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JOHN ELLIOT MONTGOMERY LETTER TO HIS MOTHER, DATED JULY 25, 1846 [excerpted from MORE LIGHT ON THE ORIGINAL BEAR FLAG OF CALIFORNIA by A. H. GREENLY, from a NAVA reprint (1988) Reprinted with permission from Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. XXVII, No. 4 (April 1953)]

Text Box:

At the top of the first page ...[left] there is a crude drawing of the flag with the inscription, “Flag of the Republic of California first raised June 14t. 1846 & hauled down July 9t. 1846 & replaced by the American Ensign.  Cuffy came down growling.”  The letter itself reads as follows:


U. S. Ship Portsmouth  
Yerba Buena                 
Bay of San Francisco    
California July 25t. 1846

My Dear Mother,
            As I suppose there will be a mail made up Shortly for the U. States via Panama, I take the opportunity of dropping you a few lines in order to let you know that notwithstanding the war I am still among the living &. in the enjoyment of perfect health.  We have passed many wonderful transitions as well as strange ones within the last two months which I will give you an account of as follows: On the fourteenth of June last there was a revolutionary movement among the Americans residing in the Northern part of this country, against the Mexican authorities who had been designing against them with a view to expell them from the country, and a band of 34 men mostly Yankees rushed in upon the fortified tho’ interior town of Sonoma sixty miles from here & seized the commanding General Vallejo by name & some 3 or 4 others whom they carried prisoners [sic] to a fort previously occupied by one of their number as a defense against the Indians, the party then hoisted a Flag of their own make & declared California an Independant [sic] Republic & chose a man named Wm. B. Ide, as their Captain.  Their Flag consisted of a Star Union with a Grizzly bear in the center looking up at the star and under the Bear the words “Republic of California” on the lower border there was a red Stripe of Flannel the whole was composed of a piece of white cotton & Black berry juice there being no paint in the country.  I have the original & only Flag of the California Republic in my possession & esteem it quite a prize.  Father received despatches from General Vallejo & Captain Ide at the same time, the former requesting him to intercede in his behalf & the latter asking supplies of provisions, powder &c.  father refused the latter request but the former you know it is not in fathers power to refuse when he can grant it.  So he despatched Mr. Missroon to Sonoma on a message of intercession for the purpose of extracting a promise from the revolutionists to respect the persons of females & unoffending inhabitants of Sonoma.  I accompanied him to Sonoma & on arriving found a party of 24 men mostly dressed in Buckskins & we were met half way across [sic] the Square by a plain man about fifty years old in his shirt sleeves, with a pair of pantaloons which certainly had seen better days to my eyes his shoes looked as if they had not seen the outside of one of Day & Martin’s blacking bottles for six months & his hat was somewhat more holy that rightous [sic] this man was Captain Ide he welcomed us to Sonoma & on Mr. Ms. intimating to him that he would like to see him he called his 1st. Lt. Mr. Ford a nephew of old Deacon Ford of Charlestown, I then retired after the business was settled Mr. M. & myself called on Mrs. Vallejo & he assured her of her husbands safety & she offered us beds in her house which we accepted she is a very pleasant woman indeed we left the next day a week or two after this a scouting party of 15 Americans under Mr. Ford were met by a party of seventy Mexicans under a man named de la Torre & the Mexicans were routed with the loss of eight killed & many more wounded & there were none killed or hurt on the American side.  it was a great defeat surely things in this state when on the 9th of July news of the war arrived with orders for father to hoist our Flag here so [we] marched on shore to the flag staff with 80 men [& a] Marine guard to the tune of “Yankee Doodle” & after making an address to the people hoisted the flag under a salute or rather over it of 21 guns & three cheers from every body on shore & aboard ship three rolls of the drum & Yankee Doodle & the Marines presented arms, the scene was truly [sic] imposing father is now engaged fortifying this Bay building a fort &c.  We received news today of the reduction of St. Juan de Ulla by our fleet but no particulars Commodore Stocton [sic] has relieved Commodore Sloat within a day or two & the latter returns home via Panama father writes by him.  It is thought that Stocton [sic] will take us down with him to Acapulco to destroy the Fort there it is a very Strong one & I hope he may do so & give us a little service, but I must close excuse my writing this so heavy as my paper will not easily receive an impression with ink had it been better my writing would have been so too.  Tell Henry to write me & that I unfortunately or rather a friend did lost the cane he gave me overboard last night remember me to the Gliddons Mrs Tyler I suppose she is now & all other enquiring friends Father thinks of buying land out here & leaving me here to cultivate it but I must close it is late I do most of fathers writing now but good bye till next time & believe me your affectionate son

                                                                                    JOHN ELLIOTT MONTGOMERY
P.S. [written in margin of first page] Give my remembrances to the gliddons & Greenleafs tell Hen he must write me if father buys land out here I shall want to stay here it is a lovely climate & country


January 31, 2007

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