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On the second of July Sloat sailed into the harbor of Monterey, and saluted the Mexican flag. The Lewmt and Cyane were already lying in that port, and all were anxiously awaiting developments, as the passing time was unquestionably charged with influences that ere many days, possibly hours, would decide the destiny of California. The fourth of July came and passed, yet carried with it no inspiration that caused the Commodore to risk planting the flag on Mexican soil. The sixth came, and still he hesitated, when just before night a little sail appeared in the offing, standing into the harbor. It was a launch, sent from Yerba Buena by Captain Montgomery, with Lieutenant N. B. Harrison and a crew of sixteen men, to advise Sloat of the Bear-Flag war in the north. They had been fifty-six hours at sea; and, as they moored alongside the flag-ship, were refused permission to leave their boat, and instructed to hold themselves in readiness to return immediately with dispatches for Captain Montgomery, ordering him to render no assistance to the Americans in their insurrection on the northern frontier. The fatigued and weatherworn condition of the little crew so worked upon the officers of the flag-ship that they interceded for them, and Sloat modified his order so far as to allow them to come on board for the night. The news spreading in the squadron of the tenor of the proposed order to Captain Montgomery caused considerable excitement and regret, as the officers were of the opinion that circumstances warranted the seizure of the country. So strongly were they impressed with this belief that R. M. Price, the purser of the Cyane (since governor of New Jersey), determined to visit the commodore, though it was late at night, and urge his taking immediate possession of Monterey. He did so, was kindly received by that officer, and fortunately was successful in his mission, returning to his vessel with orders from Sloat for Capt. William Mervine to notify the people of Monterey that he should hoist the Stars and Stripes there, in the name of the United American States, at 10 A. M. in the morning. The orders to Captain Montgomery were changed, and he was instructed to take possession of Yerba Buena; and Lieutenant Harrison, in the morning, started on his return with the dispatches. In accordance with the notice, at 10 A. M. on July 7, 1846, Captain Mervine landed with Purser Price and Lieutenant Higgins, supported by two hundred and fifty men, raised the American flag, and took possession of the town and country in the name of the government, Purser Price reading the commodore's proclamation to the people in both English and Spanish.
We append the proclamation, as it is the declaration by which California became a part of the United States. The instrument shows that Sloat must have had tolerably correct information as to the beginning of the war and the progress it had made, although it was from sources not American, consequently not relied upon by him until strongly urged. He was afraid of repeating the blunder made by Commodore Jones, who seized Monterey in 1842, having been induced to do so by false information received of a war between the United States and Mexico, that had come to him through a similar channel.
To The Inhabitants of California.
The central government of Mexico having commenced hostilities against the United States of America, by invading its territory, and attacking the troops of the United States, stationed on the north side of the Rio Grande; and with a force of seven thousand men, under command of General Arista, which army was totally destroyed, and all their artillery, baggage, etc., captured on the eighth and ninth of May last, by a force of two thousand and three hundred men, under command of General Taylor; and the City of Matamoras taken and occupied by the forces of the United States; and the two nations being actually at war by this transaction, I shall hoist the standard of the United States at Monterey immediately, and shall carry it throughout California.
I declare to the inhabitants of California that, although I come in arms with a powerful force, I do not come among them as an enemy to California; on the contrary, I come as their best friend, as henceforth Colifornia will be a portion of the United States; and its peaceable inhabitants will enjoy the same rights—principles they now enjoy—together with the privilege of choosing their own magistrates and other officers, for the administration of justice among themselves, and the same protection will be extended to them as to any other State in the Union. They will also enjoy a permanent government, under which life, property and the constitutional right and lawful security to worship the Creator in the way the most congenial to each other's sense of duty, will be secured, which, unfortunately, the central government of Mexico cannot afford them, destroyed as her resources are by internal factions and corrupt officers, who create constant revolutions to promote their own interest and oppress the people. Under the flag of the United States, California will be free from all such troubles and expenses; consequently, the country will rapidly advance and improve, both in agriculture and commerce, as, of course, the revenue laws will be the same in California as in all parts of the United States, affording them all manufactures and produce of the United States free of any duty, and on all foreign goods at one-quarter of the duty they now pay. A great increase in the value of real estate and the products of California may also be anticipated.
With the great interest and kind feeling I know the government and people of the United States possess toward the citizens of California, the country cannot but improve more rapidly than any other on the continent of America.
Such of the inhabitants of California, whether native or foreigners, as may not be disposed to accept the high privileges of citizenship, and to live peaceably under the government of the United States, will be allowed time to dispose of their property and to remove out of the country, if they choose, without any restriction; or remain in it, observing strict neutrality.
With full confidence in the honor and integrity of the inhabitants of the country, I invite the judges, alcaldes and other civil officers to execute their functions as heretofore, that the public tranquility may not be disturbed; at least, until the government of the territory can be more definitely arranged.
All persons holding titles to real estate, or in quiet possession of land under color of right, shall have those titles guaranteed to them.
All churches and the property they contain, in possession of the clergy of California, shall continue in the same rights and possessions they now enjoy.
All provisions and supplies of every kind furnished by the inhabitants for the use of the United States ships and soldiers will be paid for at fair rates, and no private property will be taken for public use without just compensation at the moment.
John D. Sloat, Commander-in-chief of the U. S. force in the Pacific Ocean.
On the eighth of July Captain Montgomery landed at Yerba Buena and hoisted the Union colors on the Plaza; on the tenth, at Sonoma, the Bear Flag was lowered and the Stars and Stripes run up in its place. The same day, nine miles from Sutter's Fort, Fremont unfurled the banner that had waved in the breeze at Gabelan Mountain on the previous sixth of March, when the government of California had been startled into a realization of the presence in its territory of a power that was to begin for them a new civil era.
Fremont started with his command for Monterey, by way of San Jose, immediately after the raising of the flag at Sutter's Fort, and on the seventeenth dashed up to the mission of San Juan, located about thirty miles from Monterey, and captured that place without the firing of a gun. This mission was the government arsenal, where surplus ammunition and arms belonging to the authorities were stored, Since the time when Jones had captured Monterey, the governors of California, not wishing to run the risk of their military stores falling into the possession of some other ill-informed commander of a warvessel, had removed from the sea-port all arms, ordnance and ammunition not deemed necessary for immediate use. Such articles as were at the time stored at the mission fell into Fremont's hands, consisting of:—
Kegs of Powder 20
Muskets (old) 200
Cannon shot 60,000
He had been in possession but one hour when Purser Fountleroy, with a company of mounted marines, rode into the place, having been sent by Sloat on the same errand.
The next day, the eighteenth of July, Fremont and Gillespie entered Monterey, and there ensued an immediate interview between Commodore Sloat and those parties.
For months the commander of the Pacific squadron had been groping in a mental fog. He had taken command in the western waters, knowing that the men who represented our government at Washington desired the annexation of California. He knew that war was a popular means through which they expected the end was to be accomplished; a means to which a strong party in the States was opposed. He knew of the efforts of our consul, Larkin, to achieve the result by a far different process, the repetition of the Texas plan of first independence, then annexation; that previous to Fremont's arrival Larkin's plan was in a fair way of producing the desired result. He knew that both of these programmes were being seriously interfered with by the British government, which also wanted California, and proposed to have her if possible. He knew that he was placed in command with the expectation that he would act promptly in the furtherance of either of those plans that should finally be adopted, as the one best calculated for success. The question that to him had become a momentous one was, which policy should he pursue in the absence of any certain information as to the one the government had adopted. He believed that Fremont possessed information of the secret intention of the Washington authorities, not yet made public or transmitted to him, and that the knowledge of such secret intention had caused that officer to levy war. This last belief, confirmed by the overland runners among Indians and natives, that on dates named battles had been fought, had been his inward justification for having taken possession of the territory and issued to the people his proclamation; although he had been forced to take that responsibility because of the imminent danger in longer delay of the country being seized by Admiral Sir George Seymour for the British crown.
That interview was an unpleasant one on the part of all. The commodore asked Fremont upon what authority he had commenced hostilities against Mexico in California, and was informed that it was upon his own responsibility. In turn, Fremont was told by that officer that he could continue to prosecute it upon his own responsibility, as he, Sloat, did not propose advancing farther in the premises; that he should turn the control of affairs over to his junior officer, and return to Washington. Commodore R. F. Stockton, who had arrived on the fifteenth, and reported for duty to Sloat, now asked permission of that officer to assume command of the land forces. The request was granted, and Fremont at once reported to him for duty; and from that time forth there was no hesitation in the policy to be pursued. On the twenty-third of July, the old commodore sailed for home, and Stockton assumed full command of land and naval forces of the United States on this coast . That day, the California Battalion* was organised, and sailed, under Fremont, for San Diego, from where he was to join in the
* Printed reports by a committee to the State Senate in 18.52 say July 12th—evidently an error, as Stockton did not arrive in California until the fifteenth. (See Appendix to Senate Proceedings, page 5o7.)
advance on Castro. On the twenty-eighth of July, Stockton issued his proolam ition ; on the first of August, he sailed from Monterey, took possession of Santa Barbara, on his way down the coast, without opposition, and finally disembarked his forces at San Pedro on the sixth, where he learned that Castro was at Los Angeles, thirty miles inland, with a force of between seven hundred and one thousand men and seven pieces of artillery.
Immediately upon landing, his camp became one of instruction, where the marines were drilled in the manner of forming in line, in hollow squares, changing front, etc., movements that might be necessary on land and in resisting a cavalry charge. Five days were occupied in this, during which two flagsof-truce entered camp with messages from Castro, their principal object being to ascertain the strength of the invading force. Stockton was a strategist, and received Castro's envoys in front of the yawning mouth of an immense mortar, so covered with skins and blankets as to have the appearance of a cannon in comparison with which the Mexican ordnance dwindled into insignificance. They were further entertained by observing, at some little distance away, a steady moving force of American infantry, marching in column of twos directly from them over an elevation, beyond which they disappeared; judging from the time it took them to pass over the place where they could be seen, they must have numbered three thousand men or more. They were Stockton's three hundred marines, marching in open order, with an interval of ten feet between each set of twos; but they were moving directly away from the observers instead of across their line of vision, and this little discrepancy was not detected. The communication from Castro was disposed of by Stockton in a manner that gave strength to the general appearance of perfect confidence in his ability, by force, to dispose of the territorial army and authority with ease. General Castro had asked a truce until the war was ended between their respective governments in the East, when each was to acquiesce in the result of final negotiations between the United States and Mexico as to which of those countries should possess California. The proposition was haughtily rejected, and a demand made for the immediate surrender of the entire Mexican force in the country, upon pain of summary treatment if the demand was not at once complied with. Those envoys returned to Los Angeles fully impressed with the hopelessness of any resistance, and the conquest was practically achieved.
On the eleventh, Stockton moved from San Pedro towards Los Angeles with his three hundred men and six pieces of artillery, and on the thirteenth entered and took possession of that place without firing a shot. His strategy had won him a bloodless victory. Upon the approach of his dreaded host, with whom was supposed to be the monster gun, the army of Californians melted away, finally being disbanded by the general, who, seeing no hope in the contest, had himself taken to flight, and was losing no unnecessary time in his efforts to reach Sonora, Mexico.
When Castro disbanded his army he did not release the three prisoners captured at San Jose. Lieut. D. T. Bird says:—" We were separated, and each supposed the others had been shot." Bird and his companion were taken towards Monterey and made their escape; Captain Weber was forced to accompany the general in his flight for two days, and was then released. Castro had feared to give him liberty sooner, knowing that with the captain free his own chances for escape were materially lessened.
The whole country was in possession of our forces; the Mexican flag was flying nowhere in it. Fremont joined Stockton, who issued a proclamation organizing the territory and recommending the fifteenth of September as the day on which the people should assemble and choose officers under his organization. He detailed Captain Gillespie with fifty men to remain at Los Angeles, and Lieut. T. Talbot with a small force to hold Santa Barbara, sent a detachment to San Diego, and returned with the remainder of his command to Monterey. Having closed the war in California, he now contemplated a more extensive campaign, a daring scheme, that, had it been successfully prosecuted, would have been the most brilliant achievement of the Mexican war. The following dispatch explains the design:—