History Mormon Battalion Chapter 31 Section A
Complaints of Short Rations-Tale-Bearing Dykes-Sergeant Jones and Corporal Lane Reduced to the Ranks-March to Los Angeles-Cooke Applies for Ordnance and Fails-Four Indians Killed-Captain Hunt’s Explanation-Death of David Smith-San Luis Rey Abandoned-Petition for Discharge of Battalion Treated With Contempt By Officers-Arrival of Colonel Mason-Hatred of Fremont’s Men Towards the Battalion-Cajon Pass Guarded
Much dissatisfaction among the men was felt about this period in consequence of being kept on short rations of beef as well as bread, when beef was so plentiful and cheap, and some of them even became so indignant over it as to refuse to drill until their rations were increased.
Sergeant N. V. Jones and Corporal Lewis Lane, while in the presence of Lieutenant Dykes, happened to express their disgust at the stingy policy pursued by the officers in this respect, and were promptly reported by that tale-bearing official. The result was the following:
(“Orders No. 25.)
“HEAD QUARTERS MORMON BATTALION,
“SAN LUIS REY, March 18th, 1847.
“(1) Sergeant N. V. Jones and Corporal Lewis Lane, of Company D, having been guilty of insubordination and conduct disgraceful to them as non-commisioned officers, they are hereby reduced to the ranks.
“(2) On the recommendation of their Captain commanding, private Abraham Hunsaker is hereby appointed a Sergeant, and private Sanford Jacobs and William Barger are appointed Corporals, all in Company D. They will be obeyed and respected accordingly.
“(3) Pursuant to S. M. D., orders No. 4, of this date, first Lieutenant Oman and Sergeant Brown and nine privates of Company A, eight privates of Company C, Sergeant Hunsaker and five privates of Company D, and eight privates of Company E, will comprise the detachment which will remain to garrison this post. 1st Lieutenant Oman, in command, will receive such public property as will be left and pay special attention to the safety of public mules. Returns will be made immediately for three additional day’s rations, including no salt meat. By order,
“LIEUT. COL. COOKE, Commanding.”
With regard to reducing Sergeant N. V. Jones and Corporal Lewis Lane to the ranks, the Sergeant says for himself, and the same is probably true of Corporal Lane: “He” (Dykes) “carried false reports to the Colonel, and through his false reports broke me of my office, which he had purposed to do from the beginning, and had boasted of it.”
The reader should keep in mind the difference between finding fault with officers for real or supposed neglect of duty and finding fault with the government. The former was understood at the time to have been the sole cause of the difficulty, and there were just grounds for complaint, for the best California beef could be procured in large or small quantities for less than one cent per pound on foot; in fact, some could be had for killing and dressing, the owners retaining the hides and tallow.
As will be inferred from the Colonel’s order of the 18th, providing for a few men, under Lieutenant Oman, to remain to garrison San Luis Rey, the balance of the Battalion was required to go elsewhere. The fact was, their presence was needed at the Pueblo de Los Angeles, to hold that place, which had formerly been the Mexican capital.
Accordingly, on the 19th, Companies A, C, D and E, took up the line of march for Pueblo de Los Angeles.
We traveled over broken country near the sea shore, and arrived at Pueblo de Los Angeles about noon on the 23rd. This town is near the San Gabriel River. We camped at the eastern edge of the town; the dragoons who came with us, camped in the town.
On the 24th, Colonel Cooke rode to San Gabriel Mission, about eight miles from Los Angeles, where Fremont’s battalion was stationed. He found Captain Owens in command, in the absence of Fremont, and both he and the other officers there disclaimed any knowledge of orders having been received for their disbandment or of Commodore Shubrick’s circular. They regarded Colonel Fremont as the highest authority in the land, and, as he had left orders on his departure for them not to turn over the ordnance to any one except on his order, Captain Owens refused to let Colonel Cooke have possession of any of the cannon.
There being no provisions to be had at Los Angeles, and the small amount brought with us from San Luis Rey being nearly exhausted, eight mule teams were dispatched for San Diego on the 25th to procure a fresh supply. Before their return, we ran entirely out of food and had to go to bed supperless one night, and fast next morning until eleven o’clock before we got anything to eat.
On the 27th, we removed our camp about one mile north of the town to a beautiful location on the river bottom.
On the 28th, Lieutenant Stoneman, with a detachment of dragoons, returned from following a party of marauding Indians, having killed four of them. These Indians had been raiding on the Californians, and had killed one or two of them.
Colonel Fremont returned to Los Angeles on the 30th, and at a meeting of the Battalion held the same day, Captain Hunt related the circumstances of his giving up the command to Lieutenant Smith, which were about as given in the earlier part of this work. He remarked in substance, that, after stating his right and willingness to take command, he submitted the decision to a council of officers, who voted him out and Smith in. This was the first time the facts had been made public. This speech removed some prejudice.
On the 1st of April, we received news of the death of David Smith, one of our brethren, at San Luis Rey. It was believed by those in attendance that his death was the result of medicine given him by Dr. Sanderson previous to the command leaving that post, as he got worse and so continued from the time of taking the medicine until death relieved him. The two last days previous to his demise, he was speechless. He died as he had lived, true to his God, his country and his religion.
On the 5th, our teams returned heavily laden with provisions, soap, candles, etc. On the next day the following order was issued:
“(Order No. 5.)
“HEAD QUARTERS, SOUTHERN MILITARY DISTRICT,
“CUIDAD DE LOS ANGELES,
“April 6th, 1847.
“The post of San Luis Rey will be discontinued until further orders. 1st Lieutenant, Oman, will march his detachment, composing its garrison, to this city without delay. He will drive here all the public mules and bring with him other public property in his charge.
“P. ST. GEORGE COOKE,
“LIEUT. COL. Commanding.”
On the 6th, a petition for the discharge of the Battalion was gotten up and signed by most of the soldiers, on the ground that peace was declared in California and their services could be dispensed with, allowing them to return and aid their outcast families.
A council of officers was called, at which the petition was read and thrown under the table, and not presented to Colonel Cooke and General Kearny, as requested. Captain Daniel C. Davis, and Lieutenants James Pace, Andrew Lytle and Samuel Thompson, favored the petition, while the majority of the commissioned officers favored a universal reenlistment with Captain Jefferson Hunt as Lieutenant Colonel.
General Kearny having sent word to his superiors in office in the east that he was anxious to be relieved of his charge in California as soon as peace was established, Colonel R. B. Mason was sent to succeed him in command; and he, being superior in rank to Fremont, was sent by Kearny to Los Angeles to enforce the discharge of Fremont’s battalion and obedience to other orders.
After some difficulty, he finally succeeded in discharging Fremont’s men and taking ten pieces of cannon held by them, which were immediately brought to Los Angeles and turned over to Colonel Cooke.
For some reason unknown to us, and certainly without a just cause, the men who composed Fremont’s command manifested a great deal of animosity towards the Mormon Battalion. It was currently reported, and was probably true, that Fremont himself did all he could to arouse this ill-feeling, not only among his own men but also among the native population. We were assured by some of the Mexicans that he had told them the “Mormons” were cannibals, and especially fond of eating children. It seemed, too, that the story gained some credence among the natives, for their shyness about approaching near our camp for sometime was attributed by them to this cause.
After Colonel Cooke made the demand upon Fremont’s men for ordnance stores, which Captain Owens refused to comply with, and especially after their subsequent discharge, their bitterness towards us seemed to increase. We frequently heard of their threatening to make a raid upon our camp and wipe us out of existence. However, they never attempted to put any such threat into execution, and it was probably as well for them that they did not, as they would have met with a warm reception. A few of the most beligerent of them sought quarrels with some of our men on meeting them in Los Angeles, but beyond this we were not molested by them.
On the 10th, Lieutenant Hulett tendered his resignation to return to his family.
Owing to the fact that the Californians were not allowed to bear arms, the following and other similar orders were issued for their protection from marauding bands of Indians:
“(Orders No. 7.)
“HEAD QUARTERS, SOUTHERN MILITARY DISTRICT,
“LOS ANGELES, April 11th, 1847.
“(1) Company C, Mormon Battalion, will march to-morrow and take post in the canyon pass of the mountains, about forty-five miles eastward of this town. Lieutenant Rosecrans, its commander, will select a spot for his camp as near to the narrowest and most defensible part as the convenience of water, feed and grass will admit of, and, if necessary, effectually to prevent a passage of hostile Indians with or without horses, he will erect a sufficient cover of logs or earth. It will be his duty to guard the pass effectually, and if necessary to send out armed parties, either on foot or mounted, to defend the ranchos in the vicinity, or to attack wandering parties of wild Indians.
“(2) The assistant commissary of subsistance, will take measures to provision this post until further orders.
“P. ST. GEORGE COOKE,
“LIEUT. COL. Commanding.
Agreeably with the foregoing order, Company C took up the line of march for the Cajon Pass on the 12th.