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Commander John B. Montgomery statement related to the visits of de la Rosa and Todd to the U.S.S. Portsmouth on June 15 and 16, 1846

[ as quoted in Montgomery and the Portsmouth at pages 36 -39 by Fred Blackburn Rogers © 1958 John Howell as reprinted in 1990 with permission from Mrs. Warren R. Howell by The Portsmouth Marine Society, and produced by Peter E. Randall Publisher, Portsmouth, NH]

       On Monday morning [June 15] Don Jose de la Rosa arrived on board from General Don Guadaloupa Vallejo, deputed to inform me that eighty Americans had taken forcible possession of Sonoma and made himself, General Vallejo, and several other Mexican officers of note, prisoners, who were on their way under strong escort to the Sacramento, and apprehending from a party that seemed to act without a head to direct or influence them, that acts of violence might be perpetrated upon their defenseless families and others in and about Sonoma, requested the interposition of any authority of [or?] influence I might have over them for their security.

       I replied to General Vallejo in effect that my position as an officer of the United States government precluded my interference between the conflicting parties, or with any political or popular movement of the people of California, disclaiming at the same time any previous knowledge of this rising of the people and all agency on the part of my government or by myself in producing it, which seemed to be called for by the implication embraced in General Vallejo’s request for the exercise of authority with the insurgents.  I expressed my readiness, however, to use my friendly endeavors to prevent the perpetration of violence upon the defenseless people of Sonoma, and at once directed the First Lieut. Missroon to be prepared to proceed in one of the ship’s boats to Sonoma in the morning for that purpose.

       On Tuesday morning [June 16th], before Lt. Missroon had started on the mission assigned, a courier arrived on board from Sonoma bringing a letter from the insurgent chief at that place, confirming in part the statement of De La Rosa, but representing the number of their forces at Sonoma to have been thirty-five instead of eighty persons in the first intance, ten of whom were sent in charge of the prisoners to the Sacramento, leaving twenty-five only in charge of the place.  The letter states the nine pieces of cannon, and stand of small arms, with ammunition and ball cartridges, etc., etc., in sufficient quantity for rifle and musket use, to sustain themselves against any attack which could be made upon them with small arms, but apprehended they should fall short if their artillery should be called into requisition, as was probable in case of an attack from the government troops, and requested a supply from the ship, which, of course, was refused on the ground of neutrality; my position ands duty here compelling me to abstain (much in opposition to my sympathies, I confess) from rendering aid or facilities to either of the parties.

      I told Mr Todd the insurgent messenger (avery intelligent and clever Kentuckian) that I was about to dispatch a boat with an officer and General Vallejo’s messenger to Sonoma, with a request to his chief in behalf of the terrified families of that place, to which he replied that he was happy to hear it, and would be glad to return with them, and send his horse back by another, which was assented to.  He stated that a full and satisfactory guarantee for the security of the people from harm had been given by proclamation almost immediately after taking possession, and that it was well understood that condign punishment would promptly meet the transgressor; that if Vallejo had been less precipitate in sending to me, he would have seen no necessity for the trouble.

        I addressed a hasty communication in reply to the one received from Mr. Ide, and dispatched the boat at about 10 A.M. with Lieut. Missroon and the courier of both parties.  I have no doubt of the honest motives and intentions of the insurgent party in this serious movement, which is in all probability, although small, the beginning to eventuate in their ruin or glorious triumph over their insidious enemies, who are charged with the design of cutting off by the hand of oppression, or driving from possession the American resident of the country.  Their present leader, William E. [B.] Ide, although villified and abused by the Mexicans is represented to me by persons who know him as being one of the most wealthy and respectable men in California, and an exceedingly intelligent and judicious man, whose name and character cannot fail to inspire confidence and give wait to the cause he has espoused.  Not the least important feature of their scheme, as presented in Mr. Ide’s letter, is that of declaring the independence of California, and in due time annexing with the United States.


January 31, 2007

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