A Military View of San Diego in 1847

Four Letters from Colonel Jonathan D. Stevenson to Governor Richard B. Mason

Edited by Charles Hughes

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In June and July of 1847, following a visit to San Diego, Colonel Jonathan Stevenson, commander of the Southern Military District with headquarters in Los Angeles, wrote Governor Richard Mason several letters describing conditions he had observed in San Diego.1 Since no newspapers were published in San Diego at this time, and since the few diaries that have been preserved furnish scanty details about local affairs, these letters provide unusual insight into events in the community following the American conquest. Stevenson described the deteriorating relations between Indians and Californios, and submitted a petition and letter from citizens pleading for the retention of a military force in San Diego. In his letters about the conflict, he also presented the Indians' view of their struggle with the Californios. Besides these issues, Stevenson discussed the continuing fear of attack from Mexico prevalent among some San Diegans and military officials, and mentioned the anti-American feelings of some Californios. In addition, Stevenson revealed the significance of the Mormons' military service to the American cause.

The American takeover of San Diego had occurred the previous year in July, 1846, when the U.S.S. Cyane sailed into the harbor with American forces to occupy the city. Initial seizure of the city transpired without incident, but in the ensuing months, many Californios throughout the territory waged a vigorous effort to repulse the American invasion. With the signing of the Cahuenga Treaty, on January 13, 1847, Californios ended their overt opposition and agreed to abide by American rule.2 After the signing of the treaty, an uneasy peace existed throughout California. United States officials distrusted the Californios and anticipated another attempt by the Californios to oust them from the territory.3 In his July 13 letter, Colonel Stevenson reported to Governor Mason that some Californios expected to expel the Americans by September 1847. Along with these suspicions, rumors circulated about a military force advancing northward from Mexico to retake California. In San Diego some Californios believed Mexico would launch a punitive attack against them because of their support for the Americans.4

To meet these potential challenges, United States forces were stationed at defensive positions along the coast. Despite the arrival of additional troops (the Mormon Battalion in January 1847 and the New York Volunteers two months later), United States forces were undermanned.5 This problem was compounded further by the expiration of the Mormons' enlistment period. Most Mormons felt an obligation to leave for Utah, where the Saints had migrated in 1846-47. In his July 13 letter, Stevenson advised Governor Mason that San Diego would have to be abandoned if more troops could not be sent down from northern California. At this critical juncture, some Mormons performed a valuable service to the community and the American cause. The day following their discharge from the service, many of the Mormons agreed to re-enlist and go back to San Diego to protect American interests and provide military assistance to the residents.6

To earn the allegiance of the Californios, United States officials initially promised to guarantee their security.7 In Southern California and especially San Diego, the inhabitants needed military assistance to fend off Indian attacks. Since the secularization of the missions in the 1830s, relations between Indians and Californios had deteriorated. In San Diego, Indians compelled the Californios to abandon their ranchos on several occasions and by 1846, the white population of the district declined by more than half, from 520 to 248, while the Christian Indian population numbered about 2,500. The number of non-Christian Indians is uncertain.8

With the arrival of the Americans, as the citizens' petition reveals, the Indians renewed their attacks on the Californios' ranchos. In December 1846, eleven rancheros died after being taken prisoners during an Indian raid on the Pauma Rancho. By June 1847, Indian attacks reached the point where many Californios were again considering abandoning their ranchos if military assistance was not forthcoming. Juan Bandini, a prominent citizen and early supporter of the Americans, wrote his son-in-law that "we San Diegans are in a much worse state than before. There is no government, no order, no security and in place of these precious guarantees, we have instead a public demoralization that can hardly be endured."9

Assisted by the Californios, United States forces attempted to end the Indian attacks. In San Diego, Stevenson organized a local militia, under the leadership of Juan Bandini and Santiago Arguello, and reissued arms and ammunition to the residents. In spite of these measures, Indian attacks continued through 1847 into 1848 and in skirmishes with Indians, United States forces suffered one or two defeats.10 Efforts of the United States officials to pacify Christian Indians, former residents of the missions, met with more success. As indicated by his July 12 letter, Stevenson convinced the Indians of San Luis Rey to abide by the laws of the new government and agreed to appoint an Indian agent as they had requested. They said they wanted an American Indian agent because he would protect them from the Californios.

The July 12 letter suggests that the Christian Indians welcomed the Americans because they believed United States officials would aid them in getting their property back from the Californios. When the missions were secularized, Indians' rights to some of the property were recognized. Through the years, however, Californios acquired more and more of the property by legal and illegal means. The Indian agent appointed by Governor Mason, Captain J. D. Hunter, made several efforts to get back property he believed belonged to Mission San Luis Rey. Andres Pico refused to return some sheep Hunter claimed were mission property. John Forster resigned as alcalde of the San Juan Capistrano District because of his disagreement with this policy.11 Despite this auspicious beginning, Christian Indians' enthusiasm for American rule soured within a few years. In 1851 these Indians revolted against the Americans in San Diego and attempted to unite all the Indians of Southern California and, with the Californios, expel the Americans throughout the region. The revolt failed, however, and the leaders were executed.12

In sum, Colonel Stevenson's letters to Governor Mason shed light upon San Diego's affairs as it changed from a Mexican to an American community. The summer of 1847, during which Stevenson wrote these letters, was part of a relatively brief interlude between the American conquest of 1846 and the gold discovery of 1848. The latter event would hasten dramatically the process of change that Stevenson describes. Stevenson himself, who had only arrived in California in March, 1847, with the New York Volunteers, remained commander of the Southern Military District briefly, from May 1847 until sometime in 1848. Following his discharge from the service, he made his home in San Francisco.13 His letters are here presented in their original form, with only minor changes made in punctuation for the sake of clarity.

 

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Head Qts. Southern Mil. Dist. Calif.
Ciudad de los Angeles
June 28,1847

Colonel

I have this day returned from San Diego. On my route to and from that Post I made every inquiry into the state of the Country, and am happy to be enabled to inform you that all appears quiet and from all I can discover likely to remain so. It is the opinion of the best informed persons in that section who are now and have always been friendly to the United States that the people of the Country will remain quiet unless some powerful aid is offered them from Mexico (or our troops are withdrawn from below) all consider it advisable to keep up a proper and well organized force at the Chief Seaport, towns and especially this Pueblo. Before I reached San Diego it was reported that the Military force was to be withdrawn from that place, at this the inhabitants expressed great dissatisfaction regarding themselves as occupying a peculiarly exposed position and also having incurred the hatred of all friends to Mexico by the prominent stand they took in the early part of the revolution and maintained throughout the contest, and they fear[,] if at no other part of the whole territory, an attempt would be made here to punish them if for no other purposes than their devotion to the American interest, and all such men as Capt. Fitch,14 Bandini,15 de Pedrorena16 expressed a full determination to leave San Diego in case some Military or Naval force was not kept there to protect them. I have assured the inhabitants that it is the intention of the officers in Command of California to protect all our friends and that no post will be left exposed even to a sudden attack or surprise. All persons at San Diego are anxious that the Mormons should remain there, they have by a correct course of conduct become very popular with the people, and by their industry have taught the inhabitants the value of having an American population among them, and if they are continued they will be of more value in reconciling the people to the change of government than a host of Bayonets; they have made Bricks, dug and bricked up eight or ten wells and furnished a town heretofore almost without water at certain seasons of the year with an abundant supply. They are about to build a brick Court house, the fees of the Court are already accumulated and the Inhabitants paying for the materials and the Mormons doing the work, in short when within 80 miles of the place the inhabitants of every rancho asked permission for some of the good Mormons to come and work for them, to build an oven, a chimney, or repair the roofs of their houses, and I have been[,] in consequence of this good feeling[,] the more desirous to have them remain.

The Mormons here [in Los Angeles] are generally a very correct set of men and if it were not for the necessity their constant employment on the public works would be as useful to the inhabitants as their brethrens at, San Diego, they are general favorites here and I am constantly importuned by the inhabitants for permission to employ them.

While on my visit to San Diego I made particular inquiry into the conduct of the Indians, who of late have been troublesome at San Luis Rey and between that and Warner Pass17 and I am clearly of opinion that an Indian agent should be appointed who by a proper course of policy would exercise a controling influence over them; many of the depredations that have been committed by them has been done as they suppose under some color of right on their part. A very large portion of those Indians have at some time been connected with, or are the descendants of those Indians who have been attached to the Missions and especially the Mission of San Luis and they are now advised and believe that all the Mission property of every kind, church furniture and all belong to them and hence they have a right to carry it off for their own use or destroy as they please, and consequently parties of them come to the Mission and its farms and if in sufficient force destroy or remove what they please. Some few weeks since about 50 removed and destroyed considerable Church furniture from San Luis-drove off some Cattle and threatened the life of an old Indian Chief named Samuel18 who has been for some time in charge of the Mission. Saturday morning on my way up from San Diego, while at Santa Margarita19 some six miles from the Mission, the Indian Samuel and his son called on me, they were not at home when I passed the Mission on Friday night, and while we were in conversation a party of Antonio's men ([Antonio Garra] the Chief of the Indian Tribe which has been committing the depredations)20 actually came to Santa Margarita to take Samuel prisoner having previously gone to the Mission in pursuit of him; the moment I was advised of their object I informed them who I was and that the Chief Samuel was under my protection and that the [harm?] to him or any further depredation committed upon the Mission property or the Inhabitants would be followed by the severest punishment, this had the desired effect as they immediately left and promised to be quiet hereafter.

The Indian Samuel is represented by all our friends at San Diego, here and in other parts of the Country as being a most trustworthy and honest man and fully entitled to confidence. I shall[,] unless you direct otherwise[,] give him charge in writing of the Mission until some other disposition be made of it and of the property.

The Indian Antonio is represented as a shrewed [sic] but morose, revengeful fellow, has openly committed depredations and threatened revenge if interfered with, and on one occasion rude to Col Cooke21 who promptly checked him. I will diligently set to work to find out a proper person for Indian Agent who should in my judgement also have charge of all the Mission property which embraces the most valuable property between San Luis and Warner Pass. From numerous applications made to me by different individuals on my late visit, very many appear anxious to have any portion of the Mission property confided to their case that at the perminent [sic] establishment of an American Government they may present some claim to a preemption right. This property is very valuable and if it belongs to the Government as from all I can learn it undoubtedly does it must come in possession of your successor when peace shall be established. It should therefore be taken care of and if a proper Indian Agent can be found he can cause to be collected the most industrious and respectable portion of the Indians, set them to work, and while they provide comfortably for themselves by their labors on the property take care of it. Until such an Agent can be found I will[,] if the Mormons reenter[,] place a few men at San Louis [San Luis Rey] to preserve order and prevent any further depredations. Before Genl Kearny22 left this part of the Country he requested Mr. Foster [John Forster23 ] of San Johns [San Juan Capistrano] to accept the appointment of Alcalde for that District embracing the Ranchos of San Johns, San Louis, Pala,24 and some others whose names I do not recollect, he is a highly respectable citizen and will now accept the Office from the necessity of the case there being no other person in the neighborhood that is suitable for or will accept it. If you will send me his appointment for the District to be included I will put it in proper form and forward it. If Mr. Foster is appointed he will be of great service to any Indian Agent that may be appointed as all the Mission property lies within this District.

While at San Diego Capt Fitch[,] the Alcalde[,] expressed great anxiety to resign his place if not permanently for a short time that he might go north on business of the utmost importance to himself, he applied to me to sanction his appointment of Lt. [Robert] Clift25 of the Mormon Battalion a A. A. Lt. Master & Commissary of that Post as acting Alcalde during his temporary absence; I was well informed that under Mexican laws an Alcalde has the power of appointing a temporary successor under sanction of the Commander of the District. I endorsed my approval upon Clift's appointment being well satisfied that he was a very proper person and a great favorite in the town, and if he should reenter the Service and he can with propriety be appointed Alcalde permanently in the place of Fitch I would respectfully recommend it. From all I can learn[,] the mode of transacting business by the Alcalde here differs materially from those practiced at San Francisco and Monterey- for instance here there are no trials by Jury; at San Francisco & Monterey there are-this is an important feature and many others of equal importance have been pointed out to me;26 and as Capt Fitch is on his way North and will stop some few days at Monterey I have given him a note of introduction to you that he may have a conversation with you on all matters touching the public interest at San Diego. In consequence of Don Juan Bandini declining to accept the appointment of Collector I have filled the blank in the Commission with the name Miguel de Pedrorena one of the stanchest [sic] friends we have in the Country and decidedly the best man in the town for that, important office, he is a native of Old Spain, but from a very early age resided and was well educated in England, he speaks and translates both languages fluently and is the general interpreter of the place, and all the inhabitants united in a favorable expression of his appointment; he held a commission in the American Service under Comd Stockton27 as you will learn by papers forwarded with this at his request. I have no doubt he will be found a most active and useful officer and that he will be able to make the fees of the office pay expenses. You will observe by the Copies of the papers forwarded you by last mail in relation to the office of Collector that no salary was named or arrangement made for the contingent expenses of the office, such as rent of office, Stationary, boat, and men, all of which are indispensably necessary. I learned at San Diego that furniture and a boat were purchased for the Collector's office by order of Comd Stockton for a former Collector who was subsequently transferred to Santa Barbara to which place he removed the furniture and that the boat was used by government officers during the War and actually worn out in the public Service. The present Collector does not require any appropriation for office rent or furniture at least for the present or until business increases as he is willing to use his own house and furniture free of charge, but a boat can now be purchased for $50 of a ship about to return to the United States. This boat he purchased upon his own responsibility and with his own funds as I declined giving any such authority leaving it for you to order or not as you should deem proper. My impression is that he will care very little for a Salary until the emoluments of the office will justify it, if the expenses before enumerated are allowed him. I would therefore request your action and advice on this subject at an early day. I enclose you a Copy of the Oath of office I required him to take and the publication made of his appointment. I have written you a very long and I fear a tedious letter on matters other than Military but I have deemed it my duty to give you all the information I obtained during my journey that you may understand the precise state of this District in a Civic as well as Military point of view which I hope you will regard as a sufficient apology if one be deemed necessary for this long letter.

 
Col.
R. B. Mason
1st Regt. U. S. Dragoons
Governor of California Col. Comd Tenth Mil. Dist.
I have the honor to be
Very Respectfully
Your most obdt. Lt.

J. D. Stevenson [signature]

 

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Head Quarters, South Mil. Dist. California
Ciudad de los Angeles
12th July 1847

Colonel

On the 6th Inst I had a visit from the principal Chiefs and some Eighty Indians, originally of the San Luis Bay [Rey] Mission-they numbered in all about 95. They came in,-as they said-to present themselves to the Commandant, and to request that the numerous charges made against them of Robbing the Churches [and] Inhabitants might be proved, and also to request that an Indian Agent might be appointed to take charge of them and the Mission property, and they earnestly begged that an American might be selected, as the Californians were their sworn enemies, and they could never be happy or at peace under his orders. When the Indians first made their appearance, the Californians of this town were very much incensed, and alarmed, at the boldness of the Indians coming here, in such force; and soon after the chiefs had called upon me to request an interview[,] the Alcalde and all the public functionaries, called to request that I would order the Indians to leave the town, and break up their camp, which was on the opposite side of the river. They represented the Indians, as being completely armed with Spears, Pistols, Knives, Rifles and plenty of Ammunition. I had agreed to meet the Indians at three O'Clock, but I immediately sent for their chief, Antonio [Garra], and directed him, to have all his people, immediately assembled, in front of the Dragoon Barracks, and invited the Alcalde, and the town officers to go with me, and hear what they had to say, as well as my answer; they hesitated but I insisted, and they finally complied-by 10 A.M. the Indians were all present-I asked where their arms were, they said in the camp-I directed 10 men to be sent for them, at the same time requiring the Alcalde to produce the man who informed him that they were so completely armed; in a very few moments the Indians arms arrived, and they proved to be two large bundles of Indian bows and arrows, one lance and one pistol, the lance and pistol, belonging to two of the Chiefs, I enquired [sic] if they had no other firearms, and was answered in the negative; about this time the man who made the report of their being so completely armed, made his appearance, and when questioned admitted, that [he] had seen but one lance and two pistols, one of which had been since purchased by a Californian. I then enquired of the Indians what brought them to Pueblo, and they answered as I have before stated; I told them that an Agent would be appointed within six weeks, and that he should be an American, and as soon as he was appointed I would have the Indians assembled at the Parla [Pala] farm of the San Louis Mission, and place them under his protection; with this they expressed themselves perfectly satisfied; they denied having committed any depredations upon the inhabitants, or church, but admitted having taken some few cattle from the Mission, to feed themselves, I told them that they should be protected from outrage, but they would be severely punished if they violated law, or trespassed upon the property of others, I enquired of the Alcalde, and his associates if they were satisfied, they said they were, and after directing the Quarter Master to furnish them with beef, directed them to leave here for their homes at day light the next morning, which order they strictly obeyed. I really do not believe those Indians commit the depredations charged upon them, but that the wild Indians and perhaps some bad Christian Indians do much mischief to the Inhabitants there can be no doubt. I have made diligent enquiry for a proper person to be appointed Indian Agent, but can not find an old resident that is fit for and worthy the place. Capt Hunter28 of the Mormon Battallion, [sic] stationed at San Diego has determined to remain in the country, and will raise a company from the Battallion if possible, failing in that he will accept the appointment of Indian Agent, he is well known at San Diego and its vicinity, and universally esteemed by all; he does not speak the Spanish language, but has been much among Indians, and if permitted would take with him from the Battallion some few young men, who speak and understand Spanish. I have no doubt the wages of these men could be easily paid from the product of their labour and they want no doubt to be thus paid they would be of great service in instructing the Indians how to cultivate the soil, and would at the same time form a strong guard for the Agent; If this plan should meet your approbation, you can send the appointment for J. D. Hunter, with instructions, or you may leave the name blank to be filled up with a proper person. It is of the utmost importance that some agent should be appointed speedily and it is equally important that he should be an American.

 

Col.R. B. Mason
Comg 1st Regt U. S. Dand.
Governor of California

I have the honor to be
very respy Your Obdt Servt.
J. D. Stevenson [signature]

Col Comdg. Southern Military District

 

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Head Qts Southn Mil Dist (Califa)
Ciudad de los Angeles
July 13" 1847

Colonel

I have the honor to enclose you to communications received from the inhabitants of San Diego praying that [the] Post may not be abandoned, my own opinion is that it should not be, but as the Mormons have not yet exhibited any greater disposition to reenter the Service since my last communication than at that time, San Diego must be abandoned unless occupied by the Navy or a Company is sent from the North to garrison it. It is very evident from the state of feeling among the Californians here that we shall have as much as we can do with our small force after the Mormons shall be disbanded, to keep possession of this Post, especially if our sick list continues to increase, as we have at this time nearly one fourth of the Command other than Mormons on the sick report. That you may fully understand the feelings of the Californians here [in Los Angeles] as exhibited on a late occasion, I will relate the circumstance which has lead to this belief. About the 15th of June, we had two fine sticks of timber hauled on the hill for a Flag pole, the moment it was understood the purpose for which they were to be used, threats were daily made that we might erect as many poles as we chose they would not be permitted to stand, the pole was finished and raised on the 2" Inst and at sunrise on the 4" our Banner hoisted on it for the 1st time, at our celebration by firing a salute and reading the Declaration of Independence in English and Spanish, I published an invitation to all Citizens, to unite in the celebration but no Californios came; at the Ball and supper given by our Officers many of the younger Californians, male and female, came and some of the Elder and most respectable, and among others a man named Jose Ant° Carillo [sic]29 during the evening he made many rude remarks and threats that; before the end of September none of us would be here; when this was communicated to me I considered it a very good opportunity to let the turbulent spirits know that they were understood; I therefore invited the Alcalde and all the public authorities of the place together with many of the most respectable citizens native and foreigners, as well as my own officers to assemble at my quarters at 12 0. Clock on the 5th all came without knowing the object of the meeting, after they assembled I enquired [sic] of the public authorities and the Californians present if from the time General Kearny assumed the Command, any Californians had been molested, threatened or insulted by any American Officer or Soldier, all answered no, I then enquired why threats to cut down our flag pole, of attacks and especially the insults offered to our country and officers by one of their chief men then present while they were partaking of our hospitalities. I told them that I had invited all to meet me, that they might understand I was stationed here to retain possession of the Country, and to preserve peace and harmony among the people and that any persons or person promoting any feeling of hostilty toward the foreigners and American Troops, or encouraging an insurrection I would send out of the Country; that I was fully prepared for any attempt that might be made at an insurrection and would punish severely all concerned in it; The Alcalde and the Californians present said that no insurrectionary movement would be contenanced [sic] by them and Jose Ant° Carillo united in this declaration he (Carillo) is a great knave and undoubtly one of the shrewdest men in California, and has great influence with the lower order of his countrymen, and the American [and] foreign residents here have a great dread of this influence being used for wicked purposes I shall watch him, and all closely, and will be prepared to check the first appearance of an insurrectionary movement should one be made, but to enable me to do this effectually my force here should not be weakened.

 

Colonel
R. B. Mason
Gov. of California

I have the honor to be
Very Respectfully
Your Obdt. Servt.

J. D. Stevenson [signature]
Col Comdg Southn Mil Dist (Califa)

 

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San Diego Cal
June 27" 1874

The undersignees a Committee appointed by a meeting of the citizens of this Town convened on the 27th Inst have the honor to enclose you a copy of the resolutions passed by the meeting. Sensible of the honor conferred on them by their fellow citizens, they cannot find words sufficient to express the sympathy they feel for their suffering, or to beg your immediate attention to their grievances, and we can but hope that the Military force at present here is sufficient number in combination with the inhabitants to bring the culprits to punishment. There have been two attacks upon San Luis Rey, the alcalde having charge there, has been obliged to [secrete?] himself, while the Indians with impunity have dared to profane the Church, as well as infuse the property of the Mission in defiance of the government as well as those there placed to guard it. They continually rob the horses and cattle of individuals [and] by going about in armed parties keep the inhabitants in greatest fear and consternation thus preventing them from attending to their business and concerns. The resolutions have been signed by those of the inhabitants present in Town, and we are confident that those absent will be happy to perform the same that has been offered those composing the meeting-

We beg to recommend to your especial attention all the Resolutions singly and collectively as they express so fully our own opinion that we can find nothing more to add to the above few lines

Miguel de Pedrorena     Santiago E Arguello     Juan Ma Maron

At a meeting of the Inhabitants of San Diego holden [sic] on the 27 June 1847 the following Resolutions were adopted

1# That the injuries and losses which the inhabitants of this district are suffering from the depredations of the Indians is so notorious that if some efficacious remedy is not immediately applied we shall be compelled to abandon our farms and property as in fact many are now doing, rather than take upon themselves the responsibility of defending them by force of arms

2# That as a remedy of the many evils which we are suffering, one of the first importance is to prevent those Indians living in Villages from roaming at large through the Country in armed parties contrary to the usage of Civilized countries as well as the established Laws and usage of this, use till this present time

3# That Indians employed on farms or otherwise who may have occasion to carry any arms for his protection, be required to have with him a certificate of his employer to that effect

4# That the undersigned obligate themselves gratuitously to render assistance to prevent the aggressions of the indians either personal or by furnishing an able person in their stead for the purpose of reducing the indians to a state of subordination order and quiet-the government furnishing arms and amunitions 5# That the injuries which we are daily suffering are so publick, [sic] not only destroying our private property but having the audacity to profane the sacred Church that we deem ourselves excused from entering into a detail of instances notwithstanding were it necessary there could be no difficulty in proving the aggressions and insubordinate state to which the Indians have arrived.

6# That this meeting appoint Mess. Santiago E Arguello30 Juan Ma Maron31 and Miguel de Pedrorena a committee to draft and present to the proper authorities the views of this meeting not only for relief from present evils but with a view to prevent greater ones in the future

7# That the inhabitants of San Diego desire that the Committee should impress upon the government, that notwithstanding the repeated and sinsible [sic] injuries which they have received from the indians still they are not actuated by feelings of revenge so natural to man but are disposed to submitted with pleasure to the actions of government confident that they will receive all that assistance and protection which can be afforded them, and for which object the undersigned offer their assistance.

Miguel de Pedrorena José F Snook
Santiago E Arguello Bonifacio Lopez
Juan Ma Maron José Ant° Serrano
José Leno Lopez José Machado
Ramon Osuna Ramon Rodriguez
Ylario Osuna J. J. Warner
Leandro Osuna José R Arguello
Juan Forster Juan Bandini
Jose A. Estudillo Luis A. Arguello
Henry D Fitch assist with Powder and Ballz      

 

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Head Quarters Sthn. Mil. Dist. California
Ciudad de los Angeles
23 July 1847

Colonel

I have the honor to inform you, that I have succeeded in organizing, one company of Mormons, under the command of Captain Davis, late of Mormon Battallion. Until the day after they were mustered of the service, there was not slightest disposition evinced to re-enter, but on the 17th in the afternoon, Capt. Davis32 and Lieut Canfield33 commenced enrolling, and on the 20th all were enrolled, and mustered into service, I have required them to use their own Arms, agreeing that they should be kept in repair at expense of the Government. The company have uniformed themselves completely, from cap to shoe, in the uniform of my Regiment; and they will to morrow at noon take up their line of march for San Diego. Upon the arrival of Captain Hunter, and his company from San Diego on the 15 Inst I learned that my instruction in regard to the Artillery and stores, at that post had not been complied with, and also learned that all our friends Californians, as well as Americans, were leaving the town for their Ranchos, and that the hostile portion of the population were preparing to hoist the Mexican Flag. I immediately made arrangements to send detachment, of twenty picked men under the command of my Adjutant, and Lt Davidson34 to San Diego, with instructions to remove the stores, and Artillery, for fortunately a fine Brig commanded by Capt King35 a patriotic American was at San Pedro-the Capt offered his vessel, to transport the detachment to and from San Diego, without any charge, other than the present of one of the Brass pieces have been receipted for by an officer in our service, I readily agreed to the proposal, and the Detachment sailed on Sunday evening last from San Pedro. Yesterday I sent forward one of the newly enlisted men to San Diego, as well to advise the inhabitants, as to inform Lt. Davidson that a company was on its way to Garrisson [sic] that Post.

 

Col. R. B. Mason
Comdg 1st Regt
U.S. Dragoons and
Goveror of California

I have the honor to be
very respectfully
Your Obdt Sert

J. D. Stevenson
Col. Comdg Sthn. Mil. Dist.

 


 

NOTES

1. The letters and documents reproduced here are found among the Records of the 10th Military Department, 1846-1851, National Archives Microfilm Publication, Microcopy 210: June 28 letter, roll 2; July 12 letter, roll 2; July 13 letter, roll 5; citizens' letter and petition, roll 5; July 23 letter, roll 2. Hereinafter cited as Records of Tenth Military Department.

2. Richard Pourade, The History of San Diego: The Silver Dons (San Diego: The Union-Tribune Publishing Company, 1963), p. 79. Andrew Rolle, California: A History (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1969), pp. 204-208.

3. Stevenson expressed his fears of another revolt by the Californios in other letters. See Stevenson to Mason, September 22, 1847 and October 19, 1847, Records of the 10th Military Department, roll 2.

4. These fears continued for some time, and in September, 1847 Santiago Arguello received word of a Mexican army crossing the Colorado River. See letter Captain Daniel Davis to Governor Richard Mason, September 17, 1847, Records of the 10th Military Department roll 2.

5. Rolle, California, p. 208.

6. Although Stevenson was relieved when some of the Mormons agreed to re-enlist, he suspected their motives. In another letter sent to Governor Mason on July 23rd, he declared that the Mormons were conspiring to take over Southern California. In discussions with him, he said Mormons revealed their plans to gain control of the area following the war to aid their settlement in Utah. To accomplish this goal, Mormons believed military training and experience would help. (See confidential letter, Stevenson to Mason, July 23, 1847, Records of the Military Department, roll 2).

7. Thomas Maitland Marshall, ed., "Stockton's Proclamation to the San Diego Insurgents," The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XX (October 1916), 153. Pourade, The Silver Dons, pp. 83-84.

8. Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft: The History of California, Vol. III, 1825-1840 (San Francisco: The History Company, 1886), pp. 611-614. Carl H. Heilbron, ed., History of San Diego County (San Diego: San Diego Press Club, 1936), p. 76. California State Census 1852, San Diego Public Library.

9. Pourade, The Silver Dons, pp. 114-116. Bandini's letter to his son-in-law, Abel Stearns, is quoted extensively in Katherine L. Wagner's article "Native of Arica: Requiem For a Don," Journal of San Diego History, XVII (Spring 1971), 5.

10. Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft: The History of California, Vol. V, 1846-1848. (San Francisco: The History Company, 1886), pp. 568-569. Letter, Heintzelman to Canby, June 11, 1849, Records of the 10th Military Department, roll 6.

11. Bancroft, History of California, III, 342-344. Letters, Hunter to Stevenson, November 1, 1847 and Stevenson to Mason, November 6, 1847 and December 15, 1847, Records of the 10th Military Department, roll 2.

12. Pourade, The Silver Dons, p. 178.

13. Bancroft, History of California, V, 734. Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft: The History of California, Vol. IV, 1840-1845 (San Francisco: The History Company, 1886), p. 734.

14. Henry Delano Fitch, a native of New Bedford, Massachusetts, came to California in 1826. After marrying Josefa Carrillo in 1829, he eventually settled in San Diego continuing his commercial activities. He became a citizen of Mexico in 1833 and thereafter held several political offices in the community. He received a grant to Rancho Sotoyomi in Northern California in 1841. He died in San Diego in 1849 and was buried on Presidio Hill.

15. Juan Bandini was born in Lima, Peru in 1800 and by 1828 was residing in California. He became one of the most prominent and influential leaders in the territory. In 1833, he represented California in the national Congress in Mexico City. Over the years he received several land grants from California governors. A vigorous supporter of the Americans, he remained active in community affairs following the conquest.

16. Miguel de Pedrorena arrived in California in 1837 on the trading ship Delmira as the supercargo. He moved to San Diego in 1845 after marrying Maria Antonia Estudillo. In 1846, he received a grant to Rancho San Jacinto Nuevo in San Bernardino County. As Stevenson indicated, Pedrorena was a strong supporter of the American cause. In 1849, he represented San Diego in the constitutional convention in Monterey and in the following year died suddenly of apoplexy.

17. A new path from the Colorado River to San Diego and Los Angeles was located in 1825, when Santiago Arguello discovered Warner's Pass while pursuing Indian horse thieves in the mountains. Arguello pointed out that it was easier to follow the trail through the Carrizo Corridor to San Felipe Valley and from there to Warner's Hot Springs, rather than the old desert trail across the mountains. This new trail was used by traders from Sonora and gold immigrants after 1848. Jonathan Trumbull Warner, an American trapper who came to California in 1830, received a grant to the Agua Caliente Rancho in 1844. His ranch became a stopping point for travelers using this trail and at an early date this pass was given his name. Pourade, The Time of the Bells, p. 174, and The Silver Dons, p. 64. Bancroft, History of California, Vol. V, pp. 767-768.

18. No biographical materials remain about an Indian named Samuel living at San Luis Rey in 1846. The California State Census of 1852 lists an Indian named Samuel from San Luis Rey who was sixty years old.

19. Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado granted Rancho Santa Margarita, 89,742 acres, to Pio and Andres Pico in 1841. Pourade, The Silver Dons, p. 65.

20. Antonio Garra was a Pauma Indian chief who had been educated at Mission San Luis Rey. He supposedly led the attack on the Pauma Rancho which resulted in the deaths of eleven Californios. He was executed in San Diego on January 17, 1852, for leading the 1851 revolt.

21. Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke was the commander of the Mormon Battalion. The United States government published his journal describing the battalion's march across the country to California. In 1878, Cooke republished his journal, entitled The Conquest of California and New Mexico, with additional material.

22. In 1846, Stephen W. Kearny became a brigadier-general in the army and was sent across the country with an expedition to occupy New Mexico and California. Near the end of his journey, he encountered a force of Californios at San Pasqual, on December 5, 1846, and suffered one of the few defeats U.S. forces experienced during the Mexican War. He served as military governor of California from March I to May 31, 1847. Being relieved of his command in California, he returned East and died in 1848.

23. John Forster first arrived in California in 1833, on the trading ship Facio and settled permanently in the territory in 1836. He received a grant to Rancho de la Nacion in San Diego in 1845. During the American conquest, he participated in the expedition to retake Los Angeles in January 1847.

24. Mission San Antonio de Pala was a smaller mission established in 1810 by the Franciscans of San Luis Rey to aid them in their proselytizing efforts among the Indians. This mission continues today to serve the needs of the Indians.

25. Robert Clift was a lieutenant in the Mormon Battalion and in the company of Mormons who re-enlisted. He served as alcalde and port collector while stationed at San Diego. Bancroft, History of California, II, 761.

26. In December 1836, Mexico abolished its liberal constitution of 1824 and adopted a new conservative constitution. Throughout the territory, Californios disagreed over accepting the new centralist document. In San Diego the Californios chose to remain loyal to the national government, while Californios in the north declared their independence until the old constitution was restored. One of the effects of this controversy was this difference in judicial procedure as described by Stevenson. Lucy Lytle Killea, "The Political History of a Mexican Pueblo: San Diego From 1825 to 1845," The Journal of San Diego History, XII (October, 1966), 20.

27. Captain Robert Field Stockton, a native of New Jersey, relieved Commodore John Sloat as commander of the Pacific squadron on July 15, 1846, and served as military governor of California until January 1847. Following his discharge from the service in 1849, he was a senator in the U.S. Congress from New Jersey for two years, 1851 and 1852. On several occasions, he was mentioned as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency, especially in 1856.

28. Jesse D. Hunter, native of Kentucky and captain in the Mormon Battalion, served as an Indian agent for Southern California from August 1847 to March 1849, except for a brief period when he went to the gold fields in 1848. After the Mormon Battalion arrived in San Diego, Hunter's wife gave birth to a boy and later died during an influenza epidemic. Bancroft, History of California, III, 179. Pourade, The Silver Dons, P. 128.

29. Jose Antonio Ezequiel Carrillo, a member of a prominent family in California, took an active part in the political turmoil in the territory prior to the American conquest, and was one of the leaders among the Californios who resisted the American take over of California. He later served as a member of California's first constitutional convention in 1849.

30. Santiago Arguello, a native Californian, served over thirty years in the military service at different posts throughout the territory. He retired in 1834 and afterwards held several different political offices. In 183o, he won election as alcalde of San Diego, outpolling Andres Pico by one vote. During this period he received three land grants, Rancho Tia Juana, Rancho Traburo and the San Diego Mission estate. He favored the American annexation of California and in 1847 he served on the territorial legislative council.

31. Juan Maria Marron, a resident of San Diego since 1821, was active in political affairs of the community and the territory during the Mexican period. He originally opposed the American conquest, but eventually gave up his opposition. He was elected alcalde of San Diego in 1848, following the resignation of Juan Bandini. The election results for the alcalde of San Diego in 1848 can be found on roll five among the Records of the Tenth Military Department.

32. Daniel C. Davis, captain of Company E in the Mormon Battalion, headed the company of Mormons who volunteered to re-enlist and return to San Diego in July 1847. Upon his return, he received orders from Governor Mason to take a census of the district, which he did. Bancroft, History of California, II, 775. Heilbron, The History of San Diego County, pp. 75-76.

33. Cyrus C. Canfield was a lieutenant in the Mormon Battalion and in the company of Mormons who agreed to re-enlist. During 1848 he also served as port collector of San Diego since a federal regulation stipulated that only military personnel could hold this office.

34. John L. Davidson, Lieutenant 1st U.S. Dragoons, came to California with Kearny's expedition and fought at the Battle of San Pasqual. He remained on the Pacific Coast, serving in the military until 1859.

35. There is no biographical data available about a Captain King in Los Angeles in 1847. Bancroft reveals only the purchase of the Mexican brig Primavera in Los Angeles, in April 1847, by Ed. A. King. Bancroft, History of California. Vol. V, p. 580.


Charles Hughes, a native San Diegan, received his B.A. degree from San Diego State University in 1971, and is currently doing graduate work at the same institution. For the past two years he has been doing research on the Californios in San Diego during the period between the Mexican War and the United States Civil War. His wife, Annette, is a bilingual teacher for San Diego City Schools. His article published here was an award-winning paper presented at the San Diego History Center's 1973 Institute of History. Illustrations are from the Title Insurance and Trust Company, San Diego, and the San Diego Historical Society.