(Mexico, the United States and War – continued)

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Hostilities in California and New Mexico, 1846-47

In early September 1846, the United States had few men protecting its hold on southern California – only nineteen soldiers at San Diego and an equally small force at Pueblo de Los Angeles. On September 23 a hostile force of around twenty men attacked the barracks of the force at Los Angeles. The attackers were driven off, but news of the attack was a sensation among Mexicans hostile to the US, and the Mexicans organized into various groups of armed men on horseback. On September 24 in Los Angeles, a proclamation hostile to the US was issued, signed by 300. It spoke of subjugation and oppression by an "insignificant force" that was putting the people of the area into a "position worse than slaves" and dictating "despotic and arbitrary laws." The Mexicans asked: "Shall we wait to see our wives violated, our innocent children beaten by the American whip, our property sacked, our temples profaned?"

The Mexicans took captive the US force at Los Angeles and put them aboard a merchant ship in San Pedro Bay. And a band of Mexicans drove a nine-man US force from Santa Barbara.

Commodore Robert Stockton sailed into San Diego Bay and established a base. On November 16 a US force and Mexicans clashed near Salinas – ten miles inland from Monterey Bay, and other small battles were fought in northern California, all won by US forces. In late November a force of 450 volunteers, with three cannon and 3000 horses and mules, led by Lieutenant Colonel John C. Fremont, began their march toward southern California. A force of about a hundred men from Santa Fe, under Kearny (now a brigadier general), arrived in southern California with Kit Carson as a guide. Kearny had been told by the War Department in Washington that California was secure and that he was to take command of the territory.

On December 5, ten miles east of San Diego Bay, Kearny and his men ran into a Mexican force led by Andrés Pico, and the next morning a battle was fought – the Battle of San Pasqual. Kearny lost 21 killed and 17 wounded, with Kearny among the injured. Later that month, the combined forces of Kearny and Stockton was headed north to Los Angeles, as Fremont and his army of a few hundred from the east were passing through Santa Barbara.

On January 8 at Los Angeles, Stockton's force – 600 Sailors, Marines, a few volunteers and what was left of Kearny's men – met Andrés Pico again, at what was called the Battle of San Gabriel River. Stockton employed his cannon well and lost two men and eight wounded. The Mexican force of 500 withdrew and vanished, leaving Stockton and Kearny dominant in the area.

Fremont coming south from Santa Barbara arrived in the San Fernando Valley on January 11, and in the days that followed he negotiated an end to the fighting with the Mexicans of southern California, creating the Treaty of Cahuenga. The treaty was signed on January 13 at what is now 3912 Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood – while Stockton was also working on a settlement. Fremont's treaty forgave all past hostilities. All of those who had been fighting the US were allowed to return home on parole after surrendering their arms and promising not to resume hostilities. The treaty guaranteed equal rights and permitted anyone to leave for Mexico. Stockton and Kearny, both of whom outranked Fremont, were angered by the treaty's liberality.

In New Mexico the quiet that had followed the arrival of Kearny and his army back in August proved deceptive. On January 19, insurrectionists killed the recently appointed US governor, Charles Bent, and several other local officials. And the insurrection, involving people of Spanish ancestry and Pueblo Indians, spread. In late January the US Army force that had remained in New Mexico fought the insurgents at Santa Cruz de La Cañada and at Embudo. The insurgents retreated to a defensive position at the church of San Jeronimo at Daos Pueblo. There, on February 3 and 4, the US force killed 51 of the insurgents and took the others prisoner. In the weeks that followed, nearly two dozen of the insurgents were hanged.


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