History Mormon Battalion Chapter 34 Section A
Slaughter of Dogs-”Dancing Bill”-Detachment to San Pedro-Accident to John Spidle-Soap Factory-John Allen Drummed Out of Service-Fate of Hastings’ Company-Liberty Pole-Celebration of St. John’s Day-Colonel Stevenson’s Speech and Invitation to Re-Enlist-Other Speeches Pro and Con-Conditions for Re-Enlistment Rejected By Colonel Stevenson-Liberty Pole Raised-the Glorious Fourth-Bull Fight-Battalion Discharged-Paid Off-Some Re-Enlist
On the 4th and 5th of June, a number of the soldiers stationed at Los Angeles, by order of the Colonel, engaged in killing dogs, with which the town was overrun.
The 6th being Sunday, the Californians spent it, as they usually did the Sabbath, in horse racing.
On the 7th, “Dancing Bill,” a prisoner at guard quarters, exchanged clothing with a squaw who brought him refreshments, and passed out at the door to make his escape. Henry Standage, who was guard No. 1, suspecting that all was not right, hailed the would-be squaw, in whose person he soon recognized the prisoner. He was turned over to the Corporal of the guard, who placed him in the back room, not, however, until he had made many threats and curses against the “Mormon” sentinel.
On the 10th, a small detachment was sent to San Pedro, to guard military stores.
On the 11th, letters were received by express from General Kearny’s escort, advising us to purchase our animals at Los Angeles, they being much cheaper there than at Monterey. We also learned that the General had left Monterey for Washington on the 31st of May.
The same day, various orders were read, one relating to the case of John Allen, who had been several weeks in the guard house for deserting his post when on picket guard during the time of an expected insurrection. He was the man already mentioned as having been excommunicated from the Church of the Saints by the mass quorum of Seventies. On being court-martialed and found guilty of deserting his post, he was sentenced to have one-half his head shaved and be drummed out of the service and town at the point of the bayonet. He was also ordered by Colonel Stevenson, through Lieutenant George P. Dykes, not to return within two miles of the town during the existing war, under pain of being put in irons and retained thus until peace was declared. This order was given in consequence of personal threats of violence made by Allen, who was a notorious desperado.
On the 12th, John Spidle was thrown from his horse and badly hurt, but subsequently recovered.
At this period, several of the men were in the country on furlough, laboring for provisions for the return trip, mostly in the harvest field, this being the usual time for cutting grain in California. They were engaged by a Mr. Williams, who had about one thousand acres of wheat to cut. His staple crop was wheat, although he raised some barley, beans, peas, etc., and had large vineyards. He claimed to have owned about one thousand five hundred head of cattle at the commencement of the war. That number, however, was not extraordinary for ranchmen in that country. Owners of stock recognized their animals only by their brands. Common cattle sold for from one to five dollars per head, and good work oxen, well broken, from thirty to fifty dollars per yoke. Thousands of head of beef cattle were butchered merely for their hides and tallow, leaving the meat on the ground. A few years previous, the citizens turned out on masse, and killed cattle and horses by the thousands, leaving them upon the ground, because the country was so overrun with stock that they were compelled to lessen the number or have all die of starvation. They created an unbearable stench all over the country for months after the killing.
Much of the tallow obtained from the slaughtered animals was used in the soap factories, while the balance, with the hides, was shipped to the eastern and southern markets. Mr. Williams had a soap factory, conducted about as follows:
Over a furnace was placed a boiler about ten feet deep; and the same in diameter, the upper part made of wood. This was filled with tallow and the fattest of the meat. A little water was also poured into it and then the whole tried out, after which the grease was dipped into a box about ten or twelve feet square. The meat was then thrown away. Mineral earth was then leached like ashes, the lye obtained from it and the grease put together and boiled into soap. The best quality of soap, when made, was almost as white as snow-Indians usually did the work. Every ranchman had a general herdsman to look after his stock.
On the 14th, the sentence of the notorious John Allen was executed. He was marched between four sentinels, in charge of a corporal, with martial music in the rear. He was escorted through town at the point of the bayonet, while the musicians played the “rogue’s march.”
On the 25th, we received information of the terrible suffering of Captain Hastings’ company of emigrants, many of whom perished in the Sierra Nevada Mountains the previous winter. The survivors subsisted for some time on the bodies of the dead.
On the 17th, John Allen was retaken prisoner at the ranchoree, a villa, about one mile-and-a-half from Los Angeles, and placed in the guard house, from which he subsequently escaped by digging a hole through an adobe wall.
On the 18th, a number of men returned from the mountains with a liberty pole for the fort. It consisted of two large pine logs, each fifty feet long; the hauling cost one hundred dollars, the cutting and other expenses about the same.
The same day, an order was read from the Colonel, calling for volunteers to re-enlist for six months. None responded. Fears were entertained by some that the Battalion would be pressed into the service for six months longer. Under the military regulations, this could have been done, if deemed necessary, to give the government time to bring on other troops.
The 20th being Sunday, meeting was held as usual. Excellent remarks were made by Father Pettegrew, Levi W. Hancock, Lieutenant Holman and others. One of the principal topics was our return to hunt up and relieve, as far as possible, our outcast, disfranchised families, and the Saints generally.
While Colonel Stevenson was absent at San Diego, visiting Company B, considerable anxiety was felt by the Battalion for his safety, as threats of personal violence had been made against him by some of the New York volunteers of his command.
The 27th of June being St. John’s Day, was observed, as usual, as a holiday by Californians, or Mexicans, and Indians. Horce-racing bull-fighting, gambling, etc., were among the amusements of the day.
The same day, Lieutenants Andrew Lytle and James Pace were jointly elected by acclamation, as captains of hundreds, to lead back those who intended to return to their families that year.
On the 28th, Colonel Stevenson returned From San Diego, accompanied by Captain Hunter, Sergeant Hyde and Corporal Alexander.
On the 29th, at 8:30 a. m., the assembly call was beaten and the Battalion responded. An address was then delivered by Colonel Stevenson, in substance as follows: “The Spaniards are whipped but not conquered. Your term of service will soon close. It is of the utmost importance that troops be kept here until others can be transported. I have the right to press you into the service for six months longer, if deemed necessary, and have no doubt but I would be sustained in so doing, but believing, as I do, that enough, if not all, will re-enlist without, I have decided not to press you to serve longer. I am required to make a strong effort to raise at least one company, and the entire Battalion if possible. If the whole Battalion, or even four companies, enlist, you shall have the privilege of electing your own Lieutenant Colonel, Major and all subordinate officers. Your commander will be the third in rank in California. Should either of his superior officers die or be removed, he would be second in command, and should both be removed, he would be first-military governor and commander-in-chief of California. I sympathize with you in the condition of your families. I am a father-I have been a husband. Should you re-enlist, you shall be discharged in February with twelve months’ pay, and in the meantime, a small detachment shall be sent, if necessary, to pilot your families to any point where they may wish to locate. Your patriotism and obedience to your officers have done much towards removing the prejudice of the government and the community at large, and I am satisfied that another year’s service would place you on a level with other communities.”
The Colonel, in this last remark, might be compared to the heifer that gave a good bucketful of milk and then kicked it over. It was looked upon as an insult added to the injuries we had received without cause. We could challenge comparison with the world for patriotism and every other virtue, and did not care to give further sacrifice to please pampering demagogues.
At the close of the Colonel’s remarks, we were dismissed into the hands of our officers to hear speeches from them at such time and place as might be designated. We met at ten a. m., on a barren point, a quarter of a mile west of the fort.
Captain Hunter supposed he was looked upon by the brethren as a recruiting officer; he believed it to be the duty of the Battalion to re-enter the service and serve another term, giving various reasons.
Captain Hunt endorsed the remarks of Captain Hunter. He urged the necessity of maintaining the ground we had gained. As an opportunity was now presented to gain still more, we should embrace it, by electing from our number an officer, who would be third in command in California, with a chance of his becoming first, through Colonel Mason and Colonel Stevenson being called away. His speech was in the main, a reiteration of that of Colonel Stevenson already given.
Captain Davis, in a brief speech, gave his assent to all that had been said on the subject.
Lieutenant Canfield, thought we had better enlist, in order that we might have some means to take to our families, as at present, it would take all of our pay for an outfit, and on finding the Church, we would have nothing. Some thought they could live on faith, but he believed that if we did not have something to live on besides faith, we would perish.
Lieutenant Dykes, sanctioned all that had been said, and, then, illustrating by his actions the fable of the heifer kicking over the good pail of milk, argued that all we had done, would be lost unless we served another term.
Father Pettegrew made a few remarks, stating that he thought it our duty to return and look after our outcast families; others could do as they thought best, but he believed we had done all we set out to do, and that our offering was accepted and our return would be sanctioned by our Church leaders.
The sun beat down so heavily upon us, that the meeting adjourned to “the big tent” in the fort. After a few brief speeches were made, Captain Hunter, Captain Davis and Father Pettegrew were chosen a committee to draft conditions of re-enlistment. The last named, asked to be excused from acting, as his views were well understood as not favoring the move, but those who had treated lightly his fatherly counsels, of whom there were a few, both officers and men, insisted that he should remain. The articles were soon drafted, and a few more speeches were made.
Sergeant Hyde, in a mild yet forcible manner, said we had made one offering, which he felt assured was accepted, and he thought we should now return and be ready for any sacrifice which might be necessary to make in the future. All, so far as we had any knowledge, were satisfied with our past year’s service, and he believed God was satisfied.
Sergeant Tyler, reviewed some of the leading remarks of Colonel Stevenson, Captain Hunt and other officers on the point of first, second and third in command in California. He referred to the pledges of Colonel Allen, who repeatedly assured the Battalion that in case of his death or removal, the command would fall upon the senior officer of this corps. The sad event of that noble officer’s death, had shown the Battalion that while a senior officer might be removed by death or otherwise, our commander might also be removed, and we be left without any rank in the command of California, and the chances were two to one against us. Where was the realization of those pledges? So far as our officers taking the command was concerned, instead of that, were not our noses put upon the grindstone, and were they not still there? Those who wished, could remain, but he felt it a duty he owed the Church as well as his family to return.
After a few other remarks were made, mainly by way of personal explanations, the meeting adjourned sine die. At the close of the meeting, a call was made for volunteers, and some fifteen or sixteen names were given, after which the terms were presented to Colonel Stevenson, and were by him rejected.
On the 1st of July, the liberty pole was raised, without an accident or any inebriety.
On the 4th, the entire command of the place assembled under Colonel Stevenson, in the fort, at sunrise. The “Star-Spangled banner,” was played by the New York volunteer band, while the colors were being raised. Nine cheers were given for the stars and stripes, and “Hail Columbia” was played by the band, after which thirteen guns were fired by the first dragoons. The companies were then marched back to their quarters.
At eleven a. m., the command was again called out, under arms, and the dragoons and the Battalion paraded inside the fort. Many Californians and Indians were present to witness the ceremonies. The Declaration of Independence was read by our worthy quartermaster, Lieutenant Stoneman, of the 1st dragoons, “Hail Columbia,” was again played by the band, and Colonel Stevenson made a brief and appropriate speech, giving the fortification the name of Fort Moore, in honor of the brave Captain, whose unfortunate death has already been mentioned. The band then played “Yankee Doodle,” followed by a patriotic song by Musician Levi W. Hancock, of the Battalion and a march tune by the band, after which Colonel Stevenson proposed to have the Declaration of Independence read, if the Californians desired it, in the Spanish language, but the offer was respectfully declined.
The soldiers were each treated to a glass of wine, marched to their quarters, and dismissed. Thus ended the ceremonies of the day.
On the morning of the 6th, the Battalion, on invitation, attended the funeral services of a soldier of the 1st dragoons, who died the previous evening at the hospital. He was buried with the honors of war. Being a member of the Catholic church, he was interred in the cemetery belonging to that sect.
On the evening of the 9th of July, the town was illuminated in honor of Roman Catholic festivities, and the next day a Mexican bull fight occurred on the flat near the town. It was supposed to be a ruse on the part of the Californians to draw the Battalion from the fort, that they might obtain possession, secure the arms and ammunition and gain control of the country. The Battalion, accordingly, remained in the fort, from which point the men could view the sports below the hill, almost as well as if they had been present. At night the cannons were loaded and placed in position, and the men lay on their arms, prepared to form a line of battle at a moment’s warning. Besides the bull fight, a grand ball was gotten up and the Battalion especially invited to attend. The best music and seemingly every other attraction was offered to induce us to leave the fort, but we did not take the bait.
The bull fight also continued during the 11th, and closed on the 12th. Expert Californians, mounted on spirited horses, fought the bulls with spears or lances. Several horses were killed and their riders saved by their comrades throwing blankets over the bulls’ heads to blindfold them while the dismounted men escaped from the corral. Two men were considerably hurt, and a little boy of Captain Daniel C. Davis’, a spectator of the scene, was thrown about twenty feet by a bull, but not seriously injured. This bull had broken from the corral, and caught the boy on his horns and threw him out of his way while making his escape. General Pico took an active part in these exercises, and the barbarous scenes were witnessed by several hundred people.
On the 15th, Company B arrived from San Diego, preparatory to being discharged, and the next day at three o’clock, p. m., the five companies of the Battalion were formed according to the letter of the company, with A in front and E in the rear, leaving a few feet of space between. The notorious Lieutenant, A. J. Smith, then marched down between the lines in one direction and back between the next lines, then in a low tone of voice said: “You are discharged.” This was all there was of the ceremony of mustering out of service this veteran corps of living martyrs to the cause of their country and religion. None of the men regretted the Lieutenant’s brevity; in fact, it rather pleased them.
On the 17th and 18th, some of the companies drew their pay and, on the 20th, one company made up from the discharged Battalion, re-enlisted for six months and elected Captain Daniel C. Davis, former Captain of Company E, to command them. The object of their enlistment was to garrison the post of San Diego.