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THE BEAR FLAG WAR,
Its Oauae—Its Progress—Its Conclusion.
In the early part of this century California would appear to have found extreme favor in the jealous eyes of three great powers. We have elsewhere shown what the Russians did on the coast, and how they actually gained a foothold at Bodega and Fort Ross, Sonoma county. In the year 1818, Governor Sola received a communication from Friar Marquinez, of Guadalaxara, in Old Spain, wherein he informs His Excellency of the rumors of war between the United States and Spain, while, in February of the following year, Father Jose" Sanchez writes to the same official that there is a report abroad of the fitting out of an American expedition in New Mexico. Both of these epistles remark that California is the coveted prize. Great Britain wanted it, it is said, for several reasons, the chief of which was, that in the possession of so extended a coast line she would have the finest harbors in the world for her fleets. This desire would appear to have been still manifested in 1840, for we find in February of that year, in the New York Express, the following: "The Californias.—The rumor has reached New Orleans from Mexico of the cession to England of the Californias. The cession of the two provinces would give to Great Britain an extensive and valuable territory in a part of the world where she has long been anxious to gain a foothold, besides securing an object still more desirable—a spacious range of sea-coast on the Pacific, stretching more than a thousand miles from the forty-second degree of latitude south, sweeping the peninsula of California, and embracing the harbors of that gulf, the finest in North America."
These rumors, so rife between the years 1842 and 1846, necessitated the maintenance of a large and powerful fleet by both the Americans and British on the Pacific Ocean, each closely observing the other. The first move in the deep game was made by the United States in September, 1842, by Commodore Ap Catesby Jones. He became possessed of two newspapers which would appear to have caused him to take immediate action. One of these, published in New Orleans, stated that California had been ceded by Mexico to Great Britain in consideration of the sum of seven millions of dollars; the other, a Mexican publication, caused him to believe that war had been declared between the two countries. The sudden departure of two of the British vessels strengthened him in this belief, and that they were en route for Panama to embark soldiers from the West Indies for the occupation of California. To forestall this move of "perfidious Albion," Commodore Jones left Callao, Peru, on September 7, 1842, and crowded all sail, ostensibly for the port of Monterey, but when two days out his squadron hove to, a council of the Captains of the Flag-ship "Cyane" and "Dale" was held, when the decision was come to that possession should be taken of California at all hazards, and abide by the consequences, whatever they might be. The accompanying letter from an officer of the " Dale," dated Panama, September 23,1842, tells its own story: "We sailed from Callao on the 7th of September in company with the 'United States' and 'Cyane' sloop, but on the tenth day out, the 17th, separated, and bore up for this port. Just previous to our departure, two British ships-of-war, the razee ' Dublin,' fifty guns, and the sloop-of-war 'Champion,' eighteen guns, sailed thence on secret service. This mysterious movement of Admiral Thomas elicited a hundred comments and conjectures as to his destination, the most probable of which seemed to be that he was bound for the northwest coast of Mexico, where it is surmised that a British settlement (station) is to be located in accordance with a secret convention between the Mexican and English Governments, and it is among the on dits in the squadron that the frigate 'United States,' 'Cyane' and 'Dale' are to rendezvous. as soon as possible at Monterey, to keep an eye on John Bull's movements in that quarter." These rumors were all strengthened by the fact that eight hundred troops had been embarked at Mazatlan in February, 1842, by General Micheltorena, to assist the English, it was apprehended, to carry out the secret treaty whereby California was to be handed over to Great Britain. Of these troops, who were mostly convicts, Michel torena lost a great number by desertion, and after much delay and vexation, marched out of Mazatlan on July 25, 1842, with only four hundred arid fifty men, arriving at San Diego on August 25th. Between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, with his army reduced to but three hundred from desertion, at 11 o'clock on the night of October 24th, he received the astounding intelligence that Commodore Jones had entered the port of Monterey, with the frigate " United States" and corvette " Cyane," landed an armed force, hauled down the Mexican flag, hoisted the American in its place, and issued a proclamation declaring California to be henceforth belonging to the United States. These startling occurrences took place on October 19, 1842. On the 28th the Commodore reflected on his latest achievement, and becoming convinced that an error had been committed, he lowered the American ensign, replaced it with that of Mexico,
and on the following day saluted it, sailed for Mazatlan, and reported his proceedings to Washington.
On hearing of the capture of Monterey the Mexican General withdrew to the Mission of San Fernando, and there remained for some time, when he finally, on the horizon being cleared, transferred his staff to Los Angeles, and there entertained Commodore Jones on January 19, 1843.
The recall of Jones was demanded by the Mexican Minister at Washington, which was complied with, and Captain Alexander J. Dallas instructed to relieve him of the command of the Pacific squadron. Dallas at once proceeded to Callao, via Panama, to assume his new functions, and on arrival took the " Erie," an old store-ship, and proceeded in search of the Commodore, who had in the meantime received intelligence of the turn affairs had taken, kept steering from port to port, and finally touching at Valparaiso, Chili, he sailed for home around Cape Horn. The reign of Captain Dallas was short; he died on board the frigate " Savannah," at Callao, June 3, 1844, and was succeeded by Commodore John Drake Sloat.
Between the years 1844 and 1846 the American and British fleets keenly watched each other, and anxiously awaited the declaration of war between Mexico and the United States. During this time the revolution which drove General Micheltorena and his army from California had broken out and been quelled, while the Oregon boundary and the annexation of Texas were questions which kept the naval authorities at fever heat.
Let us now leave these American and British sailors, with their mighty ships jealously watching the movements of each other, to consider the doings of one who before long was to take a prominent part in the affairs of California.
In the month of March, 1845, Brevet Captain John Charles Fremont departed from Washington for the purpose of organizing a third expedition for the topographical survey of Oregon and California, which having done, he left Bent's Fort, on or about the 16th of April, his command consisting of sixty-two men, six of whom were Delaware Indians. It is not our wish here, nor indeed have we the space, to tell of the hardships endured and the perilous journeys made by Fremont, Kit Carson, Theodore Talbot, and others of that band, whose wanderings have formed the theme of many a ravishing tale; our duty will only permit of defining the part taken by them in regard to our especial subject.
About June 1,1846, General Jose7 Castro, with Lieutenant Francisco de Arci, his Secretary, left the Santa Clara Mission, where they had ensconced themselves after pursuing Fremont from that district, and passing through Yerba Buena (San Francisco) crosssed the bay to the Mission of San Rafael, and there collected a number of horses which he directed Arci to take to Sonoma.with as many more aa he could capture on the way, and from there proceed with all haste to the Santa Clara Mission by way of Knight's Landing and Sutler's Fort. These horses were intended to be used against Fremont and Governor Pio Pico by Castro, both of whom had defied his authority. On June 5th, Castro 'moved from Santa Clara to Monterey, and on the 12th, while on his return, was met by a courier bearing the intelligence that Lieutenant Arci had been surprised and taken prisoner on the 10th by a band of adventurers, who had also seized a large number of the horses which he had in charge for the headquarters at Santa Clara. Here was a dilemma. Castro's education in writing had been sadly neglected— it is said he could only paint his signature—and being without his amanuensis, he at once turned back to Monterey, and on June 12th dictated a letter, through ex-Governor Don Juan B. Alvarado, to the Prefect Manuel Castro, saying that the time had come when their differences should be laid aside, and conjoint action taken for the defence and protection of their common country, at the same time asking that he should collect all the men and horses possible and send them to Santa Clara. He then returned to his headquarters, and on the 17th promulgated a soul-stirring proclamation to the settlers.
When Lieutenant Arci left Sonoma with the caballada of horses and mares, crossing the dividing ridge, he passed up the Sacramento Valley to Knight's Landing on the left bank of the Sacramento River, about fifteen miles north of the present city of Sacramento. [This ferry was kept by William Knight, who had left Missouri May 6, 1841, arrived in California November 10, 1841, received a grant of land and settled at Knight's Landing, Yolo county of to-day. He died at the mines on the Stanislaus River in November, 1849.] When Lieutenant Arci reached the ferry or crossing, he met Mrs. Knight, to whom, on account of her being a New Mexican by birth, and therefore thought to be trustworthy, he confided the secret of the expedition. Such knowledge was too much for any ordinary feminine bosom to contain. She told her husband, who, in assisting the officer to cross his horses, gave him fair words, so that suspicion might be lulled, and then bestriding his fleetest horse, made direct for Captain Fremont's camp at the confluence of the Feather and Yuba rivers, where he arrived early in the morning of June 9th. Here Knight, who found some twenty settlers that had arrived earlier than he discussing matters, communicated to Captain Fremont and the settlers that Lieutenant Arci had, the evening before, the 8th, crossed at his landing, bound to Santa Clara via the Cosumne River; that Arci had told Mrs. Knight, in confidence, that the animals were intended to be used by Castro in expelling the American settlers from the country, and that it was also the intention to fortify the Bear River Pass above the rancho of William Johnson, thereby putting a stop to all immigration, a move of Castro's which was strengthened by the return to Sutler's Fort, on June 7th, of a force that had gone out to chastise the Mokelumne Indians, who had threatened to burn the settlers' crops, incited thereto, presumably, by Castro.
Fremont, while encamped at the Buttes, was visited by nearly all the settlers.and from them gleaned vaststores of fresh information hithertounknowii to him. Among these were that the greater proportion of foreigners in the country had become Mexican citizens, and married ladies of the country, for the sake of procuring land, and through them had become possessed of deep secrets supposed to be known only to the prominent Californians. Another was that a convention had been held at the San Juan Mission to decide which one of the two nations, America or Great Britain, should guarantee protection to California against all others for certain privileges and considerations.
Lieutenant Revere says: "I have been favored by an intelligent member of the Junta with the following authentic report of the substance of Pico's speech to that illustrious body of statesmen:—
"Excellent Sirs: To what a deplorable condition is our country reduced! Mexico, professing to be our mother and our protectress, has given us neither arms nor money, nor the material of war for our defense. She is not likely to do anything in our behalf, although she is quite willing to afflict us with her extortionate minions, who come hither in the guise of soldiers and civil officers, to harass and oppress our people. We possess a glorious country, capable of attaining a physical and moral greatness corresponding with the grandeur and beauty which an Almighty hand has stamped on the face of our beloved California. But although nature has been prodigal, it cannot be denied that we are not in a position to avail ourselves of her bounty. Our population is not large, and it is sparsely scattered over valley and mountain, covering an immense area of virgin soil, destitute of roads, and traversed with difficulty; hence it is hardly possible to collect an army of any considerable force. Our people are poor, as well as few, and cannot well govern themselves and maintain a decent show of sovereign power. Although we live in the midst of plenty, we lay up nothing, but tilling the earth in an imperfect manner, all our time is required to provide subsistence for ourselves and our families. Thus circumstanced, we find ourselves suddenly threatened by hordes of Yankee emigrants, who have already begun to flock into our country, and whose progress we cannot arrest. Already have the wagons of that perfidious people scaled the almost inaccessible summits of the Sierra Nevada, crossed the entire continent, and penetrated the fruitful valley of the Sacramento. What that astonishing people will next undertake 1 cannot say, but in .whatever enterprise they embark they will be sure to prove successful. Already are these adventurous landvoyagers spreading themselves far and wide over a country which seems suited to their tastes. They are cultivating farms, establishing vineyards, erecting mills, sawing up lumber, building workshops-, and doing a thousand