’s command when he took charge of the Pacific Squadron.

28. Stockton’s report to the Secretary of Navy, November 23, 1846, in Bagard, Stockton, Appendix, p. 4.

29. Ames, “Gillespie,” pp. 334 – 36; and Robert Duvall, “Extracts from the Log of the U. S. Frigate Savannah,” California Historical Society Quarterly, III (June, 1924), 116.

30. Walton Bean, California; an Interpretive History (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968). p. 103.

31. Ames, “Gillespie,” pp. 337 – 39.

32. Duvall, “Log of the Savannah.” p. 118.

33. The Congress, a frigate of 44 guns, had sailed from Norfolk on October 30,1845, with Captain Robert Stockton.

34. Colton noted in his diary on October 24, 1846, that Frémont had been unable to obtain horses in Monterey. Colton, Three Years, pp. 79 – 80.

35. Stockton’s report to the Secretary of the Navy, November 34, 1846, in Bagard, Stockton, Appendix, pp. 5 – 6.

36. Merritt joined forces with William B. Ide in the capture of General Vallejo’s headquarters at Sonoma. Andrew F. Rolle, California A History (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company. 1969). pp. 198 – 99.

37. Henry Delano Fitch, “formerly Sea Captain, now Trader and Farmer. Born in New Hampshire. Aged 48 years, over twenty a resident of this country. New citizen. Married into one of the principal families of California. A man of wealth, some influence, of medium information. not of a political character in general.” Larkin. Papers, Vol. IV, p. 322.

38. Letter from Gillespie to Fitch. September 15, 1846, in the “Fitch Documents,” MS, Bancroft Library, p. 400.

39. Francisco Rico, with fifty men, marched toward San Diego. Bancroft. California, Vol. V., pp. 317 – 18.

40. Bidwell became the leader of the “first emigrant train to California.” They reached California in November, 1841, and Bidwell went to work for John Sutter at New Helvetia. Rolle, California, pp. 180 – 81.

41. Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was founded on June 13, 1798, by Fermín Francisco de Lasuén. Pío Pico sold the property to José Cota and José Pico on May 18, 1846. In August, 1846, Frémont placed John Bidwell in charge of the mission buildings. Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt, San Luis Rey Mission (San Francisco: The James H. Barry Company. 1921).

42. William E. Smythe, History of San Diego (San Diego: The History Company, 1908), Vol. I. pp. 202 – 3.

43. Duvall, “Log of the Savannah,” pp. 118 – 19.

44. Ames, “Gillespie,” p. 346.

45. José Maria Estudillo, “Datos Historicos sobre la Alta California,” MS, Bancroft Library, 1878, p. 44.

46. “Report of Commodore Stockton on his Operations on the Coast of the Pacific,” in Bagard, Stockton. Appendix, pp. 24 – 25.

47. Duvall, “Log of the Savannah,” pp. 120 – 21.

48. Tays, “Pío Pico’s Correspondence,” pp. 125 – 26.

49. John Charles Frémont, Memoirs of My Life (Chicago: Belford Clarke and Company, 1887), p. 593.

50. Manuel Castro, “born in Monterey. Aged 25 years, single. Cousin to General Castro. Now Prefecto of Monterey. Of little property, some information, insidious, ambitious, but shuns observation.” Larkin, Papers, Vol. IV, p. 327.

51. Several minor skirmishes took place in the vicinity of San Francisco Bay, but there was no fighting between regular military units. The most important engagement, known as the Battle of Natividad, occurred on November 16, 1846. Bancroft, California, Vol. V, pp. 357 – 72.

52. Revere, a lieutenant on the Cyane, was the officer sent to raise the United States flag at Sonoma in July, 1846. Bancroft, Register, p. 300.


53. Joseph Warren Revere, A Tour of Duty in California (New York: C. S. Francis and Co., 1849), pp. 171 – 72.

54. Ibid., p. 173.

55. In 1845, Larkin listed Andrés Pico as a lieutenant. After the Californios revolted in Los Angeles, he became third in command with the rank of major. Moreno, “Vida Militar,” p. 9.

56. Santa Isabel near present-day Julian, was established as an asistencia, or sub-mission, of the San Diego Mission in 1818.

57. Leonardo was regidor of Los Angeles in 1845 and grantee of Rancho Rio de las Animas in 1846. Bancroft, Register, p. 109.

58. Bancroft, California, Vol. V, pp. 330, 341.

59. Bryant, a journalist in Kentucky, came overland to California in 1846. He took a prominent part in enlisting men for the California Battalion, in which he served as a lieutenant. Bancroft, Register, p. 74.

60. Edwin Bryant, What I Saw in California (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1848), p. 418.

61. This description of Pico was written by Thomas C. Lancy who served in the Pacific Squadron during the War with Mexico. “Cruise of the Dale” by Thomas Lancy originally appeared as a newspaper series in 1879 in the San Jose Pioneer, now on file at the Bancroft Library, p. 113.

62. William Heath Davis, Sixty Years in California (San Francisco: A. J. Leary, 1889), p. 422.

63. Kearny, born in New Jersey in 1794, joined the army as a first lieutenant in 1812. After twenty-one years of service in the army he reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He established the civil government in Santa Fé, New Mexico before marching to California. He was Governor of California from March to June of 1847 and died the following year in St. Louis, Missouri. Dwight L. Clarke, Stephen Watts Kearny. Soldier of the West (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press), 1961.

64. Warner, an American trapper, settled in Los Angeles in 1833, and in 1846 obtained the area now known as Warner Ranch. For a history of this ranch see Joseph J. Hill, The History of Warner’s Ranch and Its Environs (Los Angeles: Privately Printed), 1927.

65. Henry Smith Turner, The Original Journals of Henry Smith Turner, ed. by Dwight L. Clarke (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1966), pp. 86 – 122; and Lieutenant0Colonel W. H. Emory, “Notes of a Military Reconnaissance from Fort Leavenworth, in Missouri, to San Diego, in California,” 30th Cong., 1st Sess., House Executive Document No. 41, pp. 105 – 13.

66. Lieutenant John W. Davidson led the detachment which captured the animals from the Californios. Major Thomas Swords, “Report to Major-General T. S. Jessup, October 8, 1847,” 30th Cong., 2nd. Sess., House Executive Document No. 1, p. 226.

67. Turner, Journal, p. 123; and Emory, “Reconnaissance,” p. 106.

68. Kit Carson, while carrying the dispatches east, had met Kearny on October 6 on the bank of the Rio Grande. At that time Kearny directed 200 of his men to remain in New Mexico. Kearny’s letter to Brigadier-General R. Jones, dated January 12, 1847, Adjutant General Office, U. S. National Archives, Microfilm 539 – 319, frame 289.

69. Edward Stokes, an English sea captain who lived at Santa Isabel, delivered the message. The letter from Kearny to Stockton may be found in Frémont, Memoirs, p. 581.

70. Rafael, the son of José Manuel Machado and María Serafina Valdez, was born in San Diego in 1827. He had returned to San Diego to visit his family. His mother went to Stockton to obtain a safe-conduct pass for her son, and the commodore brought him in for questioning. Raymond Brandes, ed., “Times Gone by in Alta California,” Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, XXXXI (January, 1959), 197 – 218.

71. Beale, a grandson of Commodore Thomas Truxtum, was serving on the Congress and later made six overland transcontinental crossings. He had charge of the experimental use of camels in the southwest. Stephen Bonsal, Edward Fitzgerald Beale (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912).

72. José Alipas resided at San Juan Capistrano and was about forty-two years old at this time. Bancroft, Register, p. 30.

73. Rancho Santa Margarita y las Flores contained 133,440 acres and stretched for thirty-five miles along the coast. Juan Alvarado granted it to Pío Pico and Andr6s Pico on May 10, 1841. Eugene B. Drake, Jimeno’s and Hartnell’s Indexes of Land Concessions from 1830 to 1846 (San Francisco: Kenny and Alexander, Booksellers, 1861).

74. John D. Tanner, ed., “Don Juan Forster, Southern California Ranchero,” Southern California Historical Quarterly, LI (September, 1970), 213.

75. These statements were made by José Palomares, Antonio Osio, and Narciso Botello regarding events preceding the Battle of San Pasqual. See Owen C. Coy, Battle of San Pasqual (Sacramento: California State Printing Office, 1921), pp. 6 – 7.

76. Mrs. Ord (Angustias de la Guerra), “Occurrencias en California,” MS, Bancroft Library, 1878, p. 145.

77. Morena, “Vida Militar,” p. 12.

78. Pablo Vejar, “Recuerdos de un Viejo,” MS, Bancroft Library, 1877, p. 66.

79. Letter to Kearny written by Stockton on December 3, 1846, in San Diego. Bagard, Stockton, p. 132.

80. Gillespie, in a letter to Larkin, remarked that he was constantly engaged in searching for horses. Larkin, Papers, Vol. V, p. 289.

81. Vejar, “Recuerdos,”: p. 66.

82. Forster gave the number of men as seventy-two. Tanner, “Don Juan Forster,” p. 214. Most sources give the number of Californios with Pico as eighty. Earlier, Morena stated that his company with Cola had 112 men and Vejar’s unit had seventy soldiers. Since some of the men went home after the fighting at San Pedro, the original number had likely decreased some.

83. The exact location of the village may be found on the site map of Malcolm J. Rogers on file at the Museum of Man, San Diego. A group of Diegueño called Kamiai occupied this village. A. L. Kroeber, Handbook of the Indians of California (Berkeley: California Book Company, Ltd., 1953), pp. 707 – 25.

84. Elizabeth J. Roberts, Indian Stories of the Southwest (San Francisco: Harr Wagner Publishing Co., 1917), p. 222.

85. Benjamin Hays, “Battle of San Pasqual,” MS, Bancroft Library, n.d., n.p.

86. Vejar, “Recuerdos,” p. 67.

87. Lorenzo Soto recounted this to Benjamin Hayes, “Battle of San Pasqual, Further Notes,” MS Bancroft Library, n.d., n.p.

88. José was the son of Leandro Serrano. José was thirty-two years old at the time of the battle and the grantee of Rancho Pauma. Bancroft, Register, p. 325.

89. Hayes, “Battle of San Pasqual,” n.p.

90. Ames, “Gillespie,” p. 341.

91. Davis, Sixty Years, p. 420.

92. Moore originally joined the Navy as a midshipman in 1829. He left the Navy and joined a battalion of Mounted Rangers in 1832 with the rank of First Lieutenant. In June of 1837 he was a captain in the First Regiment of Dragoons. His service record may be found in a letter dated January 16, 1936, written by Richard J. Duval, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on file at the Serra Museum, San Diego.

93. Dr. Griffin recorded that Kearny originally planned to send sixty men with Moore to make an immediate attack. George W. Ames, Jr., ed., A Doctor Comes to California: Diary of John S. Griffin (San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1943), p. 45.

94. George Pearce, who was in Kearny’s tent that night, recalled the discussion. History of Sonoma County (San Francisco: Alley, Bowen and Co., 1880), p. 580.

95. Hammond, a Pennsylvanian, joined the First Dragoons in 1843 and two years later attained the rank of Second Lieutenant. Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), Vol. I, p. 496.

96. Samuel F. DuPont, Extracts from the Private Journal-Letters of Captain S. F. DuPont (Wilmington: Privately Printed, 1885), p. 100.

97. Ames, “Gillespie,” p. 341.

98. Benjamin Hayes, “Statement of Phillip Crosthwaite,” MS, Bancroft Library, n.d., n.p.

99. Emory, “Reconnaissance,” p. 107.

100. Johnston, an Ohioan, entered West Point in 1830. He reached the rank of First Lieutenant seven years later and in June of 1846 was Captain of Company “B”, First Dragoons. Heitman, Historical Register, Vol. I, p. 577.

101. Letter written by John Mix Stanley on January 19, 1847, in George Winston Smith and Charles Judah, eds., Chronicles of the Gringos (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1968), p. 157.

102. Antonio Osio claimed that Pico feigned a retreat to lure the Americans into a trap. Coy, San Pasqual, p. 7. Forster recalled that the lancers ran for a favorable position. Tanner, “Don Juan Forster,” p. 214.

103. When a soldier years later recalled rounding the point and seeing “. . . a million people making for us. They proved to be about four hundred. . . ” he was not historically accurate; yet he was validly expressing the terror felt at the moment. Asa M. Bowen, “Statements,” MS, Bancroft Library, 1878, p. 2.

104. Ames, A Doctor, p. 46.

105. The dragoons had the Hall breechloading carbine which was the first military arm to use percussion ignition. The men complained that the cold made it difficult to reload the weapons if they managed to fire in the first place. William H. Dunne, “Notes on San Pasqual,” MS, Bancroft Library, 1878, p. 64.

106. Roberts, Indian Stories, p. 224.

107. Stanley’s letter in Smith, Chronicles, p. 158.

108. Captains Moore and Johnston, fourteen dragoons, one volunteer, and one number of the Topographical Corps died during the fighting. Hammond died within a few hours, and two dragoons succumbed to their wounds several days later. An additional man was missing. Kearny and Gillespie were among the wounded. Kearny claimed that several Californios were killed; however, Pico said that he had only eleven wounded.

109. Dunne, “Notes,” p. 62; Bowen, “Statements,” p. 5.

110. Lieutenant Andrew Gray led the relief party of 215 men. Stockton’s letter of February 4, 1847, in Bagard Stockton. Appendix, p. 11.

111. For a lively account from the viewpoint of an enlisted man see Joseph Downey, The Cruise of the Portsmouth, ed. by Howard Lamar (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1958). pp. 187 – 220.

112. The Articles of Capitulation signed near the deserted Cahuenga Ranch is frequently referred to as the Treaty of Cahuenga. For the text of this document see James Madison Cutts, The Conquest of California and New Mexico (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1847). pp. 134 – 35.

113. Kearny’s letter of December 13, 1846, frame 299.

114. Stockton’s letters of January 11, 1846, January 15, 1847, and February 4, 1847, in Bagard, Stockton, Appendix, pp. 8 – 12.

115. Larkin, Papers, Vol. VI, p. 179, Brandes. “Times Gone by,” p. 126; Janssens, Life and Adventures, p. 130; and Victoriano Vega, “Vida Californiana.” MS. Bancroft Library, 1877, p. 59.

116. Larkin. Papers, Vol. VI, pp. 2 – 5.

117. Tays, “Pío Pico’s Correspondence,” p. 132.


Sally Cavell Johns, a native San Diegan, received her B.S. in education at the University of Southern California, her M.A. in history at the University of San Diego, and is currently studying anthropology at San Diego State University. She has taught school, is a past vice-president of the Save Our Heritage Organization in San Diego and now serves on the Research Committee of the San Diego Historical Sites Board. This article was adapted from her recently completed thesis on the Battle of San Pasqual, and was an award winning paper at the San Diego History Center’s 1972 Institute of History.