Douglas H. Strong, Book Review Editor
San Diego County Soldier-Pioneers: 1864-1866. By Ed Scott. National City. Crest Printing Company, 1976. Footnotes. Illustrations. Maps. 174 pages. $2.95.
Reviewed by Dr. James Robert Moriarty, III, Professor of History/Archaeology. University of San Diego, author of Chinigchinix: An Indigenous Indian Religion, The Yuman Peoples of Southern California, and over two hundred publications on History and Archaeology.
San Diego County Soldier-Pioneers is a publication of the County of San Diego and is one of the Bicentennial projects which were authorized during the Bicentennial celebration of our country in 1976. The author describes himself as an armchair historian in his preface and states that one of the aims of the book is to provide students and San Diego County history buffs with an unpretentious reference source. This statement is followed by the remark that the first two decades of San Diego history under the United States flag have been, “almost ignored by thorough historical researchers.”
The historian who finds a new work, which he is about to examine, prefaced by statements like those is likely, at first, to assume that such a work is not a very serious historical effort. This is not due to any form of academic snobbery, which is the general accusation leveled at professionals, but rather because statements such as “unpretentious reference sources” leaves one wondering what the author is really referring to and, secondly, the statement that thorough historical research by historians has not been done in the first twenty years of American Period San Diego history is, to say the very least, incorrect as there are a large number of published works dealing with that particular period in San Diego history.
Regardless of this, the reviewer did pursue a careful examination of Mr. Scott’s book. The conclusion was reached that it is a definite contribution to San Diego history literature. It will be of source value to the student and the historian of San Diego County history in the future. Certainly no one could say that the footnotes which follow the two parts of the book were “unpretentious.” By any definition, letters from the National Archives to the author, a variety of unpublished memoirs, and his detailed examination of the San Diego County Recorder’s Book of Deeds would allay any suspicion that this publication represents an inadequate collection of research data on San Diego history. Mr. Scott’s admirable modesty, therefore, must be disregarded when one examines his publication.
The book is divided into two parts. At the end of each section it is footnoted. The two parts are divided chronologically into the first two decades of San Diego City history. Part one deals with the occupation of Old Town by soldiers of the United States Army beginning in 1848. The early military history of San Diego was filled with men who were later to achieve national attention.
The first part of Chapter I describes the U.S. Military occupation of San Diego and is followed up by short biographical sketches of the officers who were in command at the time. One could wish that the author had included sketches of a few of the noncommissioned officers who later became prominent San Diego citizens. There is a brief discussion following this of the boundary survey and Constitution of 1849. Mr. Scott includes a short, but detailed, account of the Indian revolt and offers an insight into the entertainment activities of the early pioneers.
Part two is entitled the Desolate Decade for New San Diego 1856-1866. The problems of establishing New Town and the rising temper of the time leading up to the Civil War are augmented by the inclusion of a very good coverage of individual military men who fought in the Mexican War and a follow-up of their careers during the Civil War. Mr. Scott provides a starting reference for students of the period who wish to deal with biographical accounts of some of these individuals. The last part of the book describes the first land boom period and the development of the earliest San Diego City land subdivisions.
San Diego historians, in general, should find Mr. Scott’s book useful and interesting. The reviewer is particularly pleased with this work because Mr. Scott documented his writing and sought to meet the same standards for historical description that is an integral part of any attempt to record the past.
More people of Mr. Scott’s dedication should be encouraged to emulate his efforts.