Men Visit San Diego-Precautionary Measure-March to San Luis Rey-Police Detailed-Men Nearly Naked-Exhorbitant Prices of Clothing-Catholic Church-Public Square About Four Acres-Semi-Tropical Fruit Trees-Large Reservoir-Duties of Soldiers in Garrison-Regrets At Having to Shave-Reasons Assigned-Fleas and Vermin-Only Clothing-R. N. Allred a Non-Commissioned Staff Officer-Sunday Dress Parade-the Drill Commenced-Incident of Drill-Religious Services-Seventies’ Meetings-Considered Officious
The foregoing is, perhaps, sufficient to give the reader a general idea of the situation; hence a return to the Battalion narrative is proper.
On the 31st, of January 1847, the Battalion remained in camp. Several of the men visited the port of San Diego, about five miles west of the Mission. In the evening orders were issued for a return to San Luis Rey. This was an essential precautionary measure to hold the mission as a military post, and that the Battalion might be in readiness to meet whatever emergency might arise, either in arresting Colonel Fremont or aiding to settle by force, if necessary, civil or national difficulties. At the same time they could there keep an important position between Pueblo de Los Angeles and San Diego out of the enemy’s hands, in case hostilities were again resumed, which, at the time, and for some time subsequently, seemed quite probable.
Accordingly, on the 1st of February, 1837, the Battalion took up the line of march for San Luis Rey, where we arrived about noon on the 3rd.
On the 4th, about eighty men were detailed as police to clear up the square and quarters and make necessary repairs which was done in good order, making everything look as cheerful and respectable as our dirt floors would permit. Many of the men were almost naked, without a change of underclothing to keep off dust or the worst of vermin, with which the country abounded and which even many of the elite of the native Californians were said to be never free from. What little clothing was in the country was in the hands of army sutlers, and held at such extravagant prices that a short time before our discharge, one of our poets, in a plaintive song, very properly says: “To buy them we are too poor,” and adds, “We’ll return” (to place of enlistment) “and old clothes burn.” That we did so, the reader need not be told.
The public square of the mission, with a large adobe Catholic Church and a row of minor buildings forming the outside wall, contained about four acres of ground, with orange and other tropical trees in the center. The olive, pepper, orange, fig and many other varieties of semi-tropical fruit and ornamental trees grew in the garden. There was also a large reservoir, used for bathing, washing clothes and watering the garden. Two large vineyards were also connected with this mission.
On the 5th, an order was read relating to the duties of the Soldiers when in garrison, such as times of parade, cleaning arms and clothes, shaving, cutting hair, saluting officers, etc., all of which were very good in their way. The only ground for complaint this order afforded, so far as the author heard, was that some who had not shaved since leaving home preferred not to do so until they returned. They were probably desirous that their wives, who had never looked upon their beautiful visages ornamented with a foot, more or less, of what they doubtless supposed to be very comely hair, should have a chance to see the luxuriant growth before it was sacrificed. Perhaps, in some instances the rich growth proved a shield or covering to features not as inviting as might be desired, hence the dread of submitting to the tonsorial operation. But this, like all other military orders, was imperative. It prescribed that no beard be allowed to grow below the tip of the ear; hence the moustache only could be saved. The hair also must be clipped even with the tip of the ear and everything made as neat and tidy as circumstances would permit.
By the 6th of February we had finished cleaning up and repairing our quarters, which, in some respects, were not the most pleasant, as we were overrun with fleas as well as the more filthy vermin, and no person, however cleanly he aimed to be, could escape from them.
The following quotation from the diary of Henry Standage, then a member of the Battalion, will show to what a strait the men were reduced for want of clothes, and also how they managed to wash their scant apparel:
“February 6.-Went into the garden and washed my shirt and a pair of pants, which I had made out of an old wagon cover-all the clothing I had.”
After arriving at San Luis Rey, the very able and worthy quartermaster sergeant of company A, Redick N. Allred, was appointed quartermaster sergeant in Colonel Cooke’s non-commissioned staff, in which he remained until our final discharge.
During the first Sunday we spent in our new quarters, the Battalion was called out on dress parade. This practice was followed up nearly if not every Sunday until we were discharged.
On the 8th, Colonel Cooke and Lieutenant Stoneman commenced the squad drill with officers, which continued and extended to companies and thence to the Battalion, and lasted altogether for twenty days, when the Battalion was supposed to have learned the drill, and all the officers were considered capable of teaching it. During these exercises, many laughable circumstances occurred, besides some not so agreeable; among the latter was that of a Sergeant being reduced to the ranks for failing to learn the drill, and among the former was the case of a rather nervous lieutenant, who was placed as a sentry on whom to form a line, on change of base. He was directed not to move until the line was formed. As he was ” `bout face” to the Battalion, however, as the little army moved, he turned as pivot man to correspond with what he supposed to be the intended movement. The Colonel, discovering this, ran and turned him back and held him a few moments, saying: “Now, Lieutenant -, I will take my hands off carefully, and see if you can stand still,” fitting the action to the word. No sooner were the hands fairly off than the officer again began the usual turn, when the commander left him with the remark, “No, d-d if he can.” The Lieutenant must, of course, be nameless in this connection.
While we were in garrison, we made it a rule, when possible, to hold religious services on Sunday, which were frequently presided over by Captain Hunt, but sometimes by Father Pettegrew or Levi W. Hancock. As many of the men of the Battalion were members of the Seventies’ quorums, Seventies’ meetings were also held occasionally, when circumstances would permit. These were always presided over by Brother Hancock in his capacity as one of the First Presidency of that organization. Brother Hancock was very zealous, and did his best to influence the men to live as their religion taught under every circumstance. He was really deserving of much credit for the zeal and diligence he manifested in his missionary work among his brethren, but it was very apparent that some of the officers regarded his actions as officious, and entertained a feeling of jealousy towards him on that account. He, however, denied the imputation that he was prompted by any other than the best and purest of motives, and he retained the good feelings of the others and his influence among them, notwithstanding the prejudice that existed towards him among those few officers.