Kearny’s Stubborn Defense on the Hill-Providential Strategem of the Enemy-Desperate Resolve-Timely Relief-Sufferings of Kearny’s Men-the Last Decisive Battle-Civil War Feared-Fremont’s Men Refuse to Deliver Public Property-Commodore Stockton’s Report to the Secretary of the Navy-Commodore Stockton Refuses to Treat With Jose Ma Flores-Colonel Fremont’s Assumption-Articles of Capitulation-Dispute Settled-Wisdom of Stockton and Kearny-Battalion and Dragoons the Only Regularly Mustered Soldiers in California
Kearny’s troops retained the position on the hill at the expense of losing their beef cattle, which fell into the hands of the enemy.
On the 10th of December, the enemy drove a band of wild horses near the hill with a view of running them over the troops and thus routing them, but the hill being well fortified by nature on three sides, the charges did not amount to much, beyond having some of the best of their horses killed, which served Kearny’s men for food and proved a fine treat to them, as they had been for several days living on their own broken-down mules which they brought from Santa Fe. One of the two messengers who had been sent by General Kearny to San Diego returned, and the other, who had been captured by the enemy, was exchanged; he claimed to have hidden papers from Commodore Stockton, in a designated tree, which papers were understood to contain Stockton’s refusal to send aid; at all events, no aid came, nor were the papers ever found. That night Lieutenant Beale, of the navy, Carson and an Indian took a circuitous route to San Diego, a distance of thirty miles, which they reached in safety.
After waiting two days longer, and having but little hopes of the second dispatch being more successful than the first, the General determined to “fight it out on that line,” and advance to San Diego himself; hence he ordered everything they could not take, even to the soldiers’ overcoats, burned. The next morning at daybreak, one hundred sailors and eighty marines arrived, and the enemy fled. This detachment left San Diego on the night of the 9th, concealed themselves during the daylight on the 10th, and reached the General’s rendezvous during the night and distributed their food and clothing among the half-naked and emaciated braves, who had been living on mule and horse-flesh and without water for several days.
While their sufferings were not as prolonged as those of the Battalion, they were quite as acute, and when we take into account the number killed, wounded and dying of their brave officers and men, they were even more severe. But the trouble was not all over yet. A difficulty arose between General Kearny and Colonel Fremont about the governorship.
General Kearny and Commodore Stockton had fought the last decisive battle with the Californians at Los Angeles, on the 8th and 9th of January, 1847. The enemy fled and met Fremont coming from the north, where they entered into a treaty with him, he signing himself governor, etc.
For a time, civil war seemed inevitable. Many of the enemy as well as Commodore Stockton were said to be in sympathy with Fremont, while some of his officers refused to surrender public property to Kearny’s command without Fremont’s order. On this subject the Commodore, in an official report to the secretary of the navy, says: “Jose Ma Flores, the commander of the insurgent forces, two or three days previous to the 8th, sent two commissioners with a flag of truce to my camp to make a `treaty of peace.’ I informed the commissioners that I could not recognize Jose Ma Flores, who had broken his parole as an honorable man, or one having any rightful authority worthy to be treated with; that he was a rebel in arms, and if I caught him I would have him shot. It seems that, not being able to negotiate with me, and having lost the battles of the 8th and 9th, they met Colonel Fremont on the 12th instant, on his way here, who, not knowing what had occurred, entered into capitulation with them, which now I send you; and, although I refused to do it myself, still I have thought it best to approve it.”
The following are the “articles of capitulation made and entered into at the rancho Couenga, this 13th day of January, 1847, between P. B. Reading, Major Louis McLane, Jr., commanding third artillery; William H. Russell, ordnance officer, commissioners appointed by J. C. Fremont, United States Army, and military commandant of California, and Jose Antonio Carrillo, commandant squadron, Agustin Olivera, deputado, commissioners appointed by Don Andreas Pico, commander-in-chief of the California forces under the Mexican flag.
“ARTICLE I .-The commissioners on the part of the Californians, agree that their entire force shall, on presentation of themselves to Lieutenant Colonel Fremont, deliver up their artillery and public arms, and that they shall return peaceably to their homes, conforming to the laws and regulations of the United States, and not again take up arms during the war between the United States and Mexico, but will assist and aid in placing the country in a state of peace and tranquility.
“ARTICLE II .-The commissioners on the part of Lieutenant Colonel Fremont agree, and bind themselves on the fulfillment of the first Article by the Californians, that they shall be guaranteed protection of life and property, whether on parole or otherwise.
“ARTICLE III .-That until a treaty of peace be made and signed between the United States of North America and the republic of Mexico, no Californian, or any other Mexican citizen, shall be bound to take the oath of allegiance.
“ARTICLE IV .-That any Californian or citizen of Mexico desiring, is permitted by this capitulation to leave the country without let or hindrance.
“ARTICLE V.-That by virtue of the aforesaid Articles, equal rights and privileges are vouchsafed to every citizen of California as are enjoyed by the citizens of North America.
“ARTICLE VI.-All officers, citizens, foreigners and others shall receive the protection guaranteed by the second Article.
“ARTICLE VII.-This capitulation is intended to be no bar in effecting such arrangement as may in future be in justice required by both parties.
CUIDAD DE LOS ANGELES,
January 16, 1847.
“ADDITIONAL ARTICLE .-That the paroles of all officers, citizens, and others of the United States and of naturalized citizens of Mexico, are by this foregoing capitulation canceled, and every condition of said paroles, from and after this date, are of no further force and effect, and all prisoners of both parties are hereby released.
“P. B. READING, Major, California Battalion.
“LOUIS MCLANE, Commander Artillery.
“WM. H. RUSSELL, Ordnance Officer.
“JOSE ANTONIO CARILLO, Command’t of Squadron.
“AUGUSTIO OLLIVERA, Deputado.
“Approved, J. C. FREMONT. Lieut. Colonel, U. S. Army, and Military Commandant of California.
“ANDREAS PICO, Commander of Squadron and Chief of the National Forces of California.”
Colonel Cooke thinks this treaty was not signed until after the junction of Fremont’s, Kearny’s and Stockton’s armies at Los Angeles, on the 14th, also that Fremont knew of their presence and that they were his superiors in rank. He also thinks Commodore Stockton understood as much, although he reported differently to the government.
The dispute was finally settled at Washington by depriving Colonel Fremont of his office in the army. His subsequent appointments, however, go to show that whatever wrongs he may have committed he was not disposed to desert the old flag.
The wisdom of Commodore Stockton and General Kearny in ratifying the treaty, although made by a subordinate and mere provisional officer, is apparent from the fact that thereby the peace of the country was preserved until all national disputes were settled by the treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo. A counter course might have resulted in a civil war, more terrible than all of the battles fought on the coast, and especially more disastrous to the American arms. A few Dragoons and the Mormon Battalion (less than five hundred all told) were at that time the only regularly enlisted soldiers in California. Others, of course, subsequently arrived. Fremont and men had espoused the American cause, as had also the marines and sailors, but according to Cooke were not regularly mustered into the service.
Had not the matter been referred to Washington, doubtless the Californians would have taken advantage of the situation to again take possession of the country. Thus the hand of God was again visible in preventing the shedding of blood. The many hair-breadth escapes of the Battalion from death and the shedding of blood are living miracles.