Mendocino County History
History of Mendocino County California -
In the early part of this century California would appear to have found extreme favor in the jealous eyes of three great powers. We have elsewhere shown what the Russians did on the coast, and how they actually gained a foothold at Bodega and Fort Ross, Sonoma county. In the year 1818, Governor Sola received a communication from Friar Marquinez, of Guadalajara, in Old Spain, wherein he informs His Excellency of the rumors of war, between the United States and Spain, while, in February of the following year, Father José Sanchez, writes to the same official that there is a report abroad of the fitting out of an American expedition in New Mexico. Both of these epistles remark that California is the coveted prize. Great Britain wanted it, it is said, for several reasons, the chief of which was, that in the possession of so extended a coast line she would have the finest harbors in the world for her fleets. This desire would appear to have been still manifested in 1840, for we find in February of that year, in the New York Express, the following: "The Californias.—The rumor has reached New Orleans from Mexico of the cession to England of the Californias. The cession of the two provinces would give to Great Britain an extensive and valuable territory in a part of the world where she has long been anxious to gain a foothold, besides securing an object still more desirable—a spacious range of sea-coast on the Pacific, stretching more than a thousand miles from the forty-second degree of latitude south, sweeping the peninsula of California, and embracing the harbors of that gulf, the finest in North America."
These rumors, so rife between the years 1842 and 1846, necessitated the maintenance of a large and powerful fleet by both the Americans and British on the Pacific Ocean, each closely observing the other. The first move in the deep game was made for the United States in September, 1842, by Commodore Ap Catesby Jones. He became possessed of two newspapers which would appear to have caused him to take immediate action. One of these, published in New Orleans, stated that California had been ceded by Mexico to Great Britain in consideration of the sum of seven millions of dollars; the other, a Mexican publication, caused him to believe that war had been declared between the two countries. The sudden departure of two of the British vessels strengthened him in this belief, and, that they were en route for Panama to embark soldiers from the West Indies for the occupation of California. To forestall this move of "perfidious Albion," Commodore Jones left Callao, Peru, on September 7, 1812, and crowded all sail ostensibly for the port of Monterey; but when two days out, his squadron hove to, a council of the Captains of the Flag-ship, "Cyane" and "Dale" was held, when the decision was come to that possession should be taken of California at all hazards, and abide by the consequences, whatever they might be. The accompanying letter from an officer of the "Dale," dated Panama, September 23, 1812, tells it own story: " We sailed from Callao on the 7th of September in company with the "United States" and "Cyane" sloop, but on the 10th day out, the 17th, separated, and bore up for this port. Just previous to our departure, two British ships-of-war, the razee "Dublin," fifty guns, and the sloop-of-war "Champion," eighteen guns, sailed thence on secret service. This mysterious movement of Admiral Thomas elicited a hundred comments and conjectures as to his destination, the most probable of which seemed to be that he was bound for the northwest coast of Mexico, where it is surmised that a British settlement (station) is to be located in accordance with a secret convention between the Mexican and English Governments, and it is among the on dits , in the squadron that the frigate "United States," "Cyane" and "Dale" are to rendezvous as soon as possible at Monterey, to keep an eye on John Bull's movements in that quarter." These rumors were all strengthened by the fact that eight hundred troops had been embarked at Mazatlan in February, 1842, by General Micheltorena, to assist the English, it was apprehended, to carry out the secret treaty whereby California was to be handed over to Great Britain. Of these troops, who were mostly convicts, Micheltorena lost a great number by desertion; and after much delay and vexation, marched out of Mazatlan on July 25, 1842, with only four hundred and fifty men, arriving at San Diego on August 25th. Between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, with his army reduced to but three hundred from desertion, at 11 o'clock on the night of October 24th, he received the astounding intelligence that Commodore Jones had entered the port of Monterey, with the frigate "United States" and corvette " Cyane," landed an armed force, hauled down the Mexican flag, hoisted the American in its place, and issued a proclamation declaring California to be henceforth belonging to the United States. These startling occurrences took place on October 19, 1812. On the 28th, the Commodore reflected on his latest achievement, and becoming convinced that an error had been committed, he lowered the American ensign, replaced it with that of Mexico, and on the following day saluted it, sailed for Mazatlan, and reported his proceedings to Washington.
On hearing of the capture of Monterey, the Mexican General withdrew to the Mission of San Fernando, and there remained for some time, when he finally, on the horizon being cleared, transferred his staff to Los Angeles, and there entertained Commodore Jones on January 19, 1843.
The recall of Jones was demanded by the Mexican Minister at Washington, which was complied with, and Captain Alexander J. Dallas instructed to relieve him of the command of the Pacific squadron. Dallas at once proceed to Callao, via Panama, to assume his new functions, and on arrival took the "Erie," an old store-ship, and proceeded in search of the Commodore, who had in the meantime received intelligence of the turn affairs had taken, and kept steering from port to port, and finally touching at Valparaiso, Chili, he sailed for home around Cape Horn. The reign of Captain Dallas was short; he died on board the frigate "Savannah," at Callao, June 3, 1844, and was succeeded by Commodore John Drake Sloat.
Between the years 1814 and 1846, the American and British fleets keenly watched each other, and anxiously awaited the declaration of war between Mexico and the United States. During this time the revolution which drove General Micheltorena and his army from California, had broken out and been quelled; while the Oregon boundary and the annexation of Texas were questions which kept the naval authorities at fever heat.
Let us now leave these American and British sailors with their mighty ships jealously watching the movements of each other, to consider the doings of one who before long was to take a prominent part in the affairs of California.
In the month of March, 1845, Brevet Captain John Charles Fremont departed from Washington for the purpose of organizing a third expedition for the topographical survey of Oregon and California, which having done, he left Bent's fort, on or about the 16th of April, his command consisting of sixty-two men, six of whom were Delaware Indians. It is not our wish here, nor indeed have we the space, to tell of the hardships endured, and the perilous journeys made by Fremont, Kit Carson, Theodore Talbot, and others of that band, whose wanderings have formed the theme of many a ravishing tale; our duty will only permit of defining the part taken by them in regard to our especial subject.
About June 1, 1846, General José Castro, with Lieutenant Francisco de Arci, his Secretary, left the Santa Clara Mission, where they had ensconced themselves after pursuing Fremont from that district, and passing through Yerba Buena (San Francisco) crossed the bay to the Mission of San Rafael, and there collected a number of horses which he directed Arci to take to Sonoma, with as many more as he could capture on the way, and from there proceed with all haste to the Santa Clara Mission by way of Knight's Landing and Sutter's Fort. These horses were intended to be used against Fremont and Governor Pio Pico by Castro, both of whom had defied his authority. On June 5th, Castro moved from Santa Clara to Monterey, and on the 12th, while on his return, was met by a courier bearing the intelligence that Lieutenant Arci had been surprised and taken prisoner on the 10th by a band of adventurers, who had also seized a large number of the horses which he had in charge for the headquarters at Santa Clara. Here was a dilemma. Castro's education in writing had been sadly neglected ----it is said he could only paint his signature—and being without his amanuensis, he at once turned back to Monterey, and on June 12th dictated a later, through ex-Governor Don Juan B. Alvarado, to the Prefect Manuel Castro, saying that the time had come when their differences should be laid aside, and conjoint action taken for the defence and protection of their common country, at the same time asking that he should collect all the men and horses possible and send them to Santa Clara. He then returned to his headquarters, and on the 17th promulgated a soul-stirring proclamation to the settlers.
When Lieutenant Arci left Sonoma with the caballada of horses and mares, crossing the dividing ridge, he passed up the Sacramento valley to Knight's Landing, on the left bank of the Sacramento river, about fifteen miles north of the present city of Sacramento. [This ferry was kept by William Knight, who had left Missouri May 6, 1841, arrived in California November 10, 1841, received a grant of land and settled at Knight's Landing, Yolo county of to-day. He died at the mines on the Stanislaus river, in November 1849.] When Lieutenant Arci reached the ferry or crossing, he met Mrs. Knight, to whom, on account of her being a New Mexican by birth, and therefore thought to be trustworthy, he confided the secret of the expedition. Such knowledge was too much for any ordinary feminine bosom to contain. She told her husband, who, in assisting the officer to cross his horses, gave him fair words so that suspicion might be lulled, and then bestriding his fleetest horse, he made direct for Captain Fremont's camp at the confluence of the Feather and Yuba rivers, where he arrived early in the morning of June 9th. Here Knight, who found some twenty settlers that had arrived earlier than he, discussing matters, communicated to Captain Fremont and the settlers that Lieutenant Arci had, the evening before, the 8th, crossed at his landing, bound to Santa Clara via the Cosumne river; that Arci had told Mrs. Knight, in confidence, that the animals were intended to be used by Castro in expelling the American settlers from the country, and that it was also the intention to fortify the Bear river pass above the rancho of William Johnson, thereby putting a stop to all immigration; a move of Castro's which was strengthened by the return to Sutter's Fort, on June 7th, of a force that had gone out to chastise the Mokelumne Indians, who had threatened to burn the settlers' crops, incited thereto, presumably, by Castro.
Fremont, while encamped at the Buttes, was visited by nearly all the settlers, and from them gleaned vast stores of fresh information hitherto unknown to him. Among these were, that the greater proportion of foreigners in the country had become Mexican citizens, and married ladies of the country, for the sake of procuring land, and through them had become possessed of deep secrets supposed to be known only to the prominent Californians. Another was that a convention had been held at the San Juan Mission to decide which one of the two nations; America or Great Britain, should guarantee protection to California against all others for certain priveleges and considerations.
Lieutenant Revere says: " I have been favored by an intelligent member of the Junta with the following authentic report of the substance of Pico's speech to that illustrious body of statesmen:
" Excellent Sirs: To what a deplorable condition is our country reduced ! Mexico, professing to be our mother and our protectress, has given us neither arms nor money, nor the material of war for our defense. She is not likely to do anything in our behalf, although she is quite willing to afflict us with her extortionate minions, who come hither in the guise of soldiers and civil officers, to harass and oppress our people. We possess a glorious country, capable of attaining a physical and moral greatness corresponding with the grandeur and beauty which an Almighty hand has stamped on the face of our beloved California. But although nature has been prodigal, it cannot be denied that we are not in a position to avail ourselves of her bounty. Our population is not large, and it is sparsely scattered over valley and mountain, covering an immense area of virgin soil, destitute of roads and traversed with difficulty; hence it is hardly possible to collect an army of any considerable force. Our people are poor, as well as few, and cannot well govern themselves and maintain a decent show of sovereign power. Although we live in the midst of plenty, we lay up nothing; but, tilling the earth in an imperfect manner, all our time is required to provide subsistence for ourselves and our families. Thus circumstanced, we find ourselves suddenly threatened by hordes of Yankee emigrants, who have already begun to flock into our country, and whose progress we cannot arrest. Already have the wagons of that perfidious people scaled the almost inaccessible summits of the Sierra Nevada, crossed the entire continent, and penetrated the fruitful valley of the Sacramento. What that astonishing people will next undertake I cannot say; but in whatever enterprise they embark they will be sure to prove successful. Already are these adventurous land-voyagers spreading themselves far and wide over a country which seems suited to their tastes. They are cultivating farms, establishing vineyards, erecting mills, sawing up lumber, building workshops, and doing a thousand other things which seem natural to them, but which Californians neglect or despise. What then are we to do? Shall we remain supine while these daring strangers are overrunning our fertile plains and gradually outnumbering and displacing us? Shall these incursions go on unchecked, until we shall become strangers in our own land? We cannot successfully oppose them by our own unaided power; and the swelling tide of immigration renders the odds against us more formidable every day. We cannot stand alone against them, nor can we creditably maintain our independence even against Mexico; but there is something we can do which will elevate our country, strengthen her at all points, and yet enable us to preserve our identity and remain masters of our own soil. Perhaps what I am about to suggest may seem to some, fainthearted and dishonorable. But to me it does not seem so. It is the last hope of a feeble people, struggling against a tyrannical government which claims their submission at home, and threatened by bands of avaricious strangers from without, voluntarily to connect themselves with a power able and willing to defend and preserve them. It is the right and the duty of the weak to demand support from the strong, provided the demand be made upon terms just to both parties, I see no dishonor in this last refuge of the oppressed and powerless, and I boldly avow that such is the step that would have California take. There are two great powers in Europe, which seem destined to divide between them the unappropriated countries of the world. They have large fleets and armies not unpractised in the art of war. Is it not better to connect ourselves with one of those powerful nations, than to struggle on without hope, as we are doing now? Is it not better that one of them should be invited to send a fleet and an army, to defend and protect California, rather than we should fall an easy prey to the lawless adventurers who are overrunning our beautiful country? I pronounce for annexation to France or England, and the people of California will never regret having taken my advice. They will no longer be subjected to the trouble and grievous expense of governing themselves; and their beef and their grain, which they produce in such abundance, would find a ready market among the new comers. But I hear some one say: 'No monarchy!' But is not monarchy better than anarchy? Is not existence in some shape, better than annihilation? No monarch ! and what is there so terrible in a monarchy? Have not we all lived under a monarchy far more despotic than that of France or England, and were not our people happy under it? Have not the leading men among our agriculturists been bred beneath the royal rule of Spain, and have they been happier since the mock republic of Mexico has supplied its place? Nay, does not every man abhor the miserable abortion christened the republic of Mexico, and look back with regret to the golden days of the Spanish monarchy? Let us restore that glorious era. Then may our people go quietly to their ranchos, and live there, as of yore, leading a thoughtless and merry life, untroubled by politics or cares of State, sure of what is their own, and safe from the incursions of the Yankees, who would soon be forced to retreat into their own country."
It was a happy thing for California, and, as the sequel proved, for the views of the government of the United States, a man was found at this juncture whose ideas were more enlightened and consonant with the times than those of the rulers of his country, both civil and military. Patriotism was half his soul; he therefore could not silently witness the land of his birth sold to any monarchy, however old; and he rightly judged that although foreign protection might postpone, it could not avert that assumption of power, which was beginning to make itself felt. Possessed at the time of no political power, and having had few early advantages, still his position was so exalted, and his character so highly respected by both the foreign and native population, that he had been invited to participate in the deliberations of the Junta. This man was Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Born in California, he commenced his career in the army as an alferes, or ensign, and in this humble grade, he volunteered, at the suggestion of the Mexican government, with a command of fifty soldiers, to establish a colony on the north side of the bay of San Francisco, for the protection of the frontier. He effectually subdued the hostile Indians inhabiting that then remote region, and laid the foundation of a reputation for integrity, judgment, and ability, unequaled by any of his countrymen. Although quite a young man, he had already filled the highest offices in the province, and had at this time retired to private life near his estates in the vicinity of the town of Sonoma. He did not hesitate to oppose with all his strength the views advanced by Pico and Castro. He spoke nearly as follows:—
"I cannot, gentlemen, coincide in opinion with the military and civil functionaries who have advocated the cession of our country to France or England. It is most true, that to rely any longer upon Mexico to govern and defend us, would be idle and absurd. To this extent I fully agree with my distinguished colleagues. It is also true that we possess a noble country, every way calculated from position and resource's to become great and powerful. For that very reason I would not have her a mere dependency upon a foreign monarchy, naturally alien, or at least indifferent, to our interests and our welfare. It is not to be denied that feeble nations have in former times thrown themselves upon the protection of their powerful neighbors. The Britons invoked the aid of the 'warlike' Saxons; and fell an easy prey to their protectors, who seized their lands, and treated them like slaves. Long before that time, feeble and distracted provinces had appealed for aid to the all-conquering arms of imperial Rome; and they were at the same time protected and subjugated by their, grasping ally. Even could we tolerate the idea of dependence, ought we to go to distant Europe for a master? What possible sympathy could exist between us and a nation separated from us by two vast oceans? But waiving this insuperable objection, how could we endure to come under the dominion of a monarchy? For, although others speak lightly of a form of Government, as a freeman, I cannot do so. We are republicans—badly governed and badly situated as we are—still we are all, in sentiment, republicans. So far as we are governed at all, we at least profess to be self-governed. Who, then, that possesses true patriotism will consent to subject himself and his children to the caprices of a foreign King and his official minions? But it is asked, if we do not throw ourselves upon the protection of France or England, what shall we do? I do not come here to support the existing order of things, but I come prepared to propose instant and effective action to extricate our country from her present forlorn condition. My opinion is made up that we must persevere in throwing off the galling yoke of Mexico, and proclaim our independence of her forever. We have endured her official coromants and her villainous soldiery until we can endure no longer. All will probably agree with me that we ought at once to rid ourselves of what may remain of Mexican domination. But some profess to doubt our ability to maintain our position. To my mind there comes no doubt. Look at Texas, and see how long she withstood the power of united Mexico. The resources of Texas were not to be compared with ours, and she was much nearer to her enemy than we are. Our position is so remote, either by land or sea, that we are in no danger from Mexican invasion. Why, then, should we hesitate still to assert our independence? We have indeed taken the first step, by electing our own Governor, but another remains to be taken. I will mention it plainly and distinctly—it is annexation to the United States. In contemplating this consummation of our destiny, I feel nothing but pleasure, and I ask you to share it. Discard old prejudices, disregard old customs, and prepare for the glorious change which awaits our country. Why should we shrink from incorporating ourselves with the happiest and freest nation in the world, destined soon to be the most wealthy and powerful? Why should we go abroad for protection when this great nation is our adjoining neighbor? When we join our fortunes to hers, we shall not become subjects, but fellow-citizens, possessing all the rights of the people of the United States, and choosing our own federal and local rulers. We shall have a stable government and just laws. California will grow strong and flourish, and her people will be prosperous, happy and free. Look not, therefore, with jealousy upon the hardy pioneers, who scale our mountains and cultivate our unoccupied plains; but rather welcome them as brothers, who come to share with us a common destiny."
Such was the substance of General Vallejo's observations; those who listened to him, however, were far behind in general knowledge and intelligence. His arguments failed to carry conviction to the greater number of his auditors, but the bold position taken by him was the cause of an immediate adjournment of the Junta, no result having been arrived at concerning the weighty affairs on which they had met to deliberate. On his retiring from the Junta he embodied the views he had expressed in a letter to Don Pio Pico, and reiterated his refusal to participate in any action having for its end the adoption of any protection other than that of the United States. In this communication he also declared that he would never serve under any Government which was prepared to surrender California to an European power; he then returned to his estates, there to await the issue of events.
We left William Knight at Fremont's camp, where he had arrived on the morning of June 9, 1846, imparting his information to that officer and the twenty settlers who had there assembled. At 10 A. M., of that day, a party of eleven men, under the oldest member, Ezekiel Merritt, started in pursuit of Lieutenant Arci and his horses. On arrival at Hock farm they were joined by two more, and having crossed the American River at Sinclair's, reached the rancho of Allen Montgomery, sixty miles from Fremont's camp at the Buttes, towards evening, and there supped. Here they received the intelligence that Lieutenant Arci had reached Sutter's Fort on the 8th, and had that morning resumed his march, intending to camp that night at the rancho of Martin Murphy, twenty miles south, on the Cosumne river. Supper finished and a short rest indulged in, the party were once more in the saddle, being strengthened by the addition of Montgomery and another man, making the total force fifteen. They proceeded to within about five miles of Murphy's, and there lay concealed till daylight, when they were again on the move, and proceeded to within half a mile of the camp. Unperceived, they cautiously advanced to within a short distance, and then suddenly charging, secured the Lieutenant and his party, as well as the horses. Lieutenant Arci was permitted to retain his sword, each of his party was given a horse wherewith to reach Santa Clara, and a person traveling with him was permitted to take six of the animals which he claimed as private property; the Lieutenant was then instructed to depart, and say to his chief, General Castro, that the remainder of the horses were at his disposal whenever he should wish to come and take them. The Americans at once returned to Montgomery's, with the horses, and there breakfasted; that night, the 10th, they camped twenty-seven miles above Sutter's, on the rancho of Nicolas Angier, a German, not far from the mouth of Bear river, and, in the morning, ascertaining that Fremont had moved his camp thither from the Buttes, they joined him on the 11th, at 10 A. M., having traveled about one hundred and fifty miles in forty-eight hours.
On arriving at Fremont's camp it was found that the garrison had been considerably augmented by the arrival of more settlers who were all ardently discussing the events of the past two days, and its probable results. After a full hearing it was determined by them that, having gone so far, their only chance of safety was in a rapid march to the town of Sonoma, to effect its capture, and to accomplish this before the news of the stoppage of Lieutenant Arci and his horses could have time to reach that garrison. It was felt that should this design prove successful all further obstacles to the eventual capture of the country would have vanished. The daring band then reorganized, still retaining in his position of Captain, Ezekiel Merritt. At 3 P. M., June 12th, under their leader they left Fremont's camp for Sonoma, one hundred and twenty miles distant, and traveling all that night, passed the rancho of William Gordon, about ten miles from the present town of Woodland, Yolo county, whom they desired to inform all Americans that could be trusted, of their intention. At 9 A. M., on the 13th, they reached Captain John Grigsby's, at the head of Napa valley, and were joined by William L. Todd, William Scott and others. Here the company, which now mustered thirty-three men, was reorganized, and addressed by Doctor Robert Semple. Not desiring, however, to reach Sonoma till daylight, they halted here till midnight, when they once more resumed their march, and before it was yet the dawn of June 14, 1846, surprised and captured the garrison of Sonoma, consisting of six soldiers, nine pieces of artillery, and some small arms, etc., "all private property being religiously respected; and in generations yet to come their children's children may look back with pride and pleasure upon the commencement of a revolution which was carried on by their fathers' fathers upon principles as high and holy as the laws of eternal justice."
Their distinguished prisoners were General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Lieutenant-Colonel Victor Prudon, Captain Don Salvador Mundo Vallejo, brother to the general, and Mr. Jacob Primer Leese, brother-in-law to the General.
We would now lay before the reader the account of this episode, as described by General Vallejo, at the Centennial exercises, held at Santa Rosa, July 4, 1876:—
" I have now to say something of the epoch which inaugurated a new era for this country. A little before dawn on June 14, 1816, a party of hunters and trappers, with some foreign settlers, under command of Captain Merritt, Doctor Semple, and William B. Ide, surrounded my residence at Sonoma, and without firing a shot, made prisoners of myself, then Commander of the northern frontier; of Lieutenant-Colonel Victor Prudon, Captain Salvador Vallejo, and Jacob P. Leese. I should here state that down to October, 1845, I had maintained at my own expense a respectable garrison, at Sonoma, which often, in union with the settlers, did good service in campaigns against the Indians; but at last, tired of spending money which the Mexican Government never refunded, I disbanded the force, and most of the soldiers who had constituted it left Sonoma. Thus in June, 1846, the Plaza was entirely unprotected, although there were ten pieces of artillery, with other arms and munitions of war. The parties who unfurled the Bear Flag were well aware that Sonoma was without defense, and lost no time in taking advantage of this fact, and carrying out their plans. Years before, I had urgently represented to the Government of Mexico the necessity of stationing a sufficient force on the frontier, else Sonoma would be lost, which would be equivalent to leaving the rest of the country an easy prey to the invader. What think you, my friends, were the instructions sent me in reply to my repeated demands for means to fortify the country? These instructions were that I should at once force the emigrants to recross the Sierra Nevada, and depart from the territory of the Republic. To say nothing of the inhumanity of these orders, their execution was physically impossible—first, because the immigrants came in Autumn, when snow covered the Sierras so quickly as to make a return impracticable. Under the circumstances, not only I, but Commandante General Castro, resolved to provide the immigrants with letters of security, that they might remain temporarily in the country. We always made a show of authority, but well convinced all the time that we had no power to resist the invasion which was coming upon us. With the frankness of a soldier I can assure you that the American immigrants never had cause to complain of the treatment they received at the hands of either authorities or citizens. They carried us as prisoners to Sacramento, and kept us in a calaboose for sixty days or more, until the authority of the United States made itself respected, and the honorable and humane Commodore Stockton returned us to our hearths."
On the seizure of their prisoners the revolutionists at once took steps to appoint a captain, who was found in the person of John Grigsby, for Ezekiel Merritt wished not to retain the permanent command; a meeting was then called at the barracks, situated at the northeast corner of the Plaza, under the presidency of William B. Ide, Doctor Robert Semple being secretary.
At this conference Semple urged the independence of the country, stating that having once commenced they must proceed, for to turn back was certain death. Before the dissolution of the convention, however, rumors were rife that secret emissaries were being dispatched to the Mexican rancheros, to inform them of the recent occurrences, therefore to prevent any attempt at a rescue it was deemed best to transfer their prisoners to Sutter's Fort, where the danger of such would be less.
Before transferring their prisoners, however, a treaty, or agreement was entered into between the captives and captors, which will appear in the annexed documents kindly furnished to us by General Vallejo, and which have never before been given to the public. The first is in English, signed by the principal actors in the revolution and reads:—
"We, the undersigned, having resolved to establish a government upon Republican principals in connection with others of our fellow-citizens, and having taken up arms to support it, we have taken three Mexican officers as prisoners; General M. G. Vallejo, Lieut. Col. Victor Prudon, and Captain D. Salvador Vallejo, having formed and published to the world no regular plan of government, feel it our duty to say that it is not our intention to take or injure any person who is not found in opposition to the cause, nor will we take or destroy the property of private individuals further than is necessary for our immediate support.
The second is in the Spanish language and reads as follows:—
" Conste pr. la preste. qe. habiendo sido sorprendido pr. una numeros a fuerza armada qe. me tomó prisionero y á los gefes y officiales que. estaban de
guarnicion en esta plaza de la qe. se apoderó la espresada fuerza, habiendola encontrado absolutamte. indefensa, tanto yo, como los S. S. Officiales qe. suscribero comprometemos nue stra palabra de honor, de qe. estando bajo las garantias de prisionero da guerra, no tomaremos las armas ni a favor ni contra repetida fuerza armada de quien hemos recibiro la intimacion del momto. y un escrito fuinado qe. garantiza nuestras vidas, familias dé intereses, y los de toto el vecindario de esta jurisdn. mientras no hagamos oposicion. Sonoma,
But to proceed with our narrative of the removal of the general, his brother and Prudon to Sutter's Fort. A guard consisting of William B. Ide, as captain, Captain Grigsby, Captain Merritt, Kit Carson, William Hargrave, and five others left Sonoma for Sutter's Fort with their prisoners upon horses actually supplied by General Vallejo himself. We are told that on the first night after leaving Sonoma with their prisoners, the revolutionists, with singular inconsistency, encamped and went to sleep without setting sentinel or guard; that during the night they were surrounded by a party under the command of Juan de Padilla, who crept up stealthily and awoke one of the prisoners, telling him that there was with him close at hand a strong and well-armed force of rancheros, who, if need be, could surprise and slay the Americans before there was time for them to fly to arms, but that he, Padilla, before giving such instructions awaited the orders of General Vallejo, whose rank entitled him to the command of any such demonstration. The general was cautiously aroused and the scheme divulged to him, but with a self-sacrifice which cannot be too highly commended, answered that he should go voluntarily with his guardians, that he anticipated a speedy and satisfactory settlement of the whole matter, advised Padilla to return to his rancho and disperse his band, and positively refused to permit any violence to the guard, as he was convinced that such would lead to disastrous consequences, and probably involve the rancheros and their families in ruin, without accomplishing any good result. Lieutenant Revere says of this episode:
"This was not told to me by Vallejo, but by a person who was present, and it tallies well with the account given by the revolutionists themselves, several of whom informed me that no guard was kept by them that night, and that the prisoners might have easily escaped had they felt so inclined. The same person also told me that when Vallejo was called out of bed and made a prisoner in his own house, he requested to be informed as to the plans and objects of the revolutionists, signifying his readiness to collect and take command of a force of his countrymen in the cause of independence."
Having traveled about two-thirds of the way from Sutter's Fort, Captain Merritt and Kit Carson rode on ahead with the news of the capture of Sonoma, desiring that arrangements be made for the reception of the prisoners. They entered the fort early in the morning of June 16th. That evening the rest of the party, with their prisoners came and were handed over to the safe-keeping of Captain Sutter, who, it is said, was severely censured by Captain Fremont for his indulgence to them.
Mr. Thomas C. Lancey, the author of several interesting letters on this subject, which appeared in The Pioneer during the year 1878, remarks:—
"There have been so many questions raised during this year (1878) in relation to the date of the hoisting of the 'Bear Flag,' who made it and what material it was manufactured from, as well as the date of the capture of Sonoma, and the number of men who marched that morning, that I shall give the statements of several who are entitled to a hearing, as they were actors in that drama.
"The writer of this (Mr. Lancey) was here in 1846, and served during the war, and has never left the country since, but was not one of the 'Bear Flag party,' but claims from his acquaintance with those who were, to be able to form a correct opinion as to the correctness of these dates. Dr. Robert Semple, who was one of that party from the first, says, in his diary, that they entered Sonoma at early dawn on the 14th of June, 1846, thirty-three men, rank and file. William B. Ide, who was chosen their commander, says in his diary the same. Captain Henry L. Ford, another of this number, says, or rather his historian, S. H. W., of Santa Cruz, who I take to be the Rev. S. H. Willey, makes him say they captured Sonoma on the 12th of June, with thirty-three men. Lieutenant Wm. Baldridge, one of the party, makes the date the 14th of June, and number of men twenty-three. Lieutenant Joseph Warren Revere, of the United States Ship Portsmouth, who hauled down the 'Bear Flag' and hoisted the American flag, on the 9th of July, and at a later date commanded the garrison, says, the place was captured on the 14th of June." To this list is now added the documentary evidence produced above, fixing the date, of the capture of General Vallejo and his officers, and therefore the taking of Sonoma, as June 14, 1846.
On the seizure of the citadel of Sonoma, the Independents found floating from the flagstaff head the flag of Mexico, a fact which had escaped notice during the bustle of the morning. It was at once lowered, and they set to work to devise a banner which they should claim as their own. They were as one on the subject of there being a star on the groundwork, but they taxed their ingenuity to have some other device, for the "lone star" had been already appropriated by Texas.
So many accounts of the manufacture of this insignia have been published, that we give the reader those quoted by the writer in The Pioneer:—
"A piece of cotton cloth," says Mr. Lancey, "was obtained, and a man by the name of Todd proceeded to paint from a pot of red paint a star in the corner. Before he was finished Henry L. Ford, one of the party, proposes to paint on the center, facing the star, a grizzly bear. This was unanimously agreed to, and the grizzly bear was painted accordingly. When it was done, the flag was taken to the flag-staff, and hoisted among the hurrahs of the little party, who swore to defend it with their lives."
Of this matter Lieutenant Revere says: "A flag was also hoisted bearing a grizzly bear rampant, with one stripe below, and the words 'Republic of California,' above the bear, and a single star in the Union." This is the evidence of the officer who hauled down the Bear flag and replaced it with the Stars and Stripes on July 9, 1846.
The Western Shore Gazetteer has the following version: " On the 14th of June, 1846, this little handful of men proclaimed California a free and independent republic, and on that day hoisted their flag, known as the 'Bear flag;' this consisted of a strip of worn-out cotton domestic, furnished by Mrs. Kelley, bordered with red flannel, furnished by Mrs. John Sears, who had fled from some distant part to Sonoma for safety upon hearing that war had been thus commenced. In the center of the flag was a representation of a bear, en passant, painted with Venetian red, and in one corner was painted a star of the same color. Under the bear were inscribed the words 'Republic of California,' put on with common writing ink. This flag is preserved by the California Pioneer Association, and may be seen at their rooms in San Francisco. It was designed and executed by W. L. Todd."
The Sonoma Democrat under the caption, A True History of the Bear Flag, tells its story: " The rest of the revolutionary party remained in possession of the town. Among them were three young men, Todd, Benjamin Duell and Thomas Cowie. A few days after the capture, in a casual conversation between these young men, the matter of a flag came up. They had no authority to raise the American flag, and they determined to make one. Their general idea was to imitate without following too closely their national ensign. Mrs. W. B. Elliott had been brought to the town of Sonoma by her husband from his ranch on Mark West creek for safety. The old Elliott cabin may be seen to this day on Mark West creek, about a mile above the Springs. From Mrs. Elliott, Ben Duell got a piece of new red flannel, some white domestic, needles and thread. A piece of blue drilling was obtained elsewhere. From this material, without consultation with any one else, these three young men made the Bear Flag. Cowie had been a saddler. Duell had also served a short time at the same trade. To form the flag Duell and Cowie sewed together alternate strips of red, white, and blue. Todd drew in the upper corner a star and painted on the lower a rude picture of a grizzly bear, which was not standing as has been sometimes represented, but was drawn with head down. The bear was afterwards adopted as the design of the great seal of the State of California. On the original flag it was so rudely executed that two of those who saw it raised have told us that it looked more like a hog than a bear. Be that as it may, its meaning was plain—that the revolutionary party would, if necessary, fight their way through at all hazards. In the language of our informant, it meant that there was no back out; they intended to fight it out. There were no halyards on the flag-staff which stood in front of the barracks. It was again reared, and the flag which was soon to be replaced by that of the Republic for the first time floated on the breeze."
Besides the above quoted authorities, John S. Hittell, historian of the Society of California Pioneers, San. Francisco, and H. H. Bancroft, the Pacific Coast historian, fixed the dates of the raising of the Bear flag as June 12th and June 15th, respectively. William Winter, Secretary of the Association of Territorial Pioneers of California, and Mr. Lancey, questioned the correctness of these dates, and entered into correspondence with all the men known to be alive who were of that party, and others who were likely to throw any light on the subject. Among many answers received, we quote the following portion of a letter from James G. Bleak:—
" ST. GEORGE, UTAH, 16th of April, 1878.
"To William Winter, Esq., Secretary of Association 'Territorial Pioneers of California'—
" DEAR SIR :—Your communication of 3d instant is placed in my hands by the widow of a departed friend—James M. Ide, son of William B.—as I have at present in my charge some of his papers. In reply to your question asking for ' the correct date' of raising the Bear Flag at Sonoma, in 1846, I will quote from the writing of William. B. Ide, deceased: The said Bear flag (was) made of plane (plain) cotton cloth, and ornamented with the red flannel of a shirt from the back of one of the men, and christened by the 'California Republic,' in red paint letters on both sides; (it) was raised upon the standard where had floated on the breezes the Mexican flag aforetime; it was the 14th June, '46. Our whole number was twenty-four, all told. The mechanism of the flag was performed by William L. Todd, of Illinois. The grizzly bear was chosen as an emblem of strength and unyielding resistance.' "
The following testimony conveyed to the Los Angeles Express from the artist of the flag, we now produce as possibly the best that can be found:—
" LOS ANGELES, January 11, 1878.
"Your letter of the 9th inst. came duly to hand, and in answer I have to say in regard to the making of the original Bear flag of California, at Sonoma, in 1846, that when the Americans, who had taken up arms against the Spanish regime, had determined what kind of a flag should be adopted, the following persons performed the work: Granville P. Swift, Peter Storm, Henry L. Ford and myself; we procured in the house where we made our headquarters, a piece of new unbleached cotton domestic, not quite a yard wide, with strips of red flannel about four inches wide, furnished by Mrs. John Sears, on the lower side of the canvas. On the upper left hand corner was a star, and in the center was the image made to represent a grizzly bear passant, so common in this country at the time. The bear and star were painted with paint made of linseed oil and Venetian red or Spanish brown. Underneath the bear were the words 'California Republic.' The other persons engaged with me got the materials together, while I acted as artist. The forms of the bear and star and the letters were first lined out with pen and ink by myself, and the two forms were filled in with the red paint, but the letters with ink. The flag mentioned by Mr. Hittell with the bear rampant, was made, as I always understood, at Santa Barbara, and was painted black. Allow me to say, that at that time there was not a wheelwright shop in California. The flag I painted, I saw in the rooms of the California Pioneers in San Francisco, in 1870, and the secretary will show it to any person who will call on him, at any time. If it is the one that I painted, it will be known by a mistake in tinting out the words 'California Republic.' The letters were first lined out with a pen, and I left out the letter 'I,' and lined out the letter 'C' in its place. But afterwards I lined out the letter `I' over the `C,' so that the last syllable of 'Republic' looks as if the two last letters were blended.
" Yours respectfully, Wm. L. TODD."
The San Francisco Evening Post of April 20, 1874, has the following: "General Sherman has just forwarded to the Society of California Pioneers the guidon which the Bear Company bore at the time of the conquest of California. The relic is of white silk, with a two-inch wide red stripe at the bottom, and a bear in the center, over which is the inscription: 'Republic of California.' It is accompanied by the following letter from the donor:-
"Society of California Pioneers, San Francisco, California— GENTLEMEN : At the suggestion of General Sherman I beg leave to send to your Society herewith a guidon formerly belonging to the Sonoma troop of the California Battalion of 1846 for preservation. This guidon I found among the effects of that troop when I hauled down the Bear Flag and substituted the flag of the United States at Sonoma, on the 9th of July, 1846, and have preserved it ever since. Very respectfully, etc.
"'Jos. W. REVERE, Brigadier-General.
The garrison being now in possession, it was necessary to elect officers, therefore, Henry L. Ford was elected First Lieutenant; Granville P. Swift, First Sergeant; and Samuel Gibson, Second Sergeant. Sentries were posted, and a system of military routine inaugurated. In the forenoon, while on parade, Lieutenant Ford addressed the company in these words: " My countrymen! We have taken upon ourselves a very responsible duty. We have entered into a war with the Mexican nation. We are bound to defend each other or be shot! There's no half-way place about it. To defend ourselves, we must have discipline. Each of you has had a voice in choosing your officers. Now they are chosen they must be obeyed!" To which the entire band responded that the authority of the officers should be supported. The words of William B. Ide, in continuation of the letter quoted above, throw further light upon the machinery of the civil-military force: " The men were divided into two companies of ten men each. The First Artillery were busily engaged in putting the cannons in order, which were charged doubly with grape and canister. The First Rifle Company were busied in cleaning, repairing and loading the small arms. The Commander, after setting a guard and posting a sentinel on one of the highest buildings to watch the approach of any persons who might feel a curiosity to inspect our operations, directed his leisure to the establishment of some system of finance, whereby all the defenders' families might be brought within the lines of our garrison and supported. Ten thousand pounds of flour were purchased on the credit of the government, and deposited with the garrison. And an account was opened, on terms agreed upon, for a supply of beef, and a few barrels of salt, constituted our main supplies. Whisky was contrabanded all together. After the first round of duties was performed, as many as could be spared off guard were called together and our situation fully explained to the men by the commanders of the garrison.
" It was fully represented that our success—nay, our very life depended on the magnanimity and justice of our course of conduct, coupled with sleepless vigilance and care. (But ere this we had gathered as many of the surrounding citizens as was possible, and placed them out of harm's way, between four strong walls. They were more than twice our number.) The commander chose from these strangers the most intelligent, and by the use of an interpreter went on to explain the cause of our coming together. Our determination to offer equal protection and equal justice to all good and virtuous citizens; that we had not called them there to rob them of any portion of their property, or to disturb them in their social relations one with another; nor yet to desecrate their religion."
As will be learned from the foregoing the number of those who were under the protection of the Bear flag within Sonoma, had been considerably increased. A messenger had been dispatched to San Francisco to inform Captain Montgomery, of the United States ship " Portsmouth," of the action taken by them, he further stating that it was the intention of the insurgents never to lay down their arms until the independence of their adopted country had been established. Another message was dispatched about this time but in a different direction. Lieutenant Ford, finding that the magazine was short of powder, sent two men named Cowie and Fowler, to the Sotoyome rancho, owned by H. D. Fitch, for a bag of rifle powder. The former messenger returned, the latter, never. Before starting, they were cautioned against proceeding by traveled ways; good advice, which, however, they only followed for the first ten miles of their journey, when they struck into the main thoroughfare to Santa Rosa. At about two miles from that place they were attacked and slaughtered by a party of Californians. Two others were dispatched on special duty, they, too, were captured, but were treated better. Receiving no intelligence from either of the parties, foul play was suspected, therefore, on the morning of the 20th of June, Sergeant Gibson was ordered with four men, to proceed to the Sotoyome rancho, learn, if possible, the whereabouts of the missing men, and procure the powder. They went as directed, secured the ammunition, but got no news of the missing men. As they were passing Santa Rosa, on their return, they were attacked at daylight by a few Californians, and turning upon their assailants, captured two of them, Bias Angelina, and Bernadino Garcia, alias Three-fingered Jack, and took them to Sonoma. They told of the taking and slaying of Cowie and Fowler, and that their captors were Ramon Mesa Domingo, Mesa Juan Padilla, Ramon Carrillo, Barnardino Garcia, Blas Angelina, Francisco Tibran, Ygnacio Balensuella, Juan Peralta, Juan Soleto, Inaguan Carrello, Marieno Merando, Francisco Garcia, Ygnacio Stigger. The story of their death is a sad one. After Cowie and Fowler had been seized by the Californians, they encamped for the night, and the following morning determined in council what should be the fate of their captives. A swarthy New Mexican, named Mesa Juan Padilla, and Three-fingered Jack, the Californian, were loudest in their denunciation of the prisoners as deserving of death, and unhappily their counsels prevailed. The unfortunate young men were then led out, stripped naked, bound to a tree with a lariat, while, for a time, the inhuman monsters practised knife-throwing at their naked bodies, the victims the while praying to be shot. They then commenced throwing stones at them, one of which broke the jaw of Fowler. The fiend, Three-fingered Jack, then advancing, thrust the end of his lariat (a rawhide rope) through the mouth, cut an incision in the throat, and then made a tie, by which the jaw was dragged out. They next proceeded to kill them slowly with their knives. Cowie, who had fainted, had the flesh stripped from his arms and shoulders, and pieces of flesh were cut from their bodies and crammed into their mouths, they being finally disemboweled Their mutilated remains were afterwards found and buried where they fell, upon the farm now owned by George Moore, two miles north of Santa Rosa. No stone marks the grave of these pioneers, one of whom took so conspicuous a part in the events which gave to the Union the great State of California.
Three-fingered Jack was killed by Captain Harry Love's Rangers, July 27, 1853, at Pinola Pass, near the Merced river, with the bandit, Joaquin Murietta; while Ramon Carrillo met his death at the hands of the Vigilantes, between Los Angeles and San Diego, May 21, 1864. At the time of his death, the above murder, in which it was said he was implicated, became the subject of newspaper comment, indeed, so bitter were the remarks made, that on June 4, 1864, the Sonoma Democrat published a letter from Julio Carrillo, a respected citizen of Santa Rosa, an extract from which we reproduce:—
"But I wish more particularly to call attention to an old charge, which I presume owes its revival to the same source, to wit: That my brother, Ramon Carrillo, was connected with the murder of two Americans, who had been taken prisoners by a company commanded by Juan Padilla in 1846.
"I presume this charge first originated from the fact that my brother had been active in raising the company which was commanded by Padilla, and from the further fact that the murder occurred near the Santa Rosa farm, then occupied by my mother's family.
"Notwithstanding these appearances, I have proof which is incontestible, that my brother was not connected with this affair, and was not even aware that these men had been taken prisoners until after they had been killed. The act was disapproved of by all the native Californians at the time, excepting those implicated in the killing, and caused a difference which was never entirely healed.
"There are, as I believe, many Americans now living in this vicinity, who were here at the time, and who know the facts I have mentioned. I am ready to furnish proof of what I have said to any who may desire it."
The messenger despatched to the U. S. ship "Portsmouth" returned on the 17th in company with the First Lieutenant of that ship, John Storny Missroom and John E. Montgomery, son and clerk of Captain Montgomery, who despatched by express, letters from that officer to Fremont and Sutter. These arrived the following day, the 18th, and the day after, the 19th, Fremont came to Sutter's with twenty-two men and José Noriega of San José and Vicente Peralta as prisoners.
At Sonoma on this day, June 18th, Captain William B. Ide, with the consent of the garrison, issued the following:-
"A proclamation to all persons and citizens of the District of Sonoma, requesting them to remain at peace and follow their rightful occupations without fear of molestation.
"The commander-in-chief of the troops assembled at the fortress of Sonoma gives his inviolable pledge to all persons in California, not found under arms, that they shall not be disturbed in their persons, their property, or social relation, one with another, by men under his command
"He also solemnly declares his object to be :—first, to defend himself and companions in arms, who were invited to this country by a promise of lands on which to settle themselves and families; who were also promised a Republican Government; when, having arrived in California, they were denied the privilege of buying or renting lands of their friends, who, instead of being allowed to participate in or being protected by a Republican Government, were oppressed by a military despotism; who were even threatened by proclamation by the chief officers of the aforesaid despotism with extermination if they should not depart out of the country, leaving all their property, arms and beasts of burden; and thus deprived of their means of flight or defense, were to be driven through deserts inhabited by hostile Indians, to certain destruction.'
"To overthrow a government which has seized upon the property of the missions for its individual aggrandizement; which has ruined and shamefully oppressed the laboring people of California by enormous exactions on goods imported into the country, is the determined purpose of the brave men who are associated under my command.
"I also solemnly declare my object, in the second place, to be to invite all peaceable and good citizens of California who are friendly to the maintenance of good order and equal rights, and I do hereby invite them to repair to my camp at Sonoma without delay to assist us in establishing and perpetuating a Republican Government, which shall secure to all, civil and religious liberty; which shall encourage virtue and literature; which shall leave unshackled by fetters, agriculture, commerce and manufactures.
"I further declare that I rely upon the rectitude of our intentions, the favor of heaven and the bravery of those who are bound and associated with me by the principles of self-preservation, by the love of truth and the hatred of tyranny, for my hopes of success.
"I furthermore declare that I believe that a government to be prosperous and happy must originate with the people who are friendly to its existence; that the citizens are its guardians, the officers its servants, its glory. its reward.
" WILLIAM B. IDE.
The Pioneer says Captain William B. Ide was born Ohio, came overland, reaching Sutter's Fort in October, 1845. June 7, 1847, Governor Mason appointed him land surveyor for the northern district of California, and same month was Justice of the Peace at Cache Creek. At an early day he got a grant of land which was called the rancho Barranca Colorado, just below Red Creek in Colusa county, as it was then organized. In 1851 he was elected county treasurer, with an assessment roll of three hundred and seventy-three thousand two hundred and six dollars. Moved with the county seat to Monroeville, at the mouth of Stoney Creek, September 3, 1851, he was elected County Judge of Colusa county, and practiced law, having a license. Judge Ide died of small-pox at Monroeville on Saturday, December 18, 1852, aged fifty years.
Let us for a moment turn to the doings of Castro. On June 17th, he issued two proclamations, one to the new, the other to the old citizens and foreigners. Appended are translations:-
"The citizen José Castro, Lieutenant-Colonel of Cavalry in the Mexican Army, and acting General Commandant of the Department of California.
"FELLOW CITIZENS :—The contemptible policy of the agents of the United States of North America in this Department has induced a number of adventurers, who, regardless of the rights of men, have designedly commenced an invasion, possessing themselves of the town of Sonoma, taking by surprise all the place, the military commander of that border, Col. Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Lieutenant-Colonel Don Victor Prudon, Captain Don Salvador Vallejo and Mr. Jacob P. Leese.
" Fellow countrymen, the defense of our liberty, the true religion which our fathers possessed, and our independence call upon us to sacrifice ourselves rather than lose those inestimable blessings. Banish from your hearts all petty resentments. Turn you and behold yourselves, these families, these innocent little ones, which have unfortunately fallen into the hands of our enemies, dragged from the bosoms of their fathers, who are prisoners among foreigners and are calling upon us to succor them. There is still time for us to rise en masse, as irresistible as retribution. You need not doubt but that divine Providence will direct us in the way to glory. You should not vacillate because of the smallness of the garrison of the general headquarters, for he who will first sacrifice himself will be your friend and fellow- citizen.
"The citizen José Castro, Lieutenant-Colonel of Cavalry in the Mexican Army and Acting Commandant of the Department of California.
"All foreigners residing among us, occupied with their business, may rest assured of the protection of all the authorities of the Department while they refrain entirely from all revolutionary movements.
"The general comandancia under my charge will never proceed with vigor against any persons; neither will its authority result in mere words, wanting
"Let the fortunes of war take its chance with those ungrateful men, who, with arms in their hands, have attacked the country, without recollecting that they were treated by the undersigned with all the indulgence of which he is so characteristic. The imperative inhabitants of the department are witness to the truth of this. I have nothing to fear; my duty leads me to death or victory. I am a Mexican Soldier, and I will be free and independent, or I will gladly die for those inestimable blessings.
On June 20th, a body of about seventy Californians, under Captain José Joaquin de la Torre, crossed the bay of San Francisco, and being joined by Correo and Padea, marched to the vicinity of San Rafael, while General Castro had, by the utmost pressure, raised his forces to two hundred and fifty men, most of them being forced volunteers. Of this system of recruiting Lieutenant Revere says: "I heard that on a feast day, when the rancheros came to the mission in their 'go-to-meeting' clothes, with their wives and children, Castro seized their horses, and forced the men to volunteer in defense of their homes, against los Salvages Americanos." Castro, at the head of his army, on the evening of the 27th of June, marched out of Santa Clara, and proceeding around the head of the Bay of San Francisco, as far as the San Leandro creek, halted on the rancho of Estudillo, where we shall leave them for the present.
Captain J. C. Fremont having concluded that it had become his duty to take a personal part in the revolution which he had fostered, on June 21st transferred his impedimenta to the safe keeping of Captain Sutter at the fort, and recrossing the American river, encamped on the Sinclair rancho, where he was joined by Pearson B. Redding and all the trappers about Sutter's Fort, and there awaited orders. On the afternoon of the 23d, Harrison Pierce, who had settled in the Napa valley in 1843, came into their camp, having ridden the eighty miles with but one change of horses, which he procured from John R. Wolfskill, on Putah creek, now Solano county, and conveyed to Fremont the intelligence that the little garrison at Sonoma was greatly excited, consequent on news received that General Castro, with a considerable force, was advancing on the town and hurling threats of recapture and hanging of the rebels. On receiving the promise of Fremont to come to their rescue as soon as he could put ninety men into the saddle, Pierce obtained a fresh mount, and returned without drawing rein to the anxious garrison, who received him and his message with every demonstration of joy. Fremont having found horses for his ninety mounted rifles left the Sinclair rancho on June 23d—a curious looking cavalcade, truly. One of the party writes of them :-
"There were Americans, French, English, Swiss, Poles, Russians, Prussians, Chileans, Germans, Greeks, Austrians, Pawnees, native Indians, etc., all riding side by side and talking a polyglot lingual hash never exceeded in diversibility since the confusion of tongues at the tower of Babel.
"Some wore the relics of their home-spun garments, some relied upon the antelope and the bear for their wardrobe, some lightly habited in buckskin leggings and a coat of war-paint, and their weapons were equally various. " There was the grim old hunter with his long heavy rifle, the farmer with his double-barreled shot-gun, the Indian with his bow and arrows; and others with horse-pistols, revolvers, sabres, ships' cutlasses, bowie-knives and 'pepper-boxes' (Allen's revolvers)."
Though the Bear Flag army was incongruous in personnel, as a body it was composed of the best fighting material. Each of them was inured to hardship and privation, self-reliant, fertile in resources, versed in woodcraft and Indian fighting, accustomed to handle firearms, and full of energy and daring. It was a band of hardy adventurers, such as in an earlier age wrested this land from the feebler aborigines: With this band Fremont arrived at Sonoma at two o'clock on the morning of June 25, 1846, having made forced marches.
The reader may not have forgotten the capture and horrible butchery of Cowie and Fowler by the Padilla party. A few days thereafter, while William L. Todd. (the artist of the Bear flag) was trying to catch a horse at a little distance from the barracks at Sonoma, he was captured by the same gang, and afterwards falling in with another man, he too was taken prisoner. The party several times signified their intention of slaying Todd, but he fortunately knowing something of the Spanish tongue was enabled to make them understand that his death would seal General Vallejo's doom, which saved him. He and his companion in misfortune, with whom he had no opportunity to converse, but who appeared like an Englishman—a half fool and common loafer—were conveyed to the Indian rancherie called Olompali, some eight miles from Petaluma.
For the purpose of liberating the prisoners and keeping the enemy in check, until the arrival of Captain Fremont, Lieutenant Ford mustered a squad, variously stated at from twenty to twenty-three men, among whom were Granville P. Swift, Samuel Kelsey, William Baldridge, and Frank Bedwell, and on June 23d, taking with them the two prisoners, Blas Angelina and Three-fingered Jack from Sonoma, marched for where it was thought the Californians had established their headquarters. Here they learned from Indians, under considerable military that the Californian troops had left three hours before. They now partook of a hasty meal, and with one of the Indians as guide, proceeded towards the Laguna de San Antonio, and that night halted within half a mile of the enemy's camp. At dawn they charged the place, took the only men they found there prisoners; their number was four, the remainder having left for San Rafael.
Four men were left here to guard their prisoners and horses, Ford, with fourteen others starting in pursuit of the enemy. Leaving the lagoon of San Antonio, and having struck into the road leading into San Rafael, after a quick ride of four miles, they came in sight of the house where the Californians had passed the night with their two prisoners, Todd and his companion, and. were then within its walls enjoying themselves. Ford's men were as ignorant of their proximity as the Californians were of theirs. However, when the advanced guard arrived in sight of the corral.; and perceiving it to be full of horses, with a number of Indian vacqueros around it, they made a brilliant dash to prevent the animals from being turned loose. While exulting over their good fortune at this unlooked for addition to their cavalry arm, they were surprised to see the Californians rush out of the house and mount their already saddled quadrupeds. It should be said that the house was situated on the edge of a plain, some sixty yards from a grove of brushwood. In a moment Ford formed his men into two half companies and charged the enemy, who, perceiving the movement, retreated behind the grove of trees. From his position Ford counted them and found that there were eighty-five. Notwithstanding he had but fourteen in his ranks, nothing daunted, he dismounted his men, and taking advantage of the protection offered by the brushwood, prepared for action. The Californians observing this evolution became emboldened and prepared for a charge; on this, Ford calmly awaited the attack, giving stringent orders that his rear rank should hold their fire until the enemy were well up. On they came with shouts, the brandishing of swords and the flash of pistols, until within thirty yards of the Americans, whose front rank then opened a withering fire and emptied the saddles of eight of the Mexican soldiery. On receiving this volley the enemy wheeled to the right-about and made a break for the hills, while Ford's rear rank played upon them at long range, causing three more to bite the earth, and wounding two others. The remainder retreated helter-skelter to a hill in the direction of San Rafael, leaving the two prisoners in the house. Ford's little force having now attained the object of their expedition, secured their prisoners-of-war, and going to the corral where the enemy had a large drove of horses, changed their jaded nags for fresh ones, took the balance, some four hundred, and retraced their victorious steps to Sonoma, where they were heartily welcomed by their anxious countrymen; who had feared for their safety.
We last left Captain Fremont at Sonoma, where he had arrived at 2 A. M. of the 25th June. Alter giving his men and horses a short rest, and receiving a small addition to his force, he was once more in the saddle and started for San Rafael, where it was said that Castro had joined de la Torre with two hundred and fifty men. At four o'clock in the afternoon they came in sight of the position thought to be occupied by the enemy. This they approached cautiously until quite close, then charged, the three first to enter being Fremont, Kit Carson, and J. W. Marshall, (the future discoverer of gold), but they found the lines occupied by only four men, Captain Torre having left some three hours previously. Fremont camped on the ground that night, and on the following morning, the 26th, dispatched scouting parties, while the main body remained at San Rafael for three days. Captain Torre had departed, no one knew whither; he left not a trace; but General Castro was seen from the commanding hills behind, approaching on the other side of the bay. One evening a scout brought in an Indian on whom was found a letter from Torre to Castro, purporting to inform the latter that he would, that night, concentrate his forces and march upon Sonoma and attack it in the morning.
Captain Gillespie and Lieutenant Ford held that the letter was a ruse designed for the purpose of drawing the American forces back to Sonoma, and thus leave an avenue of escape open for the Californians. Opinions on the subject were divided; however, by midnight every man of them was in Sonoma. It was afterwards known that they had passed the night within a mile of Captain de la Torre's camp, who, on ascertaining the departure of the revolutionists effected his escape to Santa Clara via Saucelito.
On or about the 26th of June, Lieutenant Joseph W. Revere, of the sloopof-war " Portsmouth," in company with Dr. Andrew A. Henderson, and a boat load of supplies, arrived at Sutter's Fort; there arriving also on the same day a number of men from Oregon, who at once cast their lot with the "Bear Flag" party, while on the 28th, another boat with Lieutenants Washington and Bartlett put in an appearance.
Of this visit of Lieutenant Revere to what afterwards became Sacramento city, he says:—
"On arriving at the Embarcadero (landing) we were not surprised to find a mounted guard of patriots, who had long been apprised by the Indians that a boat was ascending the river. These Indians were indeed important auxiliaries to the revolutionists during the short period of strife between the parties contending for the sovereignty of California. Having been most cruelly treated by the Spanish race, murdered even, on the slightest provocation, when their oppressors made marauding expeditions for servants, and when captured compelled to labor for their unsparing task-masters, the Indians throughout the country hailed the day when the hardy strangers from beyond the Sierra Nevada rose up in arms against the hijos de pais (sons of the country). Entertaining an exalted opinion of the skill and prowess of the Americans, and knowing from experience that they were of a milder and less sanguinary character than the rancheros, they anticipated a complete deliverance from their burdens, and assisted the revolutionists to the full extent of their humble abilities.
"Emerging from the woods lining the river, we stood upon a plain of immense extent, bounded on the west by the heavy timber which marks the course of the Sacramento, the dim outline of the Sierra Nevada appearing in the distance. We now came to some extensive fields of wheat in full bearing, waving gracefully in the gentle breeze, like the billows of the sea, and saw the white-washed walls of the fort, situated on a small eminence commanding the approaches on all sides.
"We were met and welcomed by Captain Sutter and the officer in command of the garrison; but the appearance of things indicated that our reception would have been very different had we come on a hostile errand..
"The appearance of the fort, with its crenated walls, fortified gateway and bastioned angles; the heavily-bearded, fierce-looking hunters and trappers, armed with rifles, bowie-knives and pistols; their ornamented hunting shirts and gartered leggings; their long hair turbaned with colored handkerchiefs; their wild and almost savage looks and dauntless and independent bearing; the wagons filled with golden grain; the arid, yet fertile plains; the caballados driven across it by wild, shouting Indians, enveloped in clouds of dust, and the dashing horsemen scouring the fields in every direction; all these accessories conspired to carry me back to the Romantic East, and I could almost fancy again that I was once more the guest of some powerful Arab chieftain, in his desert stronghold. Everything bore the impress of vigilance and preparation of defense, and not without reason, for Castro, then at the Pueblo de San Jose, with a force of several hundred men, well provided with horses and artillery, had threatened to march upon the valley of the Sacramento.
"The fort consists of a parellelogram, enclosed by adobe walls fifteen feet high and two thick, with bastions or towers at the angles, the walls of which are four feet thick, and their embrasures so arranged as to flank the curtain on all sides. A good house occupies the center of the interior area, serving for officers' quarters, armories, guard and state rooms, and also for a kind of citadel. There is a second wall on the inner face, the space between it and the outer wall being roofed and divided into workshops, quarters, etc., and the usual offices are provided, and also a well of good water. Corrals for the cattle and horses of the garrison are conveniently placed where they can be under the eye of the guard. Cannon frown from the various embrasures, and the ensemble presents the very ideal of a border fortress. It must have 'astonished the natives' when this monument of the white man's skill arose from the plain and showed its dreadful teeth in the midst of those peaceful solitudes.
"I found during this visit that General Vallejo and his companions were rigorously guarded by the patriots, but I saw him and had some conversation with him, which it was easy to see excited a very ridiculous amount of suspicion on the part of his vigilant jailors, whose position, however, as revolutionists was a little ticklish and excited in them that distrust which in dangerous times is inseparable from low and ignorant minds. Indeed, they carried their doubts so far as to threaten to shoot Sutter for being polite to his captives. "
Fremont having with his men partaken of the early meal, on the morning of the 27th June returned to San Rafael, after being absent only twenty-four hours.
Castro, who had been for three days watching the movements of Fremont from the other side of the bay, sent three men, Don José Reyes Berryesa, (a retired Sergeant of the Presidio Company of San Francisco), and Ramon. and Francisco de Haro (twin sons of Don Francisco de Haro, Alcalde of San Francisco in 1838-39), to reconnoiter, who landed on what is now known as Point San Quentin. On landing they were seized with their arms, and on them were found written orders from Castro to Captain de la Torre, (who it was not known had made his escape to Santa Clara) to kill every foreign man, woman and child. These men were shot on the spot; first as spies, second in retaliation for the Americans so cruelly butchered by the Californians. General Castro, fearing that he might, if caught, share the fate of his spies, left the rancho of the Estudillos, and after a hasty march arrived at the Santa Clara Mission on June 29, 1846.
Captain William D. Phelps, of Lexington, Massachusetts, who was lying at Saucelito with his bark, the "Moscow," remarks, says Mr. Laney:-
"When Fremont passed San Rafael in pursuit of Captain de la Torre's. party, I had just left them, and he sent me word that he would drive them to Saucelito that night, when they could not escape unless they got my boats. I hastened back to the ship and made all safe. There was a large launch lying near the beach; this was anchored further off, and I put provisions on board to be ready for Fremont should he need her. At night there was not a boat on the shore. Torre's party must shortly arrive and show fight or surrender. Towards morning we heard them arrive, and to our surprise they were seen passing with a small boat from the shore to the launch; (a small boat had arrived from Yerba Buena during the night which had proved their salvation). I dispatched a note to the commander of the 'Portsmouth,' sloop-of-war, then lying at Yerba Buena, a cove (now San Francisco), informing him of their movements, and intimating that a couple of his boats could easily intercept and capture them. Captain Montgomery replied that not having received any official notice of war existing he could not act in the matter.
"It was thus the poor scamps escaped. They pulled clear of the ship and thus escaped supping on grape and canister which we had prepared for them.
"Fremont arrived and encamped opposite my vessel, the bark, 'Moscow,' the following night. They were early astir the next morning when I landed to visit Captain Fremont, and were all variously employed in taking care of their horses, mending saddles, cleaning their arms, etc. I had not up to this time seen Fremont, but from reports of his character and exploits my imagination had painted him as a large sized, martial looking man or personage, towering above his companions, whiskered and ferocious looking.
"I took a survey of the party, but could not discovery any one who looked, as I thought the captain to look. Seeing a tall, lank, Kentucky-looking chap (Doctor R. Semple), dressed in a greasy deer-skin hunting shirt, with trowsers to match, and which terminated just below the knees, his head surmounted by a coon-skin cap, tail in front, who, I supposed, was an officer, as he was given orders to the men. I approached and asked him if the captain was in camp. He looked and pointed out a slender-made, well-proportioned man sitting in front of a tent. His dress was a blue woolen shirt of somewhat novel style, open at the neck, trimmed with white, and with a star on each point of the collar (a man-of-war's man's shirt), over this a deer-skin hunting shirt, trimmed and fringed, which had evidently seen hard times or service, his head unencumbered by hat or cap, but had a light cotton handkerchief bound around it, and. deer-skin moccasins completed the suit, which if not fashionable for Broadway, or for a presentation dress at court, struck me as being an excellent rig to scud under or fight in. A few minutes' conversation convinced me that I stood in the presence of the King of the Rocky Mountains."
Captain Fremont and his men remained at Saucelito until July 2d, when they left for Sonoma, and there prepared for a more perfect organization, their plan being to keep the Californians to the southern part of the State until the immigrants then on their way had time to cross the Sierra Nevada into California. On the 4th the National Holiday was celebrated with due pomp; while on the 5th, the California Battalion of Mounted Riflemen, two hundred and fifty strong, was organized. Brevet-Captain John C. Fremont, Second Lieutenant of Topographical Engineers, was chosen Commandant; First Lieutenant of Marines, Archibald H. Gillespie, Adjutant and Inspector, with the rank of Captain. Says Fremont:
"In concert and in co-operation with the American settlers, and in the brief space of thirty days, all was accomplished north of the Bay of San Francisco, and independence declared on the 5th of July. This was done at Sonoma where the American settlers had assembled. I was called by my position and by the general voice to the chief direction of affairs, and on the 6th of July, at the head of the mounted riflemen, set out to find Castro.
"We had to make the circuit of the head of the bay, crossing the Sacramento river (at Knight's Landing). On the 10th of July, when within ten miles of Sutter's Fort, we received (by the hands of William Scott) the joyful intelligence that Commodore John Drake Sloat was at Monterey and had taken it on the 7th of July, and that war existed between the United States and Mexico. Instantly we pull down the flag of Independence (Bear Flag) and ran up that of the United States amid general rejoicing and a national salute of twenty-one guns on the morning of the 11th, from Sutter's Fort, from a brass four-pounder called "Sutter."
We find that at two o'clock on the morning of July 9th, Lieutenant Joseph Warren Revere, of the " Portsmouth," left that ship in one of her boats, and reaching the garrison at Sonoma, did at noon of that day haul down the Bear Flag and raise in its place the stars and stripes; and at the same time forwarded one to Sutter's Fort by the hands of William Scott, and another to Captain Stephen Smith at Bodega. Thus ended what was called the Bear Flag War.
(NOTE.—We find that it is still a moot question as to who actually brought the first news of the war to Fremont. The honor is claimed by Harry Bee and John Daubenbiss, who are stated to have gone by Livermore and there met the gallant colonel; but the above quoted observations purport to be Colonel Fremont's own.)
The following is the Mexican account of the Bear Flag war:—
"About a year before the commencement of the war a band of adventurers, proceeding from the United States, and scattering over the vast territory of California, awaited only the signal of their Government to take the first step in the contest for usurpation. Various acts committed by these adventurers in violation of the laws of the country indicated their intentions. But unfortunately the authorities then existing, divided among themselves, neither desired nor knew how to arrest the tempest. In the month of July, 1846, Captain Fremont, an engineer of the U. S. A., entered the Mexican territory with a few mounted riflemen under the pretext of a scientific commission, and solicited and obtained from the Commandant-General, D. José Castro, permission to traverse the country. Three months afterwards, on the 19th of May (June 14th), that same force and their commander took possession by armed force, and surprised the important town of Sonoma, seizing all the artillery, ammunition, armaments, etc., which it contained.
"The adventurers scattered along the Sacramento river, amounting to about four hundred, one hundred and sixty men having joined their force. They proclaimed for themselves and on their own authority the independence of California, raising a rose-colored flag with a bear and a star. The result of this scandalous proceeding was the plundering of the property of some Mexicans and the assassination of others—three men shot as spies by Fremont, who, faithful to their duty to the country, wished to make resistance. The Commandant-General demanded explanations on the subject of the Commander of an American ship-of-war, the "Portsmouth," anchored in the Bay of San Francisco; and although it was positively known that munitions of war, arms and clothing were sent on shore to the adventurers, the Commander, J. B. Montgomery, replied that "neither the Government of the United States: nor the subalterns had any part in the insurrection, and that the Mexican authorities ought, therefore, to punish its authors in conformity with the laws.' "
January 31, 2007
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