MoboReader> Literature > The War With Mexico, Volume I (of 2)

   Chapter 17 THE CONQUEST OF CALIFORNIA

The War With Mexico, Volume I (of 2) By Justin H. Smith Characters: 34927

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


1846–1847

In December, 1845, Brevet Captain John C. Frémont of the United States army, who was engaged with a party of about fifty or sixty men-necessarily armed but not soldiers-in looking for a satisfactory road to the Pacific, reached New Helvetia, and at the end of January he presented himself at Monterey to obtain funds and supplies, and ask for permission to recruit his followers and horses in California. Castro gave this permission; but unfortunately one of the two men either misunderstood or violated the terms of the agreement, and when the surveying party was discovered early in March near Monterey, Castro denounced Frémont as having invaded Mexican territory and aiming to excite a revolt.[1]

It was an admirable opportunity to figure at home and at Mexico as a dauntless patriot, and the comandante general made the most of it. His narrow but high forehead, framed with curling black hair, seemed to expand, and his brilliant black eyes darted fire, as he galloped about the countryside rallying militia. Frémont placed himself in a strong position, built some fortifications, raised the American flag and announced that he would perish fighting; but after cannon were seen in the distance he retired under cover of darkness, and slowly proceeded toward Oregon. Castro then put out a bombastic proclamation, of course, declaring that he had driven the American intruder away.[1]

THE "BEAR" MOVEMENT

Far to the north Frémont was overtaken early in May by Gillespie, and went back to the Sacramento.[17.2] On June 6 he decided to act. At his instance Americans captured a drove of horses that Castro had sent for. Some days later a sizable company took Sonoma, a military post north of San Francisco Bay, seized the cannon, arms and munitions, appropriated horses, cattle and miscellaneous property, carried away Vallejo and other leading citizens as prisoners, and raised a home-made flag decorated with a particularly home-made semblance of a bear. Some hostilities then occurred; some blood was shed; and early in July the tragi-comedy reached its climax in a declaration of independence, which probably not one Californian acclaimed.[6]

What could have precipitated such an astounding performance? Clearly no directions from our government.[3] A policy calculated, not to outrage and affright, but on the other hand to conciliate and win the people, had been enjoined upon Sloat, Larkin and Gillespie; and under Buchanan's order Gillespie had acquainted Frémont with Larkin's instructions. But Frémont, like the others, was to counteract foreign designs, and knowing-for Larkin was aware of the fact on April 17 and hence Gillespie knew it-that Slidell had been rejected, he said and presumably believed, that war had by this time begun; and he doubtless feared that England, supposably in collusion with Mexico, would try to occupy California before the United States could act there. Forbes, on behalf of the British, could see that a declaration of independence would keep the Americans out. Hence possibly Frémont argued that such a step would help to do as much for the British; and evidently a flag put up by himself could be lowered any day.[6]

Besides, as we learn from the President, Gillespie had secret instructions; and these, while not contradicting the others, very possibly stated that Polk was determined to have a complete settlement with Mexico, and in case of war to acquire California, for such was soon his policy; and presumably they ordered that Frémont should hover about, and be ready to co?perate at the proper time. These circumstances, taken together, presented to his roving imagination a brilliant vista of achievements and glory; and, as he said, he "resolved to move forward on the opportunity."[4] Moreover many of the Americans in the Sacramento valley, believing that Castro intended to expel them shortly from the country, appealed to Frémont for aid;[5] and, finally, that officer probably burned to vindicate himself as a soldier from the imputation of having run away in March. Hence the determination to overthrow the government. Cannon, munitions and horses were logical necessities; and it seemed likely that Vallejo and his friends could be used to influence the public or possibly at the worst as hostages.[6]

The Californians, however, did not relish Frémont's total disregard of their feelings and rights. They viewed the Bear uprising as an inexcusable outrage-predatory, murderous and cruel, and, since Frémont was an American army officer, as fully justifying every suspicion and fear entertained against our government. The exasperation was intense; the resentment bitter. Who could think his person or property safe under the law of the rifle enforced by robbers? they asked. To make the situation worse Frémont, under the pretence that he was getting ready for the long journey home, obtained munitions and supplies from the United States vessel of war Portsmouth, anchored at San Francisco; and this fact became publicly known. Larkin was kept entirely in the dark, but probably not one Californian thought so. In short, the plan of the government was completely upset. Moreover Frémont's operations tended to defeat his own aim also, for they enabled Pico to solicit British protection on a definite and substantial ground.[6]

These events, however, were soon eclipsed. June 24, 1845, instructions for his guidance, in view of our strained relations with Mexico, had been issued to Commodore Sloat of the Pacific squadron. He was told that he should be "assiduously careful to avoid any act, which could be construed as an act of aggression"; yet, should he ascertain "with certainty"-"beyond a doubt"-that Mexico had "declared war," he was to occupy San Francisco and occupy or blockade such other ports as he could. In consequence of this order Sloat, so he reported in November, proceeded to Mazatlán as the likeliest place to receive information;[7] and on May 17 he learned from United States Consul Parrott of Mazatlán, then at Guadalajara, of Thornton's defeat. Upon this he decided to execute his orders immediately; but on considering the June instructions again, he thought action was not warranted.[8] May 31 came news of Palo Alto and the Resaca, and on June 5 confirmation of the news. That hostilities had begun he felt no doubt; but, "sicklied o'er" with something that resembled thought "as the mist resembles rain," and with an anxiety about his personal fortunes that obscured national interests, his resolution still wavered. On the seventh of June, however, he learned from Surgeon Wood, recently of the squadron but now on his way home with Parrott via Mexico City, that the Mexican government admitted the battles had occurred, and learned also that an American fleet was blockading Vera Cruz. The next day he sailed; and on July 2 he was in Monterey harbor,[9] fourteen hundred miles to the northwest, where for some strange reason he made the usual call on the authorities.[15]

Larkin, with whom the Commodore had been instructed to confer, soon hastened aboard, and opened Sloat's astonished eyes to the situation. They agreed-for their instructions agreed-that kindness toward the people was to characterize all action; but Larkin, who did not believe war had begun, wanted action postponed, hoping that American rule would be invited, or at least welcomed, by the Californians,[10] while Sloat-though doubtless he now learned of the government's plan to acquire the province through immigration and a period of independence-remembered that he was under orders to occupy or blockade the ports without unnecessary delay, and perceived that the state of things called upon him to take immediate possession of the interior also, regarding which no instructions had been given him.[11] News that an American officer, to whom another officer had recently been sent from Washington, was apparently conducting hostilities at a distance from the sea appeared like a clue to the maze;[12] and, finally, after several days of anxious and wavering deliberation, the idea that Sir George Seymour, admiral of the British Pacific fleet, who had seemed to be watching his movements,[13] might appear at any hour and raise the British flag, drove him into action.[15]

July 7, as the sun rose above the mountains on the east, Monterey in its amphitheatre of pine-clad hills, with trim-looking white and balconied houses dotted along its two parallel streets among the trees and along the waters of the broad cove, which lay rippling at its very feet, presented a very attractive appearance, but certainly was insignificant enough. Not so, however, what occurred there. Old Captain Silva, the commandant, when invited at half-past seven to give up the town, replied that he and the troops had left the place, and there was nothing-not even a flag-to surrender; and at about half-past ten Captain Mervine with some two hundred and fifty sailors and marines landed from boats.[15]

SLOAT OCCUPIES MONTEREY

Marching to the little customhouse Mervine read a proclamation drawn by Sloat and Larkin. The United States and Mexico being now at war, I take possession of upper California, said the Commodore in effect, but I do so as her best friend; the territory becomes a part of the United States, and the people shall be protected in all their present rights; they may stay here as neutrals, or depart; they may choose their own officials; products of the United States will come in duty-free, and other articles pay one quarter of the Mexican rate; civil security, religious freedom and material prosperity will be the fruits of American rule.[14] The Stars and Stripes were then run up on the customhouse flagstaff, our men-both afloat and ashore-cheered, the boom of twenty-one guns from the Savannah filled the amphitheatre of hills, and the great province of California had a future. By July 14 our colors were flying at every important point, and the Bear ensign had vanished. Stringent orders to prevent misbehavior and plundering were issued; measures were adopted to support the flag and repress the Indians; and Frémont was earnestly invited to co?perate.[15]

Both Sloat and Larkin endeavored to bring Castro in, but he would not come; and he retorted by demanding an explanation of the Sonoma affair. Doubtless that episode had thoroughly angered him, and he felt besides that a man in his official position would not be forgiven by the people, should he condone it. Alvarado and Pico, both of whom were cordially addressed, held entirely aloof; and before long the governor and the comandante general, forced into a reconciliation by Frémont's operations, united their commands. But as the people of northern California generally, thankful to escape from the clutches of the Bear and pleased with Sloat's proclamation, appeared willing to accept the change of flags, these two leaders withdrew to the vicinity of Los Angeles, where with about eight hundred men and ten cannon they supported-or pretended to support-the cause of Mexico; and the situation was further clarified by Admiral Seymour, who arrived at Monterey on July 16, and a week later, admitting that he could not interfere, sailed away.[15]

July 23 Sloat, who felt ill and probably felt worried, turned over the command on shore to Robert F. Stockton, who had arrived in the Congress about a week before,[16] and some days later, giving up the squadron also, left the coast. The new Commodore seems to have been a smart, but vain, selfish, lordly and rampant individual, thirsting for glory; and little glory could be seen in following after his predecessor under so mild a policy. Besides, another character was now on the stage. July 19 about one hundred and sixty horsemen entered Monterey from the north-men with gaunt bodies, frames of steel, shaggy beards, and an air of indomitable courage and endurance, armed with a long, heavy rifle on the shoulder and a big knife on the hip, and speaking a lingo sometimes hard to understand. These were the youngest and hardiest of the Sacramento men, reinforced with the pick of the immigrants just arrived. At their head rode a short, slender, active man in buckskin blouse, leggings and moccasins, a blue shirt open at the neck, and a cotton handkerchief in lieu of a hat, with plenty of hair, a small, bearded face, and therein eyes-"such eyes." This was Frémont.[20]

He was a counsellor far more to Stockton's taste than Larkin; and, in addition to believing the Californians dangerous and unreliable, and entertaining deep resentment on account of the March episode, he doubtless could see that California, reposing contentedly under the American flag, would make a poor background for his violent operations. The outcome was a ridiculous address,[17] which ranted at length against Castro, especially for his treatment of Frémont, explained Sloat's action as due to this, declared that Stockton's only object was to protect life and property, and announced that when Castro should be put down and the duties of government be assumed by responsible officials, he would remove the American forces.[20]

July 23, with a view to the conquest of the whole province, Frémont's men were taken into the naval service as the California Battalion, with himself as major and Gillespie as captain; and they sailed promptly for San Diego to gain Castro's rear. A few days later Stockton followed in the Congress, raised the American flag at Santa Barbara, and anchored at San Pedro, some eighteen miles from Los Angeles. Larkin, still most anxious to bring about a peaceful arrangement, came with him. Believing that war had not been and would not be declared, he urgently recommended through Stearns of Los Angeles that Pico and the legislature meet the dubious emergency, prevent the country from falling a prey to disorder, save the interests of all officials, and ensure lasting prosperity by declaring California independent under American protection; and Castro proposed that Stockton halt at San Pedro with a view to negotiations.[20]

Alvarado said later that a satisfactory arrangement could probably have been made, but the Commodore haughtily insisted that Castro should begin by accepting independence and the American flag.[18] To do this would have left him nothing to trade upon; and hence, apparently overestimating Stockton's military strength, lacking money, and finding round him no popular enthusiasm or even genuine harmony, he retired hastily on August 10 with a handful of men toward Sonora, leaving behind him a cloud of eloquence;[19] and the governor also left the country.[20]

CALIFORNIA IN AMERICAN HANDS

On their disappearance all military opposition vanished. Larkin with a couple of friends took Los Angeles on the twelfth of August; the Commodore with his marines and sailors, headed by a brass band, and Frémont with a part of his battalion arrived the next day; and on the seventeenth, when positive information that war had begun reached the town, Stockton issued another proclamation. California now belongs to the United States, he announced in effect, and is under military law; all who adhere to the new régime will be protected, but no others may remain in the country. Some of the Californian leaders were arrested and a number surrendered, but all of them were given their liberty on parole. Friends rallied of course to the winning side; the Commodore became attentive and kindly toward the people; and Larkin soon reported that matters were settling down.[20]

Stockton realized that under the law of nations and the law of humanity a conqueror had the right and the duty of softening military rule, and felt that pursuing such a course here would tend to confirm the victory. Already, with his assistance, the first schoolhouse and the first newspaper of California had made their appearance; steps were now taken to establish postal facilities; and this very proclamation announced, that officials elected by the people might govern according to the prevailing usages. In September regular municipal elections took place, and good results were obtained.[20]

The reign of justice began to dawn. Chaplain Colton, appointed alcalde of Monterey, gave general satisfaction. American officers recovered a large number of horses driven off by the Indians, and astonished the Californians by returning them to their owners. The Commodore, besides adjusting disputes in a manner that gratified the people, made and forwarded to Washington for approval what he called laws; announced that a legislative council would be created, and called himself governor. This office, however, it was not his intention to hold long. The fantastic idea of landing at Acapulco and moving upon the capital had taken possession of his mind. He therefore sent Frémont north to enlist men for him on the Sacramento, proposed to set out for Mexico in October, and promised to inaugurate that officer as governor on leaving California.[20]

But he did not leave so promptly. In arranging for the security of the country he divided it into three military districts, appointing Frémont commandant at the north and Gillespie at the south. Gillespie's task was peculiarly important, because news and troops from Mexico would arrive first at Los Angeles, and because that section had the largest percentage of restless people, the smallest percentage of Americans, and the weakest pro-American sent

iment. He seems to have been an elegant, precise man with a stiff, pointed beard and a temper of the same description; but at any rate he was a soldier, understood his responsibility, and knew what military government signified.[27]

Larkin urged that a respectable command should be given him, but Stockton had neither men nor funds for land service, and only about fifty of the disdainful and intolerant volunteers, perhaps including some of the detested Sonoma "brigands," could be spared for Los Angeles. A garrison of that strength, far from support, was almost an insult and certainly a provocation to the people. Though told by Stockton to temper military law, Gillespie doubtless felt that his only safety lay in maintaining strict order; and if, unfamiliar with Californian character and ways, he extended his discipline too rigidly over the free and easy natives, as he seems to have done, the mistake was but natural. Stockton himself had given the cue, declaring in his proclamation of August 17 that men found in arms outside their houses were to be banished, ordering that all must be at home from ten o'clock at night until sunrise, and indulging in a general tone that has been thought supercilious. Here were causes enough of trouble; and behind them lay an inevitable clash of races, temperaments and customs, unavoidable friction resulting from a forcible change of flags, and a restlessness due to the ambition of would-be leaders.[27]

INSURRECTION

As the signs of disaffection began to show themselves, Gillespie naturally arrested suspicious persons, and punished those whom he deemed conspirators. This precipitated an outburst. In the night of September 22 some turbulent fellows made an attack on the American quarters. In a military way it was contemptible; but, as such affairs often do, it crystallized popular sentiment. Within a few days about four hundred Californians were in arms; and when the surrender of Lieutenant Wilson with some twenty-five men at the Chino farm to about one hundred and ten insurgents heightened confidence, the movement spread still more. Some of the malcontents were persons of standing, who felt that self-respect called upon them to break a lance against the invader, even though sure to be defeated; but the great majority appear to have been irresponsible characters ready for anything except work. Lieutenant Colonel Flores, the leader, and nearly all of his officers had violated their paroles, of course; but breaking an oath seemed to them a trivial matter, for they knew they could make another equally good on a moment's notice.[21] Without fortifications, adequate equipment or supplies, Gillespie could see no hope of resisting such odds, and September 29 he capitulated on favorable terms.[22] The next day he proceeded to San Pedro with his men, and they soon embarked there on a merchant ship, the Vandalia.[27]

About the first of October Stockton, then at San Francisco, learned of the insurrection. By his order Mervine sailed promptly for San Pedro in the Savannah, and on October 7 with sailors, marines and Gillespie's command-all on foot-the captain marched for Los Angeles. Stockton, however, had provided him with no artillery, while the Californians were supported by a small field piece. When the Americans charged, this gun was hurried beyond their reach by mounted men with lariats; but as soon as the Americans halted from exhaustion, it was drawn back and set at work. The case appeared hopeless, and after losing about a dozen men, killed or wounded, Mervine found it necessary to retreat. Naturally the Californians felt immensely encouraged, and large numbers gathered on the hills behind San Pedro.[27]

Late in October Stockton, after lingering a while at San Francisco to attend a glorification meeting and stopping at Monterey to land ordnance and men for the defence of that point, arrived at San Pedro and undertook to accomplish something; but the attempt proved a failure, and he sailed for San Diego, at that day a small group of adobe houses about four miles northeast of the present city.[23] Insurgents were now besieging the place, and neither provisions nor horses could be obtained in the vicinity; but Stockton procured both from lower California, and began to make ready for land operations.[27]

By this time Flores had been elected provisional governor and comandante general by the legislature, and martial law had been declared; but the insurgent leader found himself without adequate resources. Foreigners aided him with a little money at an exorbitant rate of interest, but on October 24 he stated that only some forty rounds of cannon ammunition remained, and a thousand for the muskets of his four hundred men. Campaigning without supplies or funds and driving stock to the interior were found extremely irksome by the indolent Californians; a general discouragement prevailed; and the legislature could not obtain a quorum. Soon disaffection showed itself; and being a Mexican, Flores dared not adopt strong measures. Finally, in the night of December 3 he was imprisoned by malcontents; and although the legislature and people soon extinguished the revolt, much confusion grew out of it. Moreover, Stockton's troops outnumbered his; other Americans were gathering in northern California, he knew; and thousands of immigrants were expected at New Helvetia, he was informed.[27]

KEARNEY'S ARRIVAL

None of these forces, however, gave him the first blow. May 26 Polk had proposed an overland expedition to California, and a week later it was decided upon. Accordingly Kearny was ordered to advance after securing New Mexico, should the season permit; and on September 25, as we have seen, he left Santa Fe for the coast. Soon meeting Stockton's bearer of despatches, he learned that California had been occupied, sent back all but about one hundred of his dragoons, and with these and a pair of mountain howitzers marched on. At the beginning of December he reached Warner's ranch (Agua Caliente), the frontier settlement of California, and, having learned of the insurrection, wrote on to Stockton for aid and information. Gillespie was therefore sent forward with a brass 4-pounder and thirty-eight men, met him December 5, and told him among other news that a party of insurgents lay at San Pascual, about eight miles distant on the road to San Diego. Probably the force numbered rather less than one hundred. A capable man, however, Andrés Pico, brother of the ex-governor, commanded them.[24]

Fight at San Pascual

Kearny sent off a scouting party, which not only saw but was seen, and reported to him at two o'clock the next morning. An attack upon the Californians was highly inadvisable. The Americans and the pack-mules that many of them rode were almost worn out. Some horses recently bought or captured were accustomed to the terrible Mexican bits, and could not be controlled by their new riders. Kearny had had no experience in fighting lancers or California horsemen, and did not know how many were before him. It was clear that the enemy were aware of his presence. The dampness of the night made firearms unreliable, and the men were so chilled they could not use them quickly. Finally, it would not have been difficult to hold the insurgents off with his three cannon, and march safely in a compact body to San Diego, now only about forty miles distant. Kearny decided, however, to attack before daybreak, and advanced.[24]

Pico had not desired nor expected a battle; but, perceiving what kind of troops were in his front, he did not flinch. Kearny's advance guard fared very badly, and when his main body came into action, the enemy adopted the familiar ruse of a pretended flight. In pursuing, the Americans became separated according to the speed of their mounts; and then Pico turned furiously upon them. The net result was that Kearny, Gillespie and thirteen other Americans received ugly wounds, and eighteen were killed, while the enemy's loss appears to have been trifling. After ten or fifteen minutes, however, the Californians drew off, expecting guns and large reinforcements, which Flores had promised. As one consequence of the revolt against his authority, these did not arrive. Hence Pico, who had not been prepared for either the fight or the revolt, made no serious efforts to follow up his advantage; and Kearny, though he lost his cattle, had to live on mule meat, and was burdened with his wounded, succeeded, with additional aid sent him by Stockton, in reaching San Diego on December 12.[24]

Stockton's preparations to do something were then resumed. Sailors felt strongly averse to shore duty, but he overcame their repugnance. The ships furnished them pikes, carbines and pistols, and shoes were manufactured out of canvas; and so with Kearny's dragoons, Gillespie's detachment, some friendly Californians and about four hundred sailors and marines, drilled somewhat for their new work, the Commodore had a respectable force.[25] It was not, however, his intention to attack the main body of the insurgents, for he felt afraid the enemy would then get behind him. His plan was to move up the coast and make a diversion, expecting Frémont and his riflemen to take the bull by the horns; but Kearny urged him to march for Los Angeles, about one hundred and forty miles distant, and at length on December 29, after having brushed away the Californians operating against San Diego, he set out, greatly embarrassed by having to drag miserable ox-carts through the deep sand. Kearny declined the chief command, but finally asked for and was given the post of lieutenant or executive officer under Stockton.[27]

Flores now found himself in a desperate situation. Naturally officers who knew they had violated their paroles dreaded to give up; but most of his troops felt half-hearted, people hid to avoid serving, and some of the Indians were in arms against him. In order to gain time for a blow at Frémont, he tried to inveigle Stockton into a truce, holding out as a reason that Mexico and the United States had probably adjusted their differences; but the Commodore refused to treat with an officer guilty of breaking his parole. Then, having some four hundred and fifty badly armed men, though not enough powder for a long fight, he set an ambuscade where he supposed the Americans would pass; but Stockton avoided it by turning to the right, and made for the Bartolo ford of the San Gabriel River, twelve miles from Los Angeles, where the stream was only knee-deep. The Californians followed suit, and occupied an eminence fifty feet high, parallel to the stream and about six hundred yards beyond it.[27]

As the Americans crossed-the first of them deploying and waiting behind the bank, here breast-high and masked with trees-Flores greeted them from the top of the hill with four small guns; but his inferior powder and sometimes ill-fitting balls proved ineffective.[26] When the Americans were mostly across the river and formed in a square, he undertook to charge. But the movement seems to have been rather faint-hearted or badly managed; his left was demoralized by hearing one of the aides-who seems to have been seized with a panic-shout "Halt!" as it was advancing; and his right accomplished nothing. Stockton then cannonaded the hill, particularly with his two 9-pounders, for about forty minutes, while most of his troops lay down; and finally he charged. Crying "New Orleans!" in memory of Jackson's great victory, gained on the same day of the year, January 8, the men rushed on, and easily took possession of the ground. The Californians made a fruitless attack on their rear, and then most of them dispersed.[27]

STOCKTON MOVES AGAINST LOS ANGELES

The next morning Stockton, leaving the road in order to avoid the danger of ambuscades, pushed slowly on toward Los Angeles; and after a time some three hundred Californians, whom Flores had managed to rally, placed themselves upon his line of march. An ineffective cannonade from a ravine used up the rest of their ammunition, while the Americans replied with equally meagre results. As a last effort, Flores now ordered a charge, giving the signal for it-as he himself reported-by sending forward a white flag.[27]

Fight near Los Angeles

The attack was made with considerable spirit but no success at all on both of the American flanks, and then Flores took post at a point on the road to Mexico, where Pasadena now stands. He admitted losing only five killed and twenty-two wounded during the two days, but probably these figures needed to be multiplied by three; while Stockton lost one killed and fourteen wounded. That night the Americans encamped near Los Angeles; and the next day, January 10, after a deputation had come to arrange matters, they took possession of the town-annoyed a little by drunken bullies-and replaced Gillespie's flag on the government house. Most of the California troops now scattered, and those who remained were insubordinate. Flores could see there was no hope; and the following night, leaving to Andrés Pico the chief command and probably about one hundred men, he set out hastily with a few others for Sonora.[27]

FRéMONT'S OPERATIONS

Up to this time nothing had been heard of Frémont's operations during almost three months. Probably that officer did not wish to take part in the hostilities. Expecting to be governor and seeing before him a prospect of brilliant opportunities, he desired to conciliate the people. Stockton, on learning of the revolt in the south, had ordered him back from the Sacramento, and about October 12 he sailed for Santa Barbara with instructions to march from that place to Los Angeles. Learning on the way, however, that Mervine had been defeated, and that all the horses and cattle had been driven away from Santa Barbara by insurgents, he returned on his own responsibility to the Sacramento, and began to collect not only horses but men.[28] By the end of November he found at his back about four hundred mounted riflemen and at least three guns, the strongest force in California.[32]

The Savannah had been sent north expressly to assist him;[29] but, with little reference to his army commission or his naval obligations, he now proceeded slowly by land to San Luis Obispo, where he fortunately captured Jesús Pico, a cousin of Andrés; and after his prisoner had been sentenced to death for breaking parole, he assumed the authority of pardoning him. Then, for no discoverable reason unless to spare about sixty insurgents, whom he could have scattered in ten minutes, he led his command through the mountains, where it suffered terribly in the stormy weather. At Santa Barbara he took a week for repose; and finally, with a nicety of calculation or felicity of luck that excites wonder, he arrived near the scene of action-three months after receiving orders to go there-precisely as the Americans were entering Los Angeles.[30] Then with his devotee, Jesús Pico, he betook himself to the camp of Andrés, and finally, although he knew that American forces had beaten the Californians and entered Los Angeles, and understood that a superior officer was near, he arranged with the insurgents a capitulation, which Stockton had refused to grant.[32]

This capitulation, the "treaty" of Cahuenga, conceded substantially all the insurgents could have asked. They promised to give up the public arms, go home, obey the laws of the United States, and help restore tranquillity; but on the other hand they and the rest of the Californians were to be protected in person and property, to enjoy the same rights as Americans, to be excused from serving under arms or taking an oath of allegiance during the war, and to leave the country freely should they wish to do so.[31] Naturally such a settlement was displeasing to Stockton, but he felt extremely anxious to resume his proper work as a naval officer, and of course was glad to have this difficult business off his hands; so after hesitating for a time he confirmed the pact.[32]

It was a singular dénouement. Men defeated, without a hope left, and in danger of execution for breaking parole, virtually dictated terms to the conquerors. A brevet captain, just blossoming into a lieutenant colonel, eclipsed a commodore and a brigadier general; and the arch-ruffian of the Bear cult reappeared as a fairy godmother to save and bless the Californians, who detested him. But the ending was after all a happy one. The Americans felt a new respect for the people, and they were able to see that, although destitute of gunpowder, the insurgents, if driven to extremities, could have done much harm with lance, dagger and torch, and could have sown the seeds of perennial hate.[32]

On the other hand, while the Californians felt well pleased with their own audacity and valor, they not only realized that it was impossible to fight the United States, but were thoroughly disgusted with Flores, who took away hundreds of horses and mules belonging to his friends, and with Mexico, which in three and a half months had sent neither a man nor a peso to encourage and sustain them. Indeed, as their agent in Mexico frankly said, their political attitude had completely changed. Most of them intended to abide by the terms. They were disposed to look forward instead of back. And the curtain was already beginning to rise on the Golden West that we know.[32]

* * *

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares