General Sherman in California
MEMOIRS OF GENERAL W. T. SHERMAN
By William T. Sherman
EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF CALIFORNIA—1846-1848
EARLY RECOLLECTIONS of CALIFORNIA.
In the spring of 1846 I was a first lieutenant of Company C,1, Third Artillery, stationed at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. The company was commanded by Captain Robert Anderson; Henry B. Judd was the senior first-lieutenant, and I was the junior first-lieutenant, and George B. Ayres the second-lieutenant. Colonel William Gates commanded the post and regiment, with First-Lieutenant William Austine as his adjutant. Two other companies were at the post, viz., Martin Burke's and E. D. Keyes's, and among the officers were T. W. Sherman, Morris Miller, H. B. Field, William Churchill, Joseph Stewart, and Surgeon McLaren.
The country now known as Texas had been recently acquired, and war with Mexico was threatening. One of our companies (Bragg's), with George H. Thomas, John F. Reynolds, and Frank Thomas, had gone the year previous and was at that time with General Taylor's army at Corpus Christi, Texas.
In that year (1846) I received the regular detail for recruiting service, with orders to report to the general superintendent at Governor's Island, New York; and accordingly left Fort Moultrie in the latter part of April, and reported to the superintendent, Colonel R. B. Mason, First Dragoons, at New York, on the 1st day of May. I was assigned to the Pittsburg rendezvous, whither I proceeded and relieved Lieutenant Scott. Early in May I took up my quarters at the St. Charles Hotel, and entered upon the discharge of my duties. There was a regular recruiting-station already established, with a sergeant, corporal, and two or three men, with a citizen physician, Dr. McDowell, to examine the recruits. The threatening war with Mexico made a demand for recruits, and I received authority to open another sub-rendezvous at Zanesville, Ohio, whither I took the sergeant and established him. This was very handy to me, as my home was at Lancaster, Ohio, only thirty-six miles off, so that I was thus enabled to visit my friends there quite often.
In the latter part of May, when at Wheeling, Virginia, on my way back from Zanesville to Pittsburg, I heard the first news of the battle of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, which occurred on the 8th and 9th of May, and, in common with everybody else, felt intensely excited. That I should be on recruiting service, when my comrades were actually fighting, was intolerable, and I hurried on to my post, Pittsburg. At that time the railroad did not extend west of the Alleghanies, and all journeys were made by stage-coaches. In this instance I traveled from Zanesville to Wheeling, thence to Washington (Pennsylvania), and thence to Pittsburg by stage-coach. On reaching Pittsburg I found many private letters; one from Ord, then a first-lieutenant in Company F, Third Artillery, at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, saying that his company had just received orders for California, and asking me to apply for it. Without committing myself to that project, I wrote to the Adjutant-General, R. Jones, at Washington, D. C., asking him to consider me as an applicant for any active service, and saying that I would willingly forego the recruiting detail, which I well knew plenty of others would jump at. Impatient to approach the scene of active operations, without authority (and I suppose wrongfully), I left my corporal in charge of the rendezvous, and took all the recruits I had made, about twenty-five, in a steamboat to Cincinnati, and turned them over to Major N. C. McCrea, commanding at Newport Barracks. I then reported in Cincinnati, to the superintendent of the Western recruiting service, Colonel Fanning, an old officer with one arm, who inquired by what authority I had come away from my post. I argued that I took it for granted he wanted all the recruits he could get to forward to the army at Brownsville, Texas; and did not know but that he might want me to go along. Instead of appreciating my volunteer zeal, he cursed and swore at me for leaving my post without orders, and told me to go back to Pittsburg. I then asked for an order that would entitle me to transportation back, which at first he emphatically refused, but at last he gave the order, and I returned to Pittsburg, all the way by stage, stopping again at Lancaster, where I attended the wedding of my schoolmate Mike Effinger, and also visited my sub-rendezvous at Zanesville. R. S. Ewell, of my class, arrived to open a cavalry rendezvous, but, finding my depot there, he went on to Columbus, Ohio. Tom Jordan afterward was ordered to Zanesville, to take charge of that rendezvous, under the general War Department orders increasing the number of recruiting-stations. I reached Pittsburg late in June, and found the order relieving me from recruiting service, and detailing my classmate H. B. Field to my place. I was assigned to Company F, then under orders for California. By private letters from Lieutenant Ord, I heard that the company had already started from Fort McHenry for Governor's Island, New York Harbor, to take passage for California in a naval transport. I worked all that night, made up my accounts current, and turned over the balance of cash to the citizen physician, Dr. McDowell; and also closed my clothing and property returns, leaving blank receipts with the same gentleman for Field's signature, when he should get there, to be forwarded to the Department at Washington, and the duplicates to me. These I did not receive for more than a year. I remember that I got my orders about 8 p. m. one night, and took passage in the boat for Brownsville, the next morning traveled by stage from Brownsville to Cumberland, Maryland, and thence by cars to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, in a great hurry lest the ship might sail without me. I found Company F at Governor's Island, Captain C. Q. Tompkins in command, Lieutenant E. O. C. Ord senior first-lieutenant, myself junior first-lieutenant, Lucien Loeser and Charles Minor the second-lieutenants.
The company had been filled up to one hundred privates, twelve non-commissioned officers, and one ordnance sergeant (Layton), making one hundred and thirteen enlisted men and five officers. Dr. James L. Ord had been employed as acting assistant surgeon to accompany the expedition, and Lieutenant H. W. Halleck, of the engineers, was also to go along. The United States store-ship Lexington was then preparing at the Navy-Yard, Brooklyn, to carry us around Cape Horn to California. She was receiving on board the necessary stores for the long voyage, and for service after our arrival there. Lieutenant-Commander Theodorus Bailey was in command of the vessel, Lieutenant William H. Macomb executive officer, and Passed-Midshipmen Muse, Spotts, and J. W. A. Nicholson, were the watch-officers; Wilson purser, and Abernethy surgeon. The latter was caterer of the mess, and we all made an advance of cash for him to lay in the necessary mess-stores. To enable us to prepare for so long a voyage and for an indefinite sojourn in that far-off country, the War Department had authorized us to draw six months' pay in advance, which sum of money we invested in surplus clothing and such other things as seemed to us necessary. At last the ship was ready, and was towed down abreast of Fort Columbus, where we were conveyed on board, and on the 14th of July, 1846, we were towed to sea by a steam-tug, and cast off: Colonel R. B. Mason, still superintendent of the general recruiting service, accompanied us down the bay and out to sea, returning with the tug. A few other friends were of the party, but at last they left us, and we were alone upon the sea, and the sailors were busy with the sails and ropes. The Lexington was an old ship, changed from a sloop-of-war to a store-ship, with an after-cabin, a "ward-room," and "between-decks." In the cabin were Captains Bailey and Tompkins, with whom messed the purser, Wilson. In the ward-room were all the other officers, two in each state-room; and Minor, being an extra lieutenant, had to sleep in a hammock slung in the ward-room. Ord and I roomed together; Halleck and Loeser and the others were scattered about. The men were arranged in bunks "between-decks," one set along the sides of the ship, and another, double tier, amidships. The crew were slung in hammocks well forward. Of these there were about fifty. We at once subdivided the company into four squads, under the four lieutenants of the company, and arranged with the naval officers that our men should serve on deck by squads, after the manner of their watches; that the sailors should do all the work aloft, and the soldiers on deck.
On fair days we drilled our men at the manual, and generally kept them employed as much as possible, giving great attention to the police and cleanliness of their dress and bunks; and so successful were we in this, that, though the voyage lasted nearly two hundred days, every man was able to leave the ship and march up the hill to the fort at Monterey, California, carrying his own knapsack and equipments.
The voyage from New York to Rio Janeiro was without accident or any thing to vary the usual monotony. We soon settled down to the humdrum of a long voyage, reading some, not much; playing games, but never gambling; and chiefly engaged in eating our meals regularly. In crossing the equator we had the usual visit of Neptune and his wife, who, with a large razor and a bucket of soapsuds, came over the sides and shaved some of the greenhorns; but naval etiquette exempted the officers, and Neptune was not permitted to come aft of the mizzen-mast. At last, after sixty days of absolute monotony, the island of Raza, off Rio Janeiro, was descried, and we slowly entered the harbor, passing a fort on our right hand, from which came a hail, in the Portuguese language, from a huge speaking-trumpet, and our officer of the deck answered back in gibberish, according to a well-understood custom of the place. Sugar-loaf Mountain, on the south of the entrance, is very remarkable and well named; is almost conical, with a slight lean. The man-of-war anchorage is about five miles inside the heads, directly in front of the city of Rio Janeiro. Words will not describe the beauty of this perfect harbor, nor the delightful feeling after a long voyage of its fragrant airs, and the entire contrast between all things there and what we had left in New York.
We found the United Staten frigate Columbia anchored there, and after the Lexington was properly moored, nearly all the officers went on shore for sight-seeing and enjoyment. We landed at a wharf opposite which was a famous French restaurant, Farroux, and after ordering supper we all proceeded to the Rua da Ouvador, where most of the shops were, especially those for making feather flowers, as much to see the pretty girls as the flowers which they so skillfully made; thence we went to the theatre, where, besides some opera, we witnessed the audience and saw the Emperor Dom Pedro, and his Empress, the daughter of the King of Sicily. After the theatre, we went back to the restaurant, where we had an excellent supper, with fruits of every variety and excellence, such as we had never seen before, or even knew the names of. Supper being over, we called for the bill, and it was rendered in French, with Brazilian currency. It footed up some twenty-six thousand reis. The figures alarmed us, so we all put on the waiters' plate various coins in gold, which he took to the counter and returned the change, making the total about sixteen dollars. The millreis is about a dollar, but being a paper-money was at a discount, so as only to be worth about fifty-six cents in coin.
The Lexington remained in Rio about a week, during which we visited the Palace, a few miles in the country, also the Botanic Gardens, a place of infinite interest, with its specimens of tropical fruits, spices; etc., etc., and indeed every place of note. The thing I best recall is a visit Halleck and I made to the Corcovado, a high mountain whence the water is conveyed for the supply of the city. We started to take a walk, and passed along the aqueduct, which approaches the city by a aeries of arches; thence up the point of the hill to a place known as the Madre, or fountain, to which all the water that drips from the leaves is conducted by tile gutters, and is carried to the city by an open stone aqueduct.
Here we found Mr. Henry A. Wise, of Virginia, the United States minister to Brazil, and a Dr. Garnett, United States Navy, his intended son-in-law. We had a very interesting conversation, in which Mr. Wise enlarged on the fact that Rio was supplied from the "dews of heaven," for in the dry season the water comes from the mists and fogs which hang around the Corcovado, drips from the leaves of the trees, and is conducted to the Madre fountain by miles of tile gutters. Halleck and I continued our ascent of the mountain, catching from points of the way magnificent views of the scenery round about Rio Janeiro. We reached near the summit what was called the emperor's coffee-plantation, where we saw coffee-berries in their various stages, and the scaffolds on which the berries were dried before being cleaned. The coffee-tree reminded me of the red haw-tree of Ohio, and the berries were somewhat like those of the same tree, two grains of coffee being inclosed in one berry. These were dried and cleaned of the husk by hand or by machinery. A short, steep ascent from this place carried us to the summit, from which is beheld one of the most picturesque views on earth. The Organ Mountains to the west and north, the ocean to the east, the city of Rio with its red-tiled houses at our feet, and the entire harbor like a map spread out, with innumerable bright valleys, make up a landscape that cannot be described by mere words. This spot is universally visited by strangers, and has often been described. After enjoying it immeasurably, we returned to the city by another route, tired but amply repaid by our long walk.
In due time all had been done that was requisite, and the Lexington put to sea and resumed her voyage. In October we approached Cape Horn, the first land descried was Staten Island, white with snow, and the ship seemed to be aiming for the channel to its west, straits of Le Maire, but her course was changed and we passed around to the east. In time we saw Cape Horn; an island rounded like an oven, after which it takes its name (Ornos) oven. Here we experienced very rough weather, buffeting about under storm stay-sails, and spending nearly a month before the wind favored our passage and enabled the course of the ship to be changed for Valparaiso. One day we sailed parallel with a French sloop-of-war, and it was sublime to watch the two ships rising and falling in those long deep swells of the ocean. All the time we were followed by the usual large flocks of Cape-pigeons and albatrosses of every color. The former resembled the common barn-pigeon exactly, but are in fact gulls of beautiful and varied colors, mostly dove-color. We caught many with fishing-lines baited with pork. We also took in the same way many albatrosses. The white ones are very large, and their down is equal to that of the swan. At last Cape Horn and its swelling seas were left behind, and we reached Valparaiso in about sixty days from Rio. We anchored in the open roadstead, and spent there about ten days, visiting all the usual places of interest, its foretop, main-top, mizzen-top, etc. Halleck and Ord went up to Santiago, the capital of Chili, some sixty miles inland, but I did not go. Valparaiso did not impress me favorably at all. Seen from the sea, it looked like a long string of houses along the narrow beach, surmounted with red banks of earth, with little verdure, and no trees at all. Northward the space widened out somewhat, and gave room for a plaza, but the mass of houses in that quarter were poor. We were there in November, corresponding to our early spring, and we enjoyed the large strawberries which abounded. The Independence frigate, Commodore Shubrick, came in while we were there, having overtaken us, bound also for California. We met there also the sloop-of-war levant, from California, and from the officers heard of many of the events that had transpired about the time the navy, under Commodore Sloat, had taken possession of the country.
All the necessary supplies being renewed in Valparaiso, the voyage was resumed. For nearly forty days we had uninterrupted favorable winds, being in the "trades," and, having settled down to sailor habits, time passed without notice. We had brought with us all the books we could find in New York about California, and had read them over and over again: Wilkes's "Exploring Expedition;" Dana's "Two Years before the Mast;" and Forbes's "Account of the Missions." It was generally understood we were bound for Monterey, then the capital of Upper California. We knew, of course, that General Kearney was enroute for the same country overland; that Fremont was therewith his exploring party; that the navy had already taken possession, and that a regiment of volunteers, Stevenson's, was to follow us from New York; but nevertheless we were impatient to reach our destination. About the middle of January the ship began to approach the California coast, of which the captain was duly cautious, because the English and Spanish charts differed some fifteen miles in the longitude, and on all the charts a current of two miles an hour was indicated northward along the coast. At last land was made one morning, and here occurred one of those accidents so provoking after a long and tedious voyage. Macomb, the master and regular navigator, had made the correct observations, but Nicholson during the night, by an observation on the north star, put the ship some twenty miles farther south than was the case by the regular reckoning, so that Captain Bailey gave directions to alter the course of the ship more to the north, and to follow the coast up, and to keep a good lookout for Point Pinos that marks the location of Monterey Bay. The usual north wind slackened, so that when noon allowed Macomb to get a good observation, it was found that we were north of Ano Nuevo, the northern headland of Monterey Bay. The ship was put about, but little by little arose one of those southeast storms so common on the coast in winter, and we buffeted about for several days, cursing that unfortunate observation on the north star, for, on first sighting the coast, had we turned for Monterey, instead of away to the north, we would have been snugly anchored before the storm. But the southeaster abated, and the usual northwest wind came out again, and we sailed steadily down into the roadstead of Monterey Bay. This is shaped somewhat like a fish hook, the barb being the harbor, the point being Point Pinos, the southern headland. Slowly the land came out of the water, the high mountains about Santa Cruz, the low beach of the Saunas, and the strongly-marked ridge terminating in the sea in a point of dark pine-trees. Then the line of whitewashed houses of adobe, backed by the groves of dark oaks, resembling old apple-trees; and then we saw two vessels anchored close to the town. One was a small merchant-brig and another a large ship apparently dismasted. At last we saw a boat coming out to meet us, and when it came alongside, we were surprised to find Lieutenant Henry Wise, master of the Independence frigate, that we had left at Valparaiso. Wise had come off to pilot us to our anchorage. While giving orders to the man at the wheel, he, in his peculiar fluent style, told to us, gathered about him, that the Independence had sailed from Valparaiso a week after us and had been in Monterey a week; that the Californians had broken out into an insurrection; that the naval fleet under Commodore Stockton was all down the coast about San Diego; that General Kearney had reached the country, but had had a severe battle at San Pascual, and had been worsted, losing several officers and men, himself and others wounded; that war was then going on at Los Angeles; that the whole country was full of guerrillas, and that recently at Yerba Buena the alcalde, Lieutenant Bartlett, United States Navy, while out after cattle, had been lassoed, etc., etc. Indeed, in the short space of time that Wise was piloting our ship in, he told us more news than we could have learned on shore in a week, and, being unfamiliar with the great distances, we imagined that we should have to debark and begin fighting at once. Swords were brought out, guns oiled and made ready, and every thing was in a bustle when the old Lexington dropped her anchor on January 26, 1847, in Monterey Bay, after a voyage of one hundred and ninety-eight days from New York. Every thing on shore looked bright and beautiful, the hills covered with grass and flowers, the live-oaks so serene and homelike, and the low adobe houses, with red-tiled roofs and whitened walls, contrasted well with the dark pine-trees behind, making a decidedly good impression upon us who had come so far to spy out the land. Nothing could be more peaceful in its looks than Monterey in January, 1847. We had already made the acquaintance of Commodore Shubrick and the officers of the Independence in Valparaiso, so that we again met as old friends. Immediate preparations were made for landing, and, as I was quartermaster and commissary, I had plenty to do. There was a small wharf and an adobe custom-house in possession of the navy; also a barrack of two stories, occupied by some marines, commanded by Lieutenant Maddox; and on a hill to the west of the town had been built a two-story block-house of hewed logs occupied by a guard of sailors under command of Lieutenant Baldwin, United States Navy. Not a single modern wagon or cart was to be had in Monterey, nothing but the old Mexican cart with wooden wheels, drawn by two or three pairs of oxen, yoked by the horns. A man named Tom Cole had two or more of these, and he came into immediate requisition. The United States consul, and most prominent man there at the time, was Thomas O. Larkin, who had a store and a pretty good two-story house occupied by his family. It was soon determined that our company was to land and encamp on the hill at the block-house, and we were also to have possession of the warehouse, or custom-house, for storage. The company was landed on the wharf, and we all marched in full dress with knapsacks and arms, to the hill and relieved the guard under Lieutenant Baldwin. Tents and camp-equipage were hauled up, and soon the camp was established. I remained in a room at the customhouse, where I could superintend the landing of the stores and their proper distribution. I had brought out from New York twenty thousand dollars commissary funds, and eight thousand dollars quartermaster funds, and as the ship contained about six months' supply of provisions, also a saw-mill, grist-mill, and almost every thing needed, we were soon established comfortably. We found the people of Monterey a mixed set of Americans, native Mexicans, and Indians, about one thousand all told. They were kind and pleasant, and seemed to have nothing to do, except such as owned ranches in the country for the rearing of horses and cattle. Horses could be bought at any price from four dollars up to sixteen, but no horse was ever valued above a doubloon or Mexican ounce (sixteen dollars). Cattle cost eight dollars fifty cents for the best, and this made beef net about two cents a pound, but at that time nobody bought beef by the pound, but by the carcass.
Game of all kinds—elk, deer, wild geese, and ducks—was abundant; but coffee, sugar, and small stores, were rare and costly.
There were some half-dozen shops or stores, but their shelves were empty. The people were very fond of riding, dancing, and of shows of any kind. The young fellows took great delight in showing off their horsemanship, and would dash along, picking up a half-dollar from the ground, stop their horses in full career and turn about on the space of a bullock's hide, and their skill with the lasso was certainly wonderful. At full speed they could cast their lasso about the horns of a bull, or so throw it as to catch any particular foot. These fellows would work all day on horseback in driving cattle or catching wildhorses for a mere nothing, but all the money offered would not have hired one of them to walk a mile. The girls were very fond of dancing, and they did dance gracefully and well. Every Sunday, regularly, we had a baile, or dance, and sometimes interspersed through the week.
I remember very well, soon after our arrival, that we were all invited to witness a play called "Adam and Eve." Eve was personated by a pretty young girl known as Dolores Gomez, who, however, was dressed very unlike Eve, for she was covered with a petticoat and spangles. Adam was personated by her brother—the same who has since become somewhat famous as the person on whom is founded the McGarrahan claim. God Almighty was personated, and heaven's occupants seemed very human. Yet the play was pretty, interesting, and elicited universal applause. All the month of February we were by day preparing for our long stay in the country, and at night making the most of the balls and parties of the most primitive kind, picking up a smattering of Spanish, and extending our acquaintance with the people and the costumbrea del pais. I can well recall that Ord and I, impatient to look inland, got permission and started for the Mission of San Juan Bautista. Mounted on horses, and with our carbines, we took the road by El Toro, quite a prominent hill, around which passes the road to the south, following the Saunas or Monterey River. After about twenty miles over a sandy country covered with oak-bushes and scrub, we entered quite a pretty valley in which there was a ranch at the foot of the Toro. Resting there a while and getting some information, we again started in the direction of a mountain to the north of the Saunas, called the Gavillano. It was quite dark when we reached the Saunas River, which we attempted to pass at several points, but found it full of water, and the quicksands were bad. Hearing the bark of a dog, we changed our course in that direction, and, on hailing, were answered by voices which directed us where to cross. Our knowledge of the language was limited, but we managed to understand, and to founder through the sand and water, and reached a small adobe-house on the banks of the Salinas, where we spent the night: The house was a single room, without floor or glass; only a rude door, and window with bars. Not a particle of food but meat, yet the man and woman entertained us with the language of lords put themselves, their house, and every thing, at our "disposition," and made little barefoot children dance for our entertainment. We made our supper of beef, and slept on a bullock's hide on the dirt-floor. In the morning we crossed the Salinas Plain, about fifteen miles of level ground, taking a shot occasionally at wild-geese, which abounded there, and entering the well-wooded valley that comes out from the foot of the Gavillano. We had cruised about all day, and it was almost dark when we reached the house of a Senor Gomez, father of those who at Monterey had performed the parts of Adam and Eve. His house was a two-story adobe, and had a fence in front. It was situated well up among the foot-hills of the Gavillano, and could not be seen until within a few yards. We hitched our horses to the fence and went in just as Gomez was about to sit down to a tempting supper of stewed hare and tortillas. We were officers and caballeros and could not be ignored. After turning our horses to grass, at his invitation we joined him at supper. The allowance, though ample for one, was rather short for three, and I thought the Spanish grandiloquent politeness of Gomez, who was fat and old, was not over-cordial. However, down we sat, and I was helped to a dish of rabbit, with what I thought to be an abundant sauce of tomato. Taking a good mouthful, I felt as though I had taken liquid fire; the tomato was chile colorado, or red pepper, of the purest kind. It nearly killed me, and I saw Gomez's eyes twinkle, for he saw that his share of supper was increased.—I contented myself with bits of the meat, and an abundant supply of tortillas. Ord was better case-hardened, and stood it better. We staid at Gomez's that night, sleeping, as all did, on the ground, and the next morning we crossed the hill by the bridle-path to the old Mission of San Juan Bautista. The Mission was in a beautiful valley, very level, and bounded on all sides by hills. The plain was covered with wild-grasses and mustard, and had abundant water. Cattle and horses were seen in all directions, and it was manifest that the priests who first occupied the country were good judges of land. It was Sunday, and all the people, about, a hundred, had come to church from the country round about. Ord was somewhat of a Catholic, and entered the church with his clanking spars and kneeled down, attracting the attention of all, for he had on the uniform of an American officer. As soon as church was out, all rushed to the various sports. I saw the priest, with his gray robes tucked up, playing at billiards, others were cock fighting, and some at horse-racing. My horse had become lame, and I resolved to buy another. As soon as it was known that I wanted a horse, several came for me, and displayed their horses by dashing past and hauling them up short. There was a fine black stallion that attracted my notice, and, after trying him myself, I concluded a purchase. I left with the seller my own lame horse, which he was to bring to me at Monterey, when I was to pay him ten dollars for the other. The Mission of San Juan bore the marks of high prosperity at a former period, and had a good pear-orchard just under the plateau where stood the church. After spending the day, Ord and I returned to Monterey, about thirty-five miles, by a shorter route, Thus passed the month of February, and, though there were no mails or regular expresses, we heard occasionally from Yerba Buena and Sutter's Fort to the north, and from the army and navy about Los Angeles at the south. We also knew that a quarrel had grown up at Los Angeles, between General Kearney, Colonel Fremont, and Commodore Stockton, as to the right to control affairs in California. Kearney had with him only the fragments of the two companies of dragoons, which had come across from New Mexico with him, and had been handled very roughly by Don Andreas Pico, at San Pascual, in which engagement Captains Moore and Johnson, and Lieutenant Hammond, were killed, and Kearney himself wounded. There remained with him Colonel Swords, quartermaster; Captain H. S. Turner, First Dragoons; Captains Emory and Warner, Topographical Engineers; Assistant Surgeon Griffin, and Lieutenant J. W. Davidson. Fremont had marched down from the north with a battalion of volunteers; Commodore Stockton had marched up from San Diego to Los Angeles, with General Kearney, his dragoons, and a battalion of sailors and marines, and was soon joined there by Fremont, and they jointly received the surrender of the insurgents under Andreas Pico. We also knew that General R. B. Mason had been ordered to California; that Colonel John D. Stevenson was coming out to California with a regiment of New York Volunteers; that Commodore Shubrick had orders also from the Navy Department to control matters afloat; that General Kearney, by virtue of his rank, had the right to control all the land-forces in the service of the United States; and that Fremont claimed the same right by virtue of a letter he had received from Colonel Benton, then a Senator, and a man of great influence with Polk's Administration. So that among the younger officers the query was very natural, "Who the devil is Governor of California?" One day I was on board the Independence frigate, dining with the ward-room officers, when a war-vessel was reported in the offing, which in due time was made out to be the Cyane, Captain DuPont. After dinner, we were all on deck, to watch the new arrival, the ships meanwhile exchanging signals, which were interpreted that General Kearney was on board. As the Cyane approached, a boat was sent to meet her, with Commodore Shubrick's flag-officer, Lieutenant Lewis, to carry the usual messages, and to invite General Kearney to come on board the Independence as the guest of Commodore Shubrick. Quite a number of officers were on deck, among them Lieutenants Wise, Montgomery Lewis, William Chapman, and others, noted wits and wags of the navy. In due time the Cyane anchored close by, and our boat was seen returning with a stranger in the stern-sheets, clothed in army blue. As the boat came nearer, we saw that it was General Kearney with an old dragoon coat on, and an army-cap, to which the general had added the broad vizor, cut from a full-dress hat, to shade his face and eyes against the glaring sun of the Gila region. Chapman exclaimed: "Fellows, the problem is solved; there is the grand-vizier (visor) by G-d! He is Governor of California."
All hands received the general with great heartiness, and he soon passed out of our sight into the commodore's cabin. Between Commodore Shubrick and General Kearney existed from that time forward the greatest harmony and good feeling, and no further trouble existed as to the controlling power on the Pacific coast. General Kearney had dispatched from San Diego his quartermaster, Colonel Swords, to the Sandwich Islands, to purchase clothing and stores for his men, and had come up to Monterey, bringing with him Turner and Warner, leaving Emory and the company of dragoons below. He was delighted to find a full strong company of artillery, subject to his orders, well supplied with clothing and money in all respects, and, much to the disgust of our Captain Tompkins, he took half of his company clothing and part of the money held by me for the relief of his worn-out and almost naked dragoons left behind at Los Angeles. In a few days he moved on shore, took up his quarters at Larkin's house, and established his headquarters, with Captain Turner as his adjutant general. One day Turner and Warner were at my tent, and, seeing a store-bag full of socks, drawers, and calico shirts, of which I had laid in a three years' supply, and of which they had none, made known to me their wants, and I told them to help themselves, which Turner and Warner did. The latter, however, insisted on paying me the cost, and from that date to this Turner and I have been close friends. Warner, poor fellow, was afterward killed by Indians. Things gradually came into shape, a semi-monthly courier line was established from Yerba Buena to San Diego, and we were thus enabled to keep pace with events throughout the country. In March Stevenson's regiment arrived. Colonel Mason also arrived by sea from Callao in the store-ship Erie, and P. St. George Cooke's battalion of Mormons reached San Luis Rey. A. J. Smith and George Stoneman were with him, and were assigned to the company of dragoons at Los Angeles. All these troops and the navy regarded General Kearney as the rightful commander, though Fremont still remained at Los Angeles, styling himself as Governor, issuing orders and holding his battalion of California Volunteers in apparent defiance of General Kearney. Colonel Mason and Major Turner were sent down by sea with a paymaster, with muster-rolls and orders to muster this battalion into the service of the United States, to pay and then to muster them out; but on their reaching Los Angeles Fremont would not consent to it, and the controversy became so angry that a challenge was believed to have passed between Mason and Fremont, but the duel never came about. Turner rode up by land in four or five days, and Fremont, becoming alarmed, followed him, as we supposed, to overtake him, but he did not succeed. On Fremont's arrival at Monterey, he camped in a tent about a mile out of town and called on General Kearney, and it was reported that the latter threatened him very severely and ordered him back to Los Angeles immediately, to disband his volunteers, and to cease the exercise of authority of any kind in the country. Feeling a natural curiosity to see Fremont, who was then quite famous by reason of his recent explorations and the still more recent conflicts with Kearney and Mason, I rode out to his camp, and found him in a conical tent with one Captain Owens, who was a mountaineer, trapper, etc., but originally from Zanesville, Ohio. I spent an hour or so with Fremont in his tent, took some tea with him, and left, without being much impressed with him. In due time Colonel Swords returned from the Sandwich Islands and relieved me as quartermaster. Captain William G. Marcy, son of the Secretary of War, had also come out in one of Stevenson's ships as an assistant commissary of subsistence, and was stationed at Monterey and relieved me as commissary, so that I reverted to the condition of a company-officer. While acting as a staff officer I had lived at the custom-house in Monterey, but when relieved I took a tent in line with the other company-officers on the hill, where we had a mess.
Stevenson'a regiment reached San Francisco Bay early in March, 1847. Three companies were stationed at the Presidio under Major James A. Hardier one company (Brackett's) at Sonoma; three, under Colonel Stevenson, at Monterey; and three, under Lieutenant-Colonel Burton, at Santa Barbara. One day I was down at the headquarters at Larkin's horse, when General Kearney remarked to me that he was going down to Los Angeles in the ship Lexington, and wanted me to go along as his aide. Of course this was most agreeable to me. Two of Stevenson's companies, with the headquarters and the colonel, were to go also. They embarked, and early in May we sailed for San Pedro. Before embarking, the United States line-of-battle-ship Columbus had reached the coast from China with Commodore Biddle, whose rank gave him the supreme command of the navy on the coast. He was busy in calling in—"lassooing "—from the land-service the various naval officers who under Stockton had been doing all sorts of military and civil service on shore. Knowing that I was to go down the coast with General Kearney, he sent for me and handed me two unsealed parcels addressed to Lieutenant Wilson, United States Navy, and Major Gillespie, United States Marines, at Los Angeles. These were written orders pretty much in these words: "On receipt of this order you will repair at once on board the United States ship Lexington at San Pedro, and on reaching Monterey you will report to the undersigned.-JAMES BIDDLE." Of course, I executed my part to the letter, and these officers were duly "lassooed." We sailed down the coast with a fair wind, and anchored inside the kelp, abreast of Johnson's house. Messages were forthwith dispatched up to Los Angeles, twenty miles off, and preparations for horses made for us to ride up. We landed, and, as Kearney held to my arm in ascending the steep path up the bluff, he remarked to himself, rather than to me, that it was strange that Fremont did not want to return north by the Lexington on account of sea-sickness, but preferred to go by land over five hundred miles. The younger officers had been discussing what the general would do with Fremont, who was supposed to be in a state of mutiny. Some, thought he would be tried and shot, some that he would be carried back in irons; and all agreed that if any one else than Fremont had put on such airs, and had acted as he had done, Kearney would have shown him no mercy, for he was regarded as the strictest sort of a disciplinarian. We had a pleasant ride across the plain which lies between the seashore and Los Angeles, which we reached in about three hours, the infantry following on foot. We found Colonel P. St. George Cooke living at the house of a Mr. Pryor, and the company of dragoons, with A. J. Smith, Davidson, Stoneman, and Dr. Griffin, quartered in an adobe-house close by. Fremont held his court in the only two-story frame-house in the place. After sometime spent at Pryor's house, General Kearney ordered me to call on Fremont to notify him of his arrival, and that he desired to see him. I walked round to the house which had been pointed out to me as his, inquired of a man at the door if the colonel was in, was answered "Yea," and was conducted to a large room on the second floor, where very soon Fremont came in, and I delivered my message. As I was on the point of leaving, he inquired where I was going to, and I answered that I was going back to Pryor's house, where the general was, when he remarked that if I would wait a moment he would go along. Of course I waited, and he soon joined me, dressed much as a Californian, with the peculiar high, broad-brimmed hat, with a fancy cord, and we walked together back to Pryor's, where I left him with General Kearney. We spent several days very pleasantly at Los Angeles, then, as now, the chief pueblo of the south, famous for its grapes, fruits, and wines. There was a hill close to the town, from which we had a perfect view of the place. The surrounding country is level, utterly devoid of trees, except the willows and cotton-woods that line the Los Angeles Creek and the acequias, or ditches, which lead from it. The space of ground cultivated in vineyards seemed about five miles by one, embracing the town. Every house had its inclosure of vineyard, which resembled a miniature orchard, the vines being very old, ranged in rows, trimmed very close, with irrigating ditches so arranged that a stream of water could be diverted between each row of vines. The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers are fed by melting snows from a range of mountains to the east, and the quantity of cultivated land depends upon the amount of water. This did not seem to be very large; but the San Gabriel River, close by, was represented to contain a larger volume of water, affording the means of greatly enlarging the space for cultivation. The climate was so moderate that oranges, figs, pomegranates, etc.... were generally to be found in every yard or inclosure.
At the time of our visit, General Kearney was making his preparations to return overland to the United States, and he arranged to secure a volunteer escort out of the battalion of Mormons that was then stationed at San Luis Rey, under Colonel Cooke and a Major Hunt. This battalion was only enlisted for one year, and the time for their discharge was approaching, and it was generally understood that the majority of the men wanted to be discharged so as to join the Mormons who had halted at Salt Lake, but a lieutenant and about forty men volunteered to return to Missouri as the escort of General Kearney. These were mounted on mules and horses, and I was appointed to conduct them to Monterey by land. Leaving the party at Los Angeles to follow by sea in the Lexington, I started with the Mormon detachment and traveled by land. We averaged about thirty miles a day, stopped one day at Santa Barbara, where I saw Colonel Burton, and so on by the usually traveled road to Monterey, reaching it in about fifteen days, arriving some days in advance of the Lexington. This gave me the best kind of an opportunity for seeing the country, which was very sparsely populated indeed, except by a few families at the various Missions. We had no wheeled vehicles, but packed our food and clothing on mules driven ahead, and we slept on the ground in the open air, the rainy season having passed. Fremont followed me by land in a few days, and, by the end of May, General Kearney was all ready at Monterey to take his departure, leaving to succeed him in command Colonel R. B. Mason, First Dragoons. Our Captain (Tompkins), too, had become discontented at his separation from his family, tendered his resignation to General Kearney, and availed himself of a sailing-vessel bound for Callao to reach the East. Colonel Mason selected me as his adjutant-general; and on the very last day of May General Kearney, with his Mormon escort, with Colonel Cooke, Colonel Swords (quartermaster), Captain Turner, and a naval officer, Captain Radford, took his departure for the East overland, leaving us in full possession of California and its fate. Fremont also left California with General Kearney, and with him departed all cause of confusion and disorder in the country. From that time forth no one could dispute the authority of Colonel Mason as in command of all the United States forces on shore, while the senior naval officer had a like control afloat. This was Commodore James Biddle, who had reached the station from China in the Columbus, and he in turn was succeeded by Commodore T. Ap Catesby Jones in the line-of-battle-ship Ohio. At that time Monterey was our headquarters, and the naval commander for a time remained there, but subsequently San Francisco Bay became the chief naval rendezvous.
Colonel R. B. Mason, First Dragoons, was an officer of great experience, of stern character, deemed by some harsh and severe, but in all my intercourse with him he was kind and agreeable. He had a large fund of good sense, and, during our long period of service together, I enjoyed his unlimited confidence. He had been in his day a splendid shot and hunter, and often entertained me with characteristic anecdotes of Taylor, Twiggs, Worth, Harvey, Martin Scott, etc., etc, who were then in Mexico, gaining a national fame. California had settled down to a condition of absolute repose, and we naturally repined at our fate in being so remote from the war in Mexico, where our comrades were reaping large honors. Mason dwelt in a house not far from the Custom-House, with Captain Lanman, United States Navy; I had a small adobe-house back of Larkin's. Halleck and Dr. Murray had a small log-house not far off. The company of artillery was still on the hill, under the command of Lieutenant Ord, engaged in building a fort whereon to mount the guns we had brought out in the Lexington, and also in constructing quarters out of hewn pine-logs for the men. Lieutenant Minor, a very clever young officer, had taken violently sick and died about the time I got back from Los Angeles, leaving Lieutenants Ord and Loeser alone with the company, with Assistant-Surgeon Robert Murray. Captain William G. Marcy was the quartermaster and commissary. Naglee's company of Stevenson's regiment had been mounted and was sent out against the Indians in the San Joaquin Valley, and Shannon's company occupied the barracks. Shortly after General Kearney had gone East, we found an order of his on record, removing one Mr. Nash, the Alcalde of Sonoma, and appointing to his place ex-Governor L. W. Boggs. A letter came to Colonel and Governor Mason from Boggs, whom he had personally known in Missouri, complaining that, though he had been appointed alcalde, the then incumbent (Nash) utterly denied Kearney's right to remove him, because he had been elected by the people under the proclamation of Commodore Sloat, and refused to surrender his office or to account for his acts as alcalde. Such a proclamation had been made by Commodore Sloat shortly after the first occupation of California, announcing that the people were free and enlightened American citizens, entitled to all the rights and privileges as such, and among them the right to elect their own officers, etc. The people of Sonoma town and valley, some forty or fifty immigrants from the United States, and very few native Californians, had elected Mr. Nash, and, as stated, he refused to recognize the right of a mere military commander to eject him and to appoint another to his place. Neither General Kearney nor Mason had much respect for this land of "buncombe," but assumed the true doctrine that California was yet a Mexican province, held by right of conquest, that the military commander was held responsible to the country, and that the province should be held in statu quo until a treaty of peace. This letter of Boggs was therefore referred to Captain Brackett, whose company was stationed at Sonoma, with orders to notify Nash that Boggs was the rightful alcalde; that he must quietly surrender his office, with the books and records thereof, and that he must account for any moneys received from the sale of town-lots, etc., etc.; and in the event of refusal he (Captain Brackett) must compel him by the use of force. In due time we got Brackett's answer, saying that the little community of Sonoma was in a dangerous state of effervescence caused by his orders; that Nash was backed by most of the Americans there who had come across from Missouri with American ideas; that as he (Brackett) was a volunteer officer, likely to be soon discharged, and as he designed to settle there, he asked in consequence to be excused from the execution of this (to him) unpleasant duty. Such a request, coming to an old soldier like Colonel Mason, aroused his wrath, and he would have proceeded rough-shod against Brackett, who, by-the-way, was a West Point graduate, and ought to have known better; but I suggested to the colonel that, the case being a test one, he had better send me up to Sonoma, and I would settle it quick enough. He then gave me an order to go to Sonoma to carry out the instructions already given to Brackett.
I took one soldier with me, Private Barnes, with four horses, two of which we rode, and the other two we drove ahead. The first day we reached Gilroy's and camped by a stream near three or four adobe-huts known as Gilroy's ranch. The next day we passed Murphy's, San Jose, and Santa Clara Mission, camping some four miles beyond, where a kind of hole had been dug in the ground for water. The whole of this distance, now so beautifully improved and settled, was then scarcely occupied, except by poor ranches producing horses and cattle. The pueblo of San Jose was a string of low adobe-houses festooned with red peppers and garlic; and the Mission of Santa Clara was a dilapidated concern, with its church and orchard. The long line of poplar-trees lining the road from San Jose to Santa Clara bespoke a former period when the priests had ruled the land. Just about dark I was lying on the ground near the well, and my soldier Barnes had watered our horses and picketed them to grass, when we heard a horse crushing his way through the high mustard-bushes which filled the plain, and soon a man came to us to inquire if we had seen a saddle-horse pass up the road. We explained to him what we had heard, and he went off in pursuit of his horse. Before dark he came back unsuccessful, and gave his name as Bidwell, the same gentleman who has since been a member of Congress, who is married to Miss Kennedy, of Washington City, and now lives in princely style at Chico, California.
He explained that he was a surveyor, and had been in the lower country engaged in surveying land; that the horse had escaped him with his saddle-bags containing all his notes and papers, and some six hundred dollars in money, all the money he had earned. He spent the night with us on the ground, and the next morning we left him there to continue the search for his horse, and I afterward heard that he had found his saddle-bags all right, but never recovered the horse. The next day toward night we approached the Mission of San Francisco, and the village of Yerba Buena, tired and weary—the wind as usual blowing a perfect hurricane, and a more desolate region it was impossible to conceive of. Leaving Barnes to work his way into the town as best he could with the tired animals, I took the freshest horse and rode forward. I fell in with Lieutenant Fabius Stanley, United States Navy, and we rode into Yerba Buena together about an hour before sundown, there being nothing but a path from the Mission into the town, deep and heavy with drift-sand. My horse could hardly drag one foot after the other when we reached the old Hudson Bay Company's house, which was then the store of Howard and Mellus. There I learned where Captain Folsom, the quartermaster, was to be found. He was staying with a family of the name of Grimes, who had a small horse back of Howard's store, which must have been near where Sacramento Street now crosses Kearney. Folsom was a classmate of mine, had come out with Stevenson's regiment as quartermaster, and was at the time the chief-quartermaster of the department. His office was in the old custom-horse standing at the northwest corner of the Plaza. He had hired two warehouses, the only ones there at the time, of one Liedsdorff, the principal man of Yerba Buena, who also owned the only public-house, or tavern, called the City Hotel, on Kearney Street, at the southeast corner of the Plaza. I stopped with Folsom at Mrs. Grimes's, and he sent my horse, as also the other three when Barnes had got in after dark, to a coral where he had a little barley, but no hay. At that time nobody fed a horse, but he was usually turned out to pick such scanty grass as he could find on the side-hills. The few government horses used in town were usually sent out to the Presidio, where the grass was somewhat better. At that time (July, 1847), what is now called San Francisco was called Yerba Buena. A naval officer, Lieutenant Washington A. Bartlett, its first alcalde, had caused it to be surveyed and laid out into blocks and lots, which were being sold at sixteen dollars a lot of fifty vuras square; the understanding being that no single person could purchase of the alcalde more than one in-lot of fifty varas, and one out-lot of a hundred varas. Folsom, however, had got his clerks, orderlies, etc., to buy lots, and they, for a small consideration, conveyed them to him, so that he was nominally the owner of a good many lots. Lieutenant Halleck had bought one of each kind, and so had Warner. Many naval officers had also invested, and Captain Folsom advised me to buy some, but I felt actually insulted that he should think me such a fool as to pay money for property in such a horrid place as Yerba Buena, especially ridiculing his quarter of the city, then called Happy Valley. At that day Montgomery Street was, as now, the business street, extending from Jackson to Sacramento, the water of the bay leaving barely room for a few houses on its east side, and the public warehouses were on a sandy beach about where the Bank of California now stands, viz., near the intersection of Sansome and California, Streets. Along Montgomery Street were the stores of Howard & Mellus, Frank Ward, Sherman & Ruckel, Ross & Co., and it may be one or two others. Around the Plaza were a few houses, among them the City Hotel and the Custom-House, single-story adobes with tiled roofs, and they were by far the most substantial and best houses in the place. The population was estimated at about four hundred, of whom Kanakas (natives of the Sandwich Islands) formed the bulk.
At the foot of Clay Street was a small wharf which small boats could reach at high tide; but the principal landing-place was where some stones had fallen into the water, about where Broadway now intersects Battery Street. On the steep bluff above had been excavated, by the navy, during the year before, a bench, wherein were mounted a couple of navy-guns, styled the battery, which, I suppose, gave name to the street. I explained to Folsom the object of my visit, and learned from him that he had no boat in which to send me to Sonoma, and that the only, chance to get there was to borrow a boat from the navy. The line-of-battle-ship Columbus was then lying at anchor off the town, and he said if I would get up early the next morning I could go off to her in one of the market-boats.
Accordingly, I was up bright and early, down at the wharf, found a boat, and went off to the Columbus to see Commodore Biddle. On reaching the ship and stating to the officer of the deck my business, I was shown into the commodore's cabin, and soon made known to him my object. Biddle was a small-sized man, but vivacious in the extreme. He had a perfect contempt for all humbug, and at once entered into the business with extreme alacrity. I was somewhat amused at the importance he attached to the step. He had a chaplain, and a private secretary, in a small room latticed off from his cabin, and he first called on them to go out, and, when we were alone, he enlarged on the folly of Sloat's proclamation, giving the people the right to elect their own officers, and commended Kearney and Mason for nipping that idea in the bud, and keeping the power in their own hands. He then sent for the first lieutenant (Drayton), and inquired if there were among the officers on board any who had ever been in the Upper Bay, and learning that there was a midshipman (Whittaker) he was sent for. It so happened that this midshipman had been on a frolic on shore a few nights before, and was accordingly much frightened when summoned into the commodore's presence, but as soon as he was questioned as to his knowledge of the bay, he was sensibly relieved, and professed to know every thing about it.
Accordingly, the long boat was ordered with this midshipman and eight sailors, prepared with water and provisions for several days absence. Biddle then asked me if I knew any of his own officers, and which one of them I would prefer to accompany me. I knew most of them, and we settled down on Louis McLane. He was sent for, and it was settled that McLane and I were to conduct this important mission, and the commodore enjoined on us complete secrecy, so as to insure success, and he especially cautioned us against being pumped by his ward-room officers, Chapman, Lewis, Wise, etc., while on board his ship. With this injunction I was dismissed to the wardroom, where I found Chapman, Lewis, and Wise, dreadfully exercised at our profound secrecy. The fact that McLane and I had been closeted with the commodore for an hour, that orders for the boat and stores had been made, that the chaplain and clerk had been sent out of the cabin, etc., etc., all excited their curiosity; but McLane and I kept our secret well. The general impression was, that we had some knowledge about the fate of Captain Montgomery's two sons and the crew that had been lost the year before. In 1846 Captain Montgomery commanded at Yerba Buena, on board the St. Mary sloop-of-war, and he had a detachment of men stationed up at Sonoma. Occasionally a boat was sent up with provisions or intelligence to them. Montgomery had two sons on board his ship, one a midshipman, the other his secretary. Having occasion to send some money up to Sonoma, he sent his two sons with a good boat and crew. The boat started with a strong breeze and a very large sail, was watched from the deck until she was out of sight, and has never been heard of since. There was, of coarse, much speculation as to their fate, some contending that the boat must have been capsized in San Pablo Bay, and that all were lost; others contending that the crew had murdered the officers for the money, and then escaped; but, so far as I know, not a man of that crew has ever been seen or heard of since. When at last the boat was ready for us, we started, leaving all hands, save the commodore, impressed with the belief that we were going on some errand connected with the loss of the missing boat and crew of the St. Mary. We sailed directly north, up the bay and across San Pablo, reached the month of Sonoma Creek about dark, and during the night worked up the creek some twelve miles by means of the tide, to a landing called the Embarcadero. To maintain the secrecy which the commodore had enjoined on us, McLane and I agreed to keep up the delusion by pretending to be on a marketing expedition to pick up chickens, pigs, etc., for the mess of the Columbus, soon to depart for home.
Leaving the midshipman and four sailors to guard the boat, we started on foot with the other four for Sonoma Town, which we soon reached. It was a simple open square, around which were some adobe-houses, that of General Vallejo occupying one side. On another was an unfinished two-story adobe building, occupied as a barrack by Bracken's company. We soon found Captain Brackett, and I told him that I intended to take Nash a prisoner and convey him back to Monterey to answer for his mutinous behavior. I got an old sergeant of his company, whom I had known in the Third Artillery, quietly to ascertain the whereabouts of Nash, who was a bachelor, stopping with the family of a lawyer named Green. The sergeant soon returned, saying that Nash had gone over to Napa, but would be back that evening; so McLane and I went up to a farm of some pretensions, occupied by one Andreas Hoepner, with a pretty Sitka wife, who lived a couple of miles above Sonoma, and we bought of him some chickens, pigs, etc. We then visited Governor Boggs's family and that of General Vallejo, who was then, as now, one of the most prominent and influential natives of California. About dark I learned that Nash had come back, and then, giving Brackett orders to have a cart ready at the corner of the plaza, McLane and I went to the house of Green. Posting an armed sailor on each side of the house, we knocked at the door and walked in. We found Green, Nash, and two women, at supper. I inquired if Nash were in, and was first answered "No," but one of the women soon pointed to him, and he rose. We were armed with pistols, and the family was evidently alarmed. I walked up to him and took his arm, and told him to come along with me. He asked me, "Where?" and I said, "Monterey." "Why?" I would explain that more at leisure. Green put himself between me and the door, and demanded, in theatrical style, why I dared arrest a peaceable citizen in his house. I simply pointed to my pistol, and told him to get out of the way, which he did. Nash asked to get some clothing, but I told him he should want for nothing. We passed out, Green following us with loud words, which brought the four sailors to the front-door, when I told him to hush up or I would take him prisoner also. About that time one of the sailors, handling his pistol carelessly, discharged it, and Green disappeared very suddenly. We took Nash to the cart, put him in, and proceeded back to our boat. The next morning we were gone.
Nash being out of the way, Boggs entered on his office, and the right to appoint or remove from civil office was never again questioned in California during the military regime. Nash was an old man, and was very much alarmed for his personal safety. He had come across the Plains, and had never yet seen the sea. While on our way down the bay, I explained fully to him the state of things in California, and he admitted he had never looked on it in that light before, and professed a willingness to surrender his office; but, having gone so far, I thought it best to take him to Monterey. On our way down the bay the wind was so strong, as we approached the Columbus, that we had to take refuge behind Yerba Buena Island, then called Goat Island, where we landed, and I killed a gray seal. The next morning, the wind being comparatively light, we got out and worked our way up to the Columbus, where I left my prisoner on board, and went on shore to find Commodore Biddle, who had gone to dine with Frank Ward. I found him there, and committed Nash to his charge, with the request that he would send him down to Monterey, which he did in the sloop-of-war Dale, Captain Selfridge commanding. I then returned to Monterey by land, and, when the Dale arrived, Colonel Mason and I went on board, found poor old Mr. Nash half dead with sea-sickness and fear, lest Colonel Mason would treat him with extreme military rigor. But, on the contrary, the colonel spoke to him kindly, released him as a prisoner on his promise to go back to Sonoma. surrender his office to Boggs, and account to him for his acts while in office. He afterward came on shore, was provided with clothing and a horse, returned to Sonoma, and I never have seen him since.
Matters and things settled down in Upper California, and all moved along with peace and harmony. The war still continued in Mexico, and the navy authorities resolved to employ their time with the capture of Mazatlan and Guaymas. Lower California had already been occupied by two companies of Stevenson's regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Burton, who had taken post at La Paz, and a small party of sailors was on shore at San Josef, near Cape San Lucas, detached from the Lexington, Lieutenant-Commander Bailey. The orders for this occupation were made by General Kearney before he left, in pursuance of instructions from the War Department, merely to subserve a political end, for there were few or no people in Lower California, which is a miserable, wretched, dried-up peninsula. I remember the proclamation made by Burton and Captain Bailey, in taking possession, which was in the usual florid style. Bailey signed his name as the senior naval officer at the station, but, as it was necessary to put it into Spanish to reach the inhabitants of the newly-acquired country, it was interpreted, "El mas antiguo de todos los oficiales de la marina," etc., which, literally, is "the most ancient of all the naval officers," etc., a translation at which we made some fun.
The expedition to Mazatlan was, however, for a different purpose, viz., to get possession of the ports of Mazatlan and Guaymas, as a part of the war against Mexico, and not for permanent conquest.
Commodore Shubrick commanded this expedition, and took Halleck along as his engineer-officer. They captured Mazatlan and Guaymas, and then called on Colonel Mason to send soldiers down to hold possession, but he had none to spare, and it was found impossible to raise other volunteers either in California or Oregon, and the navy held these places by detachments of sailors and marines till the end of the war. Burton also called for reenforcements, and Naglee'a company was sent to him from Monterey, and these three companies occupied Lower California at the end of the Mexican War. Major Hardie still commanded at San Francisco and above; Company F, Third Artillery, and Shannon's company of volunteers, were at Monterey; Lippett's company at Santa Barbara; Colonel Stevenson, with one company of his regiment, and the company of the First Dragoons, was at Los Angeles; and a company of Mormons, reenlisted out of the Mormon Battalion, garrisoned San Diego—and thus matters went along throughout 1847 into 1848. I had occasion to make several trips to Yerba Buena and back, and in the spring of 1848 Colonel Mason and I went down to Santa Barbara in the sloop-of-war Dale.
I spent much time in hunting deer and bear in the mountains back of the Carmel Mission, and ducks and geese in the plains of the Salinas. As soon as the fall rains set in, the young oats would sprout up, and myriads of ducks, brant, and geese, made their appearance. In a single day, or rather in the evening of one day and the morning of the next, I could load a pack-mule with geese and ducks. They had grown somewhat wild from the increased number of hunters, yet, by marking well the place where a flock lighted, I could, by taking advantage of gullies or the shape of the ground, creep up within range; and, giving one barrel on the ground, and the other as they rose, I have secured as many as nine at one discharge. Colonel Mason on one occasion killed eleven geese by one discharge of small shot. The seasons in California are well marked. About October and November the rains begin, and the whole country, plains and mountains, becomes covered with a bright-green grass, with endless flowers. The intervals between the rains give the finest weather possible. These rains are less frequent in March, and cease altogether in April and May, when gradually the grass dies and the whole aspect of things changes, first to yellow, then to brown, and by midsummer all is burnt up and dry as an ashheap.
When General Kearney first departed we took his office at Larkin's; but shortly afterward we had a broad stairway constructed to lead from the outside to the upper front porch of the barracks. By cutting a large door through the adobe-wall, we made the upper room in the centre our office; and another side-room, connected with it by a door, was Colonel Mason's private office.
I had a single clerk, a soldier named Baden; and William E. P. Hartnell, citizen, also had a table in the same room. He was the government interpreter, and had charge of the civil archives. After Halleck's return from Mazatlan, he was, by Colonel Mason, made Secretary of State; and he then had charge of the civil archives, including the land-titles, of which Fremont first had possession, but which had reverted to us when he left the country.
I remember one day, in the spring of 1848, that two men, Americans, came into the office and inquired for the Governor. I asked their business, and one answered that they had just come down from Captain Sutter on special business, and they wanted to see Governor Mason in person. I took them in to the colonel, and left them together. After some time the colonel came to his door and called to me. I went in, and my attention was directed to a series of papers unfolded on his table, in which lay about half an ounce of placer gold. Mason said to me, "What is that?" I touched it and examined one or two of the larger pieces, and asked, "Is it gold?" Mason asked me if I had ever seen native gold. I answered that, in 1844, I was in Upper Georgia, and there saw some native gold, but it was much finer than this, and that it was in phials, or in transparent quills; but I said that, if this were gold, it could be easily tested, first, by its malleability, and next by acids. I took a piece in my teeth, and the metallic lustre was perfect. I then called to the clerk, Baden, to bring an axe and hatchet from the backyard. When these were brought, I took the largest piece and beat it out flat, and beyond doubt it was metal, and a pure metal. Still, we attached little importance to the fact, for gold was known to exist at San Fernando, at the south, and yet was not considered of much value. Colonel Mason then handed me a letter from Captain Sutter, addressed to him, stating that he (Sutter) was engaged in erecting a saw-mill at Coloma, about forty miles up the American Fork, above his fort at New Helvetia, for the general benefit of the settlers in that vicinity; that he had incurred considerable expense, and wanted a "preemption" to the quarter-section of land on which the mill was located, embracing the tail-race in which this particular gold had been found. Mason instructed me to prepare a letter, in answer, for his signature. I wrote off a letter, reciting that California was yet a Mexican province, simply held by us as a conquest; that no laws of the United States yet applied to it, much less the land laws or preemption laws, which could only apply after a public survey. Therefore it was impossible for the Governor to promise him (Sutter) a title to the land; yet, as there were no settlements within forty miles, he was not likely to be disturbed by trespassers. Colonel Mason signed the letter, handed it to one of the gentlemen who had brought the sample of gold, and they departed. That gold was the first discovered in the Sierra Nevada, which soon revolutionized the whole country, and actually moved the whole civilized world. About this time (May and June, 1848), far more importance was attached to quicksilver. One mine, the New Almaden, twelve miles south of San Jose, was well known, and was in possession of the agent of a Scotch gentleman named Forties, who at the time was British consul at Tepic, Mexico. Mr. Forties came up from San Blas in a small brig, which proved to be a Mexican vessel; the vessel was seized, condemned, and actually sold, but Forties was wealthy, and bought her in. His title to the quicksilver-mine was, however, never disputed, as he had bought it regularly, before our conquest of the country, from another British subject, also named Forties, a resident of Santa Clara Mission, who had purchased it of the discoverer, a priest; but the boundaries of the land attached to the mine were even then in dispute. Other men were in search of quicksilver; and the whole range of mountains near the New Almaden mine was stained with the brilliant red of the sulphuret of mercury (cinnabar). A company composed of T. O. Larkin, J. R. Snyder, and others, among them one John Ricord (who was quite a character), also claimed a valuable mine near by. Ricord was a lawyer from about Buffalo, and by some means had got to the Sandwich Islands, where he became a great favorite of the king, Kamehameha; was his attorney-general, and got into a difficulty with the Rev. Mr. Judd, who was a kind of prime-minister to his majesty. One or the other had to go, and Ricord left for San Francisco, where he arrived while Colonel Mason and I were there on some business connected with the customs. Ricord at once made a dead set at Mason with flattery, and all sorts of spurious arguments, to convince him that our military government was too simple in its forms for the new state of facts, and that he was the man to remodel it. I had heard a good deal to his prejudice, and did all I could to prevent Mason taking him, into his confidence. We then started back for Monterey. Ricord was along, and night and day he was harping on his scheme; but he disgusted Colonel Mason with his flattery, and, on reaching Monterey, he opened what he called a law-office, but there were neither courts nor clients, so necessity forced him to turn his thoughts to something else, and quicksilver became his hobby. In the spring of 1848 an appeal came to our office from San Jose, which compelled the Governor to go up in person. Lieutenant Loeser and I, with a couple of soldiers, went along. At San Jose the Governor held some kind of a court, in which Ricord and the alcalde had a warm dispute about a certain mine which Ricord, as a member of the Larkin Company, had opened within the limits claimed by the New Almaden Company. On our way up we had visited the ground, and were therefore better prepared to understand the controversy. We had found at New Almaden Mr. Walkinshaw, a fine Scotch gentleman, the resident agent of Mr. Forbes. He had built in the valley, near a small stream, a few board-houses, and some four or five furnaces for the distillation of the mercury. These were very simple in their structure, being composed of whalers' kettles, set in masonry. These kettles were filled with broken ore about the size of McAdam-stone, mingled with lime. Another kettle, reversed, formed the lid, and the seam was luted with clay. On applying heat, the mercury was volatilized and carried into a chimney-stack, where it condensed and flowed back into a reservoir, and then was led in pipes into another kettle outside. After witnessing this process, we visited the mine itself, which outcropped near the apex of the hill, about a thousand feet above the furnaces. We found wagons hauling the mineral down the hill and returning empty, and in the mines quite a number of Sonora miners were blasting and driving for the beautiful ore (cinnabar). It was then, and is now, a most valuable mine. The adit of the mine was at the apex of the hill, which drooped off to the north. We rode along this hill, and saw where many openings had been begun, but these, proving of little or no value, had been abandoned. Three miles beyond, on the west face of the bill, we came to the opening of the "Larkin Company." There was evidence of a good deal of work, but the mine itself was filled up by what seemed a land-slide. The question involved in the lawsuit before the alcalde at San Jose was, first, whether the mine was or was not on the land belonging to the New Almaden property; and, next, whether the company had complied with all the conditions of the mite laws of Mexico, which were construed to be still in force in California.
These laws required that any one who discovered a valuable mine on private land should first file with the alcalde, or judge of the district, a notice and claim for the benefits of such discovery; then the mine was to be opened and followed for a distance of at least one hundred feet within a specified time, and the claimants must take out samples of the mineral and deposit the same with the alcalde, who was then required to inspect personally the mine, to see that it fulfilled all the conditions of the law, before he could give a written title. In this case the alcalde had been to the mine and had possession of samples of the ore; but, as the mouth of the mine was closed up, as alleged, from the act of God, by a land-slide, it was contended by Ricord and his associates that it was competent to prove by good witnesses that the mine had been opened into the hill one hundred feet, and that, by no negligence of theirs, it had caved in. It was generally understood that Robert J. Walker, United States Secretary of the Treasury, was then a partner in this mining company; and a vessel, the bark Gray Eagle, was ready at San Francisco to sail for New York with the title-papers on which to base a joint-stock company for speculative uses. I think the alcalde was satisfied that the law had been complied with, that he had given the necessary papers, and, as at that time there was nothing developed to show fraud, the Governor (Mason) did not interfere. At that date there was no public house or tavern in San Jose where we could stop, so we started toward Santa Cruz and encamped about ten miles out, to the west of the town, where we fell in with another party of explorers, of whom Ruckel, of San Francisco, was the head; and after supper, as we sat around the camp-fire, the conversation turned on quicksilver in general, and the result of the contest in San Jose in particular. Mason was relating to Ruckel the points and the arguments of Ricord, that the company should not suffer from an act of God, viz., the caving in of the mouth of the mine, when a man named Cash, a fellow who had once been in the quartermaster's employ as a teamster, spoke up: "Governor Mason, did Judge Ricord say that?" "Yes," said the Governor; and then Cash related how he and another man, whose name he gave, had been employed by Ricord to undermine a heavy rock that rested above the mouth of the mine, so that it tumbled down, carrying with it a large quantity of earth, and completely filled it up, as we had seen; "and," said Cash, "it took us three days of the hardest kind of work." This was the act of God, and on the papers procured from the alcalde at that time, I understand, was built a huge speculation, by which thousands of dollars changed hands in the United States and were lost. This happened long before the celebrated McGarrahan claim, which has produced so much noise, and which still is being prosecuted in the courts and in Congress.
On the next day we crossed over the Santa Cruz Mountains, from which we had sublime views of the scenery, first looking east toward the lower Bay of San Francisco, with the bright plains of Santa Clara and San Jose, and then to the west upon the ocean, the town of Monterey being visible sixty miles off. If my memory is correct, we beheld from that mountain the firing of a salute from the battery at Monterey, and counted the number of guns from the white puffs of smoke, but could not hear the sound. That night we slept on piles of wheat in a mill at Soquel, near Santa Cruz, and, our supplies being short, I advised that we should make an early start next morning, so as to reach the ranch of Don Juan Antonio Vallejo, a particular friend, who had a large and valuable cattle-ranch on the Pajaro River, about twenty miles on our way to Monterey. Accordingly, we were off by the first light of day, and by nine o'clock we had reached the ranch. It was on a high point of the plateau, overlooking the plain of the Pajaro, on which were grazing numbers of horses and cattle. The house was of adobe, with a long range of adobe-huts occupied by the semi-civilized Indians, who at that time did all the labor of a ranch, the herding and marking of cattle, breaking of horses, and cultivating the little patches of wheat and vegetables which constituted all the farming of that day. Every thing about the house looked deserted, and, seeing a small Indian boy leaning up against a post, I approached him and asked him in Spanish, "Where is the master?" "Gone to the Presidio" (Monterey). "Is anybody in the house?" "No." "Is it locked up?" "Yes." "Is no one about who can get in?" "No." "Have you any meat?" "No." "Any flour or grain?" "No." "Any chickens?" "No." "Any eggs?" "No." "What do you live on?" "Nada" (nothing). The utter indifference of this boy, and the tone of his answer "Nada," attracted the attention of Colonel Mason, who had been listening to our conversation, and who knew enough of Spanish to catch the meaning, and he exclaimed with some feeling, "So we get nada for our breakfast." I felt mortified, for I had held out the prospect of a splendid breakfast of meat and tortillas with rice, chickens, eggs, etc., at the ranch of my friend Josh Antonio, as a justification for taking the Governor, a man of sixty years of age, more than twenty miles at a full canter for his breakfast. But there was no help for it, and we accordingly went a short distance to a pond, where we unpacked our mules and made a slim breakfast; on some scraps of hard bread and a bone of pork that remained in our alforjas. This was no uncommon thing in those days, when many a ranchero with his eleven leagues of land, his hundreds of horses and thousands of cattle, would receive us with all the grandiloquence of a Spanish lord, and confess that he had nothing in his house to eat except the carcass of a beef hung up, from which the stranger might cut and cook, without money or price, what he needed. That night we slept on Salinas Plain, and the next morning reached Monterey. All the missions and houses at that period were alive with fleas, which the natives looked on as pleasant titillators, but they so tortured me that I always gave them a wide berth, and slept on a saddle-blanket, with the saddle for a pillow and the serape, or blanket, for a cover. We never feared rain except in winter. As the spring and summer of 1848 advanced, the reports came faster and faster from the gold-mines at Sutter's saw-mill. Stories reached us of fabulous discoveries, and spread throughout the land. Everybody was talking of "Gold! gold!" until it assumed the character of a fever. Some of our soldiers began to desert; citizens were fitting out trains of wagons and packmules to go to the mines. We heard of men earning fifty, five hundred, and thousands of dollars per day, and for a time it seemed as though somebody would reach solid gold. Some of this gold began to come to Yerba Buena in trade, and to disturb the value of merchandise, particularly of mules, horses, tin pans, and articles used in mining: I of course could not escape the infection, and at last convinced Colonel Mason that it was our duty to go up and see with our own eyes, that we might report the truth to our Government. As yet we had no regular mail to any part of the United States, but mails had come to us at long intervals, around Cape Horn, and one or two overland. I well remember the first overland mail. It was brought by Kit Carson in saddle-bags from Taos in New Mexico. We heard of his arrival at Los Angeles, and waited patiently for his arrival at headquarters. His fame then was at its height, from the publication of Fremont's books, and I was very anxious to see a man who had achieved such feats of daring among the wild animals of the Rocky Mountains, and still wilder Indians of the Plains. At last his arrival was reported at the tavern at Monterey, and I hurried to hunt him up. I cannot express my surprise at beholding a small, stoop-shouldered man, with reddish hair, freckled face, soft blue eyes, and nothing to indicate extraordinary courage or daring. He spoke but little, and answered questions in monosyllables. I asked for his mail, and he picked up his light saddle-bags containing the great overland mail, and we walked together to headquarters, where he delivered his parcel into Colonel Mason's own hands. He spent some days in Monterey, during which time we extracted with difficulty some items of his personal history. He was then by commission a lieutenant in the regiment of Mounted Rifles serving in Mexico under Colonel Sumner, and, as he could not reach his regiment from California, Colonel Mason ordered that for a time he should be assigned to duty with A. J. Smith's company, First Dragoons, at Los Angeles. He remained at Los Angeles some months, and was then sent back to the United Staten with dispatches, traveling two thousand miles almost alone, in preference to being encumbered by a large party.
Toward the close of June, 1848, the gold-fever being at its height, by Colonel Mason's orders I made preparations for his trip to the newly-discovered gold-mines at Sutter's Fort. I selected four good soldiers, with Aaron, Colonel Mason's black servant, and a good outfit of horses and pack-mules, we started by the usually traveled route for Yerba Buena. There Captain Fulsom and two citizens joined our party. The first difficulty was to cross the bay to Saucelito. Folsom, as quartermaster, had a sort of scow with a large sail, with which to discharge the cargoes of ships, that could not come within a mile of the shore. It took nearly the whole day to get the old scow up to the only wharf there, and then the water was so shallow that the scow, with its load of horses, would not float at the first high tide, but by infinite labor on the next tide she was got off and safely crossed over to Saucelito. We followed in a more comfortable schooner. Having safely landed our horses and mules, we picked up and rode to San Rafael Mission, stopping with Don Timoteo Murphy. The next day's journey took us to Bodega, where lived a man named Stephen Smith, who had the only steam saw-mill in California. He had a Peruvian wife, and employed a number of absolutely naked Indians in making adobes. We spent a day very pleasantly with him, and learned that he had come to California some years before, at the personal advice of Daniel Webster, who had informed him that sooner or later the United States would be in possession of California, and that in consequence it would become a great country. From Bodega we traveled to Sonoma, by way of Petaluma, and spent a day with General Vallejo. I had been there before, as related, in the business of the alcalde Nash. From Sonoma we crossed over by way of Napa, Suisun, and Vaca's ranch, to the Puta. In the rainy season, the plain between the Puta and Sacramento Rivers is impassable, but in July the waters dry up; and we passed without trouble, by the trail for Sutter's Embarcadero. We reached the Sacramento River, then full of water, with a deep, clear current. The only means of crossing over was by an Indian dugout canoe. We began by carrying across our packs and saddles, and then our people. When all things were ready, the horses were driven into the water, one being guided ahead by a man in the canoe. Of course, the horses and mules at first refused to take to the water, and it was nearly a day's work to get them across, and even then some of our animals after crossing escaped into the woods and undergrowth that lined the river, but we secured enough of them to reach Sutter's Fort, three miles back from the embcarcadero, where we encamped at the old slough, or pond, near the fort. On application, Captain Butter sent some Indians back into the bushes, who recovered and brought in all our animals. At that time there was not the sign of a habitation there or thereabouts, except the fort, and an old adobe-house, east of the fort, known as the hospital. The fort itself was one of adobe-walls, about twenty feet high, rectangular in form, with two-story block houses at diagonal corners. The entrance was by a large gate, open by day and closed at night, with two iron ship's guns near at hand. Inside there was a large house, with a good shingle-roof, used as a storehouse, and all round the walls were ranged rooms, the fort wall being the outer wall of the house. The inner wall also was of adobe. These rooms were used by Captain Sutter himself and by his people. He had a blacksmith's shop, carpenter's shop, etc., and other rooms where the women made blankets. Sutter was monarch of all he surveyed, and had authority to inflict punishment even unto death, a power he did not fail to use. He had horses, cattle, and sheep, and of these he gave liberally and without price to all in need. He caused to be driven into our camp a beef and some sheep, which were slaughtered for our use. Already the goldmines were beginning to be felt. Many people were then encamped, some going and some coming, all full of gold-stories, and each surpassing the other. We found preparations in progress for celebrating the Fourth of July, then close at hand, and we agreed to remain over to assist on the occasion; of course, being the high officials, we were the honored guests. People came from a great distance to attend this celebration of the Fourth of July, and the tables were laid in the large room inside the storehouse of the fort. A man of some note, named Sinclair, presided, and after a substantial meal and a reasonable supply of aguardiente we began the toasts. All that I remember is that Folsom and I spoke for our party; others, Captain Sutter included, made speeches, and before the celebration was over Sutter was enthusiastic, and many others showed the effects of the aguardiente. The next day (namely, July 5, 1848) we resumed our journey toward the mines, and, in twenty-five miles of as hot and dusty a ride as possible, we reached Mormon Island. I have heretofore stated that the gold was first found in the tail-race of the stew-mill at Coloma, forty miles above Sutter's Fort, or fifteen above Mormon Island, in the bed of the American Fork of the Sacramento River. It seems that Sutter had employed an American named Marshall, a sort of millwright, to do this work for him, but Marshall afterward claimed that in the matter of the saw-mill they were copartners. At all events, Marshall and the family of Mr. Wimmer were living at Coloma, where the pine-trees afforded the best material for lumber. He had under him four white men, Mormons, who had been discharged from Cooke's battalion, and some Indians. These were engaged in hewing logs, building a mill-dam, and putting up a saw-mill. Marshall, as the architect, had made the "tub-wheel," and had set it in motion, and had also furnished some of the rude parts of machinery necessary for an ordinary up-and-down saw-mill.
Labor was very scarce, expensive, and had to be economized. The mill was built over a dry channel of the river which was calculated to be the tail-race. After arranging his head-race, dam and tub-wheel, he let on the water to test the goodness of his machinery. It worked very well until it was found that the tail-race did not carry off the water fast enough, so he put his men to work in a rude way to clear out the tail-race. They scratched a kind of ditch down the middle of the dry channel, throwing the coarser stones to one side; then, letting on the water again, it would run with velocity down the channel, washing away the dirt, thus saving labor. This course of action was repeated several times, acting exactly like the long Tom afterward resorted to by the miners. As Marshall himself was working in this ditch, he observed particles of yellow metal which he gathered up in his hand, when it seemed to have suddenly flashed across his mind that it was gold. After picking up about an ounce, he hurried down to the fort to report to Captain Sutter his discovery. Captain Sutter himself related to me Marshall's account, saying that, as he sat in his room at the fort one day in February or March, 1848, a knock was heard at his door, and he called out, "Come in." In walked Marshall, who was a half-crazy man at best, but then looked strangely wild. "What is the matter, Marshall!" Marshall inquired if any one was within hearing, and began to peer about the room, and look under the bed, when Sutter, fearing that some calamity had befallen the party up at the saw-mill, and that Marshall was really crazy, began to make his way to the door, demanding of Marshall to explain what was the matter. At last he revealed his discovery, and laid before Captain Sutter the pellicles of gold he had picked up in the ditch. At first, Sutter attached little or no importance to the discovery, and told Marshall to go back to the mill, and say nothing of what he had seen to Mr. Wimmer, or any one else. Yet, as it might add value to the location, he dispatched to our headquarters at Monterey, as I have already related, the two men with a written application for a preemption to the quarter-section of land at Coloma. Marshall returned to the mill, but could not keep out of his wonderful ditch, and by some means the other men employed there learned his secret. They then wanted to gather the gold, and Marshall threatened to shoot them if they attempted it; but these men had sense enough to know that if "placer"-gold existed at Coloma, it would also be found farther down-stream, and they gradually "prospected" until they reached Mormon Island, fifteen miles below, where they discovered one of the richest placers on earth. These men revealed the fact to some other Mormons who were employed by Captain Sutter at a grist-mill he was building still lower down the American Fork, and six miles above his fort. All of them struck for higher wages, to which Sutter yielded, until they asked ten dollars a day, which he refused, and the two mills on which he had spent so much money were never built, and fell into decay.
In my opinion, when the Mormons were driven from Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1844, they cast about for a land where they would not be disturbed again, and fixed on California. In the year 1845 a ship, the Brooklyn, sailed from New York for California, with a colony of Mormons, of which Sam Brannan was the leader, and we found them there on our arrival in January, 1847. When General Kearney, at Fort Leavenworth, was collecting volunteers early in 1846, for the Mexican War, he, through the instrumentality of Captain James Allen, brother to our quartermaster, General Robert Allen, raised the battalion of Mormons at Kanesville, Iowa, now Council Bluffs, on the express understanding that it would facilitate their migration to California. But when the Mormons reached Salt Lake, in 1846, they learned that they had been forestalled by the United States forces in California, and they then determined to settle down where they were. Therefore, when this battalion of five companies of Mormons (raised by Allen, who died on the way, and was succeeded by Cooke) was discharged at Los Angeles, California, in the early summer of 1847, most of the men went to their people at Salt Lake, with all the money received, as pay from the United States, invested in cattle and breeding-horses; one company reenlisted for another year, and the remainder sought work in the country. As soon as the fame of the gold discovery spread through California, the Mormons naturally turned to Mormon Island, so that in July, 1848, we found about three hundred of them there at work. Sam Brannan was on hand as the high-priest, collecting the tithes. Clark, of Clark's Point, an early pioneer, was there also, and nearly all the Mormons who had come out in the Brooklyn, or who had staid in California after the discharge of their battalion, had collected there. I recall the scene as perfectly to-day as though it were yesterday. In the midst of a broken country, all parched and dried by the hot sun of July, sparsely wooded with live-oaks and straggling pines, lay the valley of the American River, with its bold mountain-stream coming out of the Snowy Mountains to the east. In this valley is a fiat, or gravel-bed, which in high water is an island, or is overflown, but at the time of our visit was simply a level gravel-bed of the river. On its edges men were digging, and filling buckets with the finer earth and gravel, which was carried to a machine made like a baby's cradle, open at the foot, and at the head a plate of sheet-iron or zinc, punctured full of holes. On this metallic plate was emptied the earth, and water was then poured on it from buckets, while one man shook the cradle with violent rocking by a handle. On the bottom were nailed cleats of wood. With this rude machine four men could earn from forty to one hundred dollars a day, averaging sixteen dollars, or a gold ounce, per man per day. While the' sun blazed down on the heads of the miners with tropical heat, the water was bitter cold, and all hands were either standing in the water or had their clothes wet all the time; yet there were no complaints of rheumatism or cold. We made our camp on a small knoll, a little below the island, and from it could overlook the busy scene. A few bush-huts near by served as stores, boardinghouses, and for sleeping; but all hands slept on the ground, with pine-leaves and blankets for bedding. As soon as the news spread that the Governor was there, persons came to see us, and volunteered all kinds of information, illustrating it by samples of the gold, which was of a uniform kind, "scale-gold," bright and beautiful. A large variety, of every conceivable shape and form, was found in the smaller gulches round about, but the gold in the river-bed was uniformly "scale-gold." I remember that Mr. Clark was in camp, talking to Colonel Mason about matters and things generally, when he inquired, "Governor, what business has Sam Brannan to collect the tithes here?" Clark admitted that Brannan was the head of the Mormon church in California, and he was simply questioning as to Brannan's right, as high-priest, to compel the Mormons to pay him the regular tithes. Colonel Mason answered, "Brannan has a perfect right to collect the tax, if you Mormons are fools enough to pay it." "Then," said Clark, "I for one won't pay it any longer." Colonel Mason added: "This is public land, and the gold is the property of the United States; all of you here are trespassers, but, as the Government is benefited by your getting out the gold, I do not intend to interfere." I understood, afterward, that from that time the payment of the tithes ceased, but Brannan had already collected enough money wherewith to hire Sutter's hospital, and to open a store there, in which he made more money than any merchant in California, during that summer and fall. The understanding was, that the money collected by him as tithes was the foundation of his fortune, which is still very large in San Francisco. That evening we all mingled freely with the miners, and witnessed the process of cleaning up and "panning" out, which is the last process for separating the pure gold from the fine dirt and black sand.
The next day we continued our journey up the valley of the American Fork, stopping at various camps, where mining was in progress; and about noon we reached Coloma, the place where gold had been first discovered. The hills were higher, and the timber of better quality. The river was narrower and bolder, and but few miners were at work there, by reason of Marshall's and Sutter's claim to the site. There stood the sawmill unfinished, the dam and tail-race just as they were left when the Mormons ceased work. Marshall and Wimmer's family of wife and half a dozen children were there, guarding their supposed treasure; living in a house made of clapboards. Here also we were shown many specimens of gold, of a coarser grain than that found at Mormon Island. The next day we crossed the American River to its north side, and visited many small camps of men, in what were called the "dry diggings." Little pools of water stood in the beds of the streams, and these were used to wash the dirt; and there the gold was in every conceivable shape and size, some of the specimens weighing several ounces. Some of these "diggings" were extremely rich, but as a whole they were more precarious in results than at the river. Sometimes a lucky fellow would hit on a "pocket," and collect several thousand dollars in a few days, and then again he would be shifting about from place to place, "prospecting," and spending all he had made. Little stores were being opened at every point, where flour, bacon, etc., were sold; every thing being a dollar a pound, and a meal usually costing three dollars. Nobody paid for a bed, for he slept on the ground, without fear of cold or rain. We spent nearly a week in that region, and were quite bewildered by the fabulous tales of recent discoveries, which at the time were confined to the several forks of the American and Yuba Rivers.' All this time our horses had nothing to eat but the sparse grass in that region, and we were forced to work our way down toward the Sacramento Valley, or to see our animals perish. Still we contemplated a visit to the Yuba and Feather Rivers, from which we had heard of more wonderful "diggings;" but met a courier, who announced the arrival of a ship at Monterey, with dispatches of great importance from Mazatlan. We accordingly turned our horses back to Sutter's Fort. Crossing the Sacramento again by swimming our horses, and ferrying their loads in that solitary canoe, we took our back track as far as the Napa, and then turned to Benicia, on Carquinez Straits. We found there a solitary adobe-house, occupied by Mr. Hastings and his family, embracing Dr. Semple, the proprietor of the ferry. This ferry was a ship's-boat, with a latteen-sail, which could carry across at one time six or eight horses.
It took us several days to cross over, and during that time we got well acquainted with the doctor, who was quite a character. He had come to California from Illinois, and was brother to Senator Semple. He was about seven feet high, and very intelligent. When we first reached Monterey, he had a printing-press, which belonged to the United States, having been captured at the custom-house, and had been used to print custom-house blanks. With this Dr. Semple, as editor, published the Californian, a small sheet of news, once a week; and it was a curiosity in its line, using two v's for a w, and other combinations of letters, made necessary by want of type. After some time he removed to Yerba Buena with his paper, and it grew up to be the Alta California of today. Foreseeing, as he thought, the growth of a great city somewhere on the Bay of San Francisco, he selected Carquinez Straits as its location, and obtained from General Vallejo a title to a league of land, on condition of building up a city thereon to bear the name of Vallejo's wife. This was Francisca Benicia; accordingly, the new city was named "Francisca." At this time, the town near the mouth of the bay was known universally as Yerba Buena; but that name was not known abroad, although San Francisco was familiar to the whole civilized world. Now, some of the chief men of Yerba Buena, Folsom, Howard, Leidesdorf, and others, knowing the importance of a name, saw their danger, and, by some action of the ayuntamiento, or town council, changed the name of Yerba Buena to "San Francisco." Dr. Semple was outraged at their changing the name to one so like his of Francisca, and he in turn changed his town to the other name of Mrs. Vallejo, viz., "Benicia;" and Benicia it has remained to this day. I am convinced that this little circumstance was big with consequences. That Benicia has the best natural site for a commercial city, I am, satisfied; and had half the money and half the labor since bestowed upon San Francisco been expended at Benicia, we should have at this day a city of palaces on the Carquinez Straits. The name of "San Francisco," however, fixed the city where it now is; for every ship in 1848-'49, which cleared from any part of the world, knew the name of San Francisco, but not Yerba Buena or Benicia; and, accordingly, ships consigned to California came pouring in with their contents, and were anchored in front of Yerba Buena, the first town. Captains and crews deserted for the gold-mines, and now half the city in front of Montgomery Street is built over the hulks thus abandoned. But Dr. Semple, at that time, was all there was of Benicia; he was captain and crew of his ferry boat, and managed to pass our party to the south side of Carquinez Straits in about two days.
Thence we proceeded up Amador Valley to Alameda Creek, and so on to the old mission of San Jose; thence to the pueblo of San Jose, where Folsom and those belonging in Yerba Buena went in that direction, and we continued on to Monterey, our party all the way giving official sanction to the news from the gold-mines, and adding new force to the "fever."
On reaching Monterey, we found dispatches from Commodore Shubrick, at Mazatlan, which gave almost positive assurance that the war with Mexico was over; that hostilities had ceased, and commissioners were arranging the terms of peace at Guadalupe Hidalgo. It was well that this news reached California at that critical time; for so contagious had become the "gold-fever" that everybody was bound to go and try his fortune, and the volunteer regiment of Stevenson's would have deserted en masse, had the men not been assured that they would very soon be entitled to an honorable discharge.
Many of our regulars did desert, among them the very men who had escorted us faithfully to the mines and back. Our servants also left us, and nothing less than three hundred dollars a month would hire a man in California; Colonel Mason's black boy, Aaron, alone of all our then servants proving faithful. We were forced to resort to all manner of shifts to live. First, we had a mess with a black fellow we called Bustamente as cook; but he got the fever, and had to go. We next took a soldier, but he deserted, and carried off my double-barreled shot-gun, which I prized very highly. To meet this condition of facts, Colonel Mason ordered that liberal furloughs should be given to the soldiers, and promises to all in turn, and he allowed all the officers to draw their rations in kind. As the actual valve of the ration was very large, this enabled us to live. Halleck, Murray, Ord, and I, boarded with Dona Augustias, and turned in our rations as pay for our board.
Some time in September, 1848, the official news of the treaty of peace reached us, and the Mexican War was over. This treaty was signed in May, and came to us all the way by land by a courier from Lower California, sent from La Paz by Lieutenant-Colonel Burton. On its receipt, orders were at once made for the muster-out of all of Stevenson's regiment, and our military forces were thus reduced to the single company of dragoons at Los Angeles, and the one company of artillery at Monterey. Nearly all business had ceased, except that connected with gold; and, during that fall, Colonel Mason, Captain Warner, and I, made another trip up to Sutter's Fort, going also to the newly-discovered mines on the Stanislaus, called "Sonora," named from the miners of Sonora, Mexico, who had first discovered them. We found there pretty much the same state of facts as before existed at Mormon Island and Coloma, and we daily received intelligence of the opening of still other mines north and south.
But I have passed over a very interesting fact. As soon as we had returned from our first visit to the gold-mines, it became important to send home positive knowledge of this valuable discovery. The means of communication with the United States were very precarious, and I suggested to Colonel Mason that a special courier ought to be sent; that Second-Lieutenant Loeser had been promoted to first-lieutenant, and was entitled to go home. He was accordingly detailed to carry the news. I prepared with great care the letter to the adjutant-general of August 17, 1848, which Colonel Mason modified in a few Particulars; and, as it was important to send not only the specimens which had been presented to us along our route of travel, I advised the colonel to allow Captain Folsom to purchase and send to Washington a large sample of the commercial gold in general use, and to pay for the same out of the money in his hands known as the "civil fund," arising from duties collected at the several ports in California. He consented to this, and Captain Folsom bought an oyster-can full at ten dollars the ounce, which was the rate of value at which it was then received at the custom house. Folsom was instructed further to contract with some vessel to carry the messenger to South America, where he could take the English steamers as far east as Jamaica, with a conditional charter giving increased payment if the vessel could catch the October steamer. Folsom chartered the bark La Lambayecana, owned and navigated by Henry D. Cooke, who has since been the Governor of the District of Columbia. In due time this vessel reached Monterey, and Lieutenant Loeser, with his report and specimens of gold, embarked and sailed. He reached the South American Continent at Payta, Peru, in time; took the English steamer of October to Panama, and thence went on to Kingston, Jamaica, where he found a sailing vessel bound for New Orleans. On reaching New Orleans, he telegraphed to the War Department his arrival; but so many delays had occurred that he did not reach Washington in time to have the matter embraced in the President's regular message of 1848, as we had calculated. Still, the President made it the subject of a special message, and thus became "official" what had before only reached the world in a very indefinite shape. Then began that wonderful development, and the great emigration to California, by land and by sea, of 1849 and 1850.
As before narrated, Mason, Warner, and I, made a second visit to the mines in September and October, 1848. As the winter season approached, Colonel Mason returned to Monterey, and I remained for a time at Sutter's Fort. In order to share somewhat in the riches of the land, we formed a partnership in a store at Coloma, in charge of Norman S. Bestor, who had been Warner's clerk. We supplied the necessary money, fifteen hundred dollars (five hundred dollars each), and Bestor carried on the store at Coloma for his share. Out of this investment, each of us realized a profit of about fifteen hundred dollars. Warner also got a regular leave of absence, and contracted with Captain Sutter for surveying and locating the town of Sacramento. He received for this sixteen dollars per day for his services as surveyor; and Sutter paid all the hands engaged in the work. The town was laid off mostly up about the fort, but a few streets were staked off along the river bank, and one or two leading to it. Captain Sutter always contended, however, that no town could possibly exist on the immediate bank of the river, because the spring freshets rose over the bank, and frequently it was necessary to swim a horse to reach the boat-landing. Nevertheless, from the very beginning the town began to be built on the very river-bank, viz., First, Second, and Third Streets, with J and K Streets leading back. Among the principal merchants and traders of that winter, at Sacramento, were Sam Brannan and Hensley, Reading & Co. For several years the site was annually flooded; but the people have persevered in building the levees, and afterward in raising all the streets, so that Sacramento is now a fine city, the capital of the State, and stands where, in 1848, was nothing but a dense mass of bushes, vines, and submerged land. The old fort has disappeared altogether.
During the fall of 1848, Warner, Ord, and I, camped on the bank of the American River, abreast of the fort, at what was known as the "Old Tan-Yard." I was cook, Ord cleaned up the dishes, and Warner looked after the horses; but Ord was deposed as scullion because he would only wipe the tin plates with a tuft of grass, according to the custom of the country, whereas Warner insisted on having them washed after each meal with hot water. Warner was in consequence promoted to scullion, and Ord became the hostler. We drew our rations in kind from the commissary at San Francisco, who sent them up to us by a boat; and we were thus enabled to dispense a generous hospitality to many a poor devil who otherwise would have had nothing to eat.
The winter of 1848 '49 was a period of intense activity throughout California. The rainy season was unfavorable to the operations of gold-mining, and was very hard upon the thousands of houseless men and women who dwelt in the mountains, and even in the towns. Most of the natives and old inhabitants had returned to their ranches and houses; yet there were not roofs enough in the country to shelter the thousands who had arrived by sea and by land. The news had gone forth to the whole civilized world that gold in fabulous quantities was to be had for the mere digging, and adventurers came pouring in blindly to seek their fortunes, without a thought of house or food. Yerba Buena had been converted into San Francisco. Sacramento City had been laid out, lots were being rapidly sold, and the town was being built up as an entrepot to the mines. Stockton also had been chosen as a convenient point for trading with the lower or southern mines. Captain Sutter was the sole proprietor of the former, and Captain Charles Weber was the owner of the site of Stockton, which was as yet known as "French Camp."
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