Join Date: November 2, 1998
And now for something completely different
This is from an antebellum newspaper that I read. It was actually over 150 years old and not some micro-film copy. The paper must have been a cotton fiber paper and not a wood-pulp based paper. It wasn't crumbling and yellowed. I was asked to research something for an editor and this is what I dug out for him.
The Golden Era, Nov. 14, 1855. Page 2.
American Military Operations in California
The Truth of History Vindicated
The Annals of San Francisco containing a Summary of the History of the first discovery, Settlement, Progress and present condition of California, etc., etc., 8 vo., D. Appleton & Co., New York.
When we closed the last number of our review this work, and of the historical account therein narrated of the military operations in this country, which led to the conquest by American arms, we intended to give a detailed statement of Mervine’s disaster before Cuidad de los Angeles; but as a fuller account can be given at some future day, and more appropriately, in a connected history of that time and its events, we will not enter into all the particulars of that affair now, but merely relate some of the prominent incidents to show the errors of the Annals.
Captain Mervine landed in force at San Pedro from the frigate Savannah at sunrise, on the morning of the 7th October, (1846) where, being joined by Capt. Gillespie and his riflemen, he found himself at the head of three hundred and ten men, well armed and equipped, sailors, marines and settler volunteers, as brave and valiant as ever were led to battle upon any field. The principal officers with Mervine were Lieutenants Robt. F. Pinkney, Rockendorf, J. Blakely Carter, and assistant Surgeon Whittle of the navy, Capt. Ward Marston, and Lieut. Queen of Marines.
The march was commenced from San Pedro at about 8 o’clock, Gillespie’s command taking the advance. When approaching and passing the hills at Paloverde, the enemy showed themselves, and fired their escoptas at the marching column. The riflemen under Lieut. Hensley, on the right flank in front, Lieut. Rhensan on the left, with Capt. Gillespie, and Lieut. Bell in the centre, kept the Californians at a respectful distance, although they continued to throw their huge escopeta balls among the Americans, from a very long range, however, without doing any injury. The march was very rapid, too much so for many men unaccustomed to walking any great distance; but luckily they were “flying light,” for they had a very small quantity of provisions, no extra ammunition, except with the volunteers, and nothing to seriously incommode them, save a blanket, and occasionally a tin pot.)Between one and two o’clock, P.M, the Americans arrived at the Rancho de los Domingoes, fourteen miles from San Pedro, both officers and men desirous for rest, and some of them very lame and almost disabled; consequently Capt. Mervine soon found it absolutely necessary to halt and encamp for the night, although he would have pushed on, had it not been almost certain he would leave many disabled men upon the road. The family of the Domingos had been obliged by the Californians to leave their rancho but they had removed nothing from the house except some valuables, and had left a good supply of several articles very useful to the Americans. There were a few head of fine beef cattle near the house, which the enemy endeavored to drive off, but Gillespie’s men secured two of them with their rifles, and afterwards drove the horsemen a good distance from the camp, wounding two or three of them. Nothing of much moment occurred during the night, unless we enumerate one continuous alarm of the commander; the unnecessary and numerous patrolling parties firing into each other, making the most miraculous escapes; the enemy’s dropping a six pound shot into the centre of the camp, amidst a crowd of sleeping men overcome by very unusual fatigue; Capt. Mervine’s calling to Capt. Gillespie, “You must catch that gun,” as it dashed away into the shade like a streak of lightning; the noise and disturbance made by a poor miserable Mexican idiot, an old man, who having strayed into camp on horseback during the evening, was threatened with being shot as a spy; and the particular desire to hang an Indian because he would not tell all he knew about the enemy.
At the daylight of the 8th, the camp was in motion, and just as the sun rose, the Americans marched towards Los Angeles, twelve miles distant, in much the same order as on the day previous, the volunteer riflemen, as skirmishers, in th evan, Lieutenants Hensley and Rhensan on the right and left, Capt. Gillespie in the centre with the reserve. The main body marched by the right flank of companies, Lieut Queen acting as Adjutant. The country is very level over which the Americans marched at this time; it is occasionally intersected by beds of streams then dry, and very densely covered with a thick weed, about two feet high, which being very wet with dew at that hour of the morning, was very unpleasant and fatiguing to march through. Almost imperceptibly the companies of sailors and marines crowded into the road, until they became a solid moving mass. The enemy, seventy-six strong - merely Flores’ advance - under Jose Antonio Carrillo, were posted upon a small stream that crossed the road, about three miles from Domingo Rancho. Some fifty horsemen at line at open order, with their right upon the water, and twenty or more immediately across the road as artillerists, and a support for the field-piece, which was planted in battery in the centre of the road, contested the farther progress of the Americans. As Mervine’s forces approached the stream, the enemy opened fire. The skirmishers under Hensley, taking advantage of every cover, - for which tactics Capt. Mervine ordered Capt. Gillespie and his men not to dodge - were enabled to get quite close upon the gun, and within rifle (Hawkin’s) range before they were discovered, and instantly killed one man close by it, capturing his escopeta soon after. At the same time, Rhensan, upon the left, caused the horsemen to vie way slowly, which they did with much order, firing their escopetas at random. Upon the first shot from the enemy’s field-piece, the Americans charged with a shout, the sailors and marines still moving by the right flank, and still in the road in a solid body. Lieut. Hensley, well in advance on the right, caused the Californians to retire with their gun, which they did very easily, for they were well mounted, and the six-pounder, unlimbered, was almost as light as a toy, and being drawn by a riata, it could be run off without the least trouble. They fired as they retired. The first shot from the field-piece went over the heads and over the centre of the sailors and marines; the second struck the bayonets in front, and broke off the ship boarding pikes in the rear; the third told upon the centre of the solid mass, raking the hips of the men as they marching, the column still moving by the flank in the road. Even after this, no order was given to change position in any manner, though every shot now told upon the unfortunate sailors. Every man who was struck was killed instantly, or wounded in the hip in the most shocking manner. - The marines returned the fire from the horsemen by an oblique aim to the left, whereby several of Rhensan’s platoon were wounded in the hands. Marshall came very near losing the opportunity and celebrity of having discovered the gold, by nearly having a shot through his head, a bullet having raked the knuckles of his right hand whilst pulling trigger. He quietly swore at the marines, and told them, “They had made him lose a fine shot, and would please not do that again.” The enemy now becoming alarmed by the boldness of the Americans, continued to retire, but in less order; and, finally, their field-pieces being closely pressed by Hensley and his men - they deserted the gun and left it standing in the road, when the riflemen were about two hundred yards distant. Hensley and his men now made greater efforts to take the piece. Rhensan’s platoon and Gillespie, with the reserve, all rushed forward, certain of gaining the day. Whilst dashing on, the bugle sounded a halt; the volunteers, now far in advance, wavered, and turned to look towards the rear for a second. However, the call not being repeated, Capt. Gillespie cried out, “Forward ” And the charge was continued; but the movements and partial halt had been instantly noticed by the enemy. Juan Yorba, of Lower Santa Anna, (below Los Angeles) with the greatest gallantry, charged won upon the gun at full speed, and from his seat in the saddle, seized the riata that was fastened to the limbers, then lying upon the ground, and dashed off with it, just as Lieut. Hensley was within fifty steps of the prize an victory. By this time Capt. Mervine’s voice was heard loudly calling for halt, and the order was passed to the front, at the moment the sailors and marines were about commencing a retreat, carrying the dead and wounded in blankets stretched upon pikes. The Americans soon reached the camp of the night before, where surgeons Gilchrist and Whittle ascertained that they could do nothing for the wounded sailors at that place, their hips being lacerated and torn in the most distressing manner.
A council being immediately held, it was decided that Capt. Gillespie (he having volunteered)should command the rear with Carter’s Riflemen, having Colt’s revolvers, and the volunteers, under Hensley and Rhensan, on the flanks, and himself and sixteen marines in the centre. To get the dead and wounded to the port, fourteen miles distant, now appeared the greatest difficulty. Gillespie saw an old California cart, without any bottom boards, near at hand. With the aid of Dr. Gilchrist it was brought up to the house, dry hides were put in for a bottom, a stout stick was run through the end of the pole for the sailors to hold it up, a riata was attached to the end, and one of the volunteers, who had been wounded in the ankle, mounted the horse the idiot had rode into camp the evening previous, fastened the riata to the saddle bow, and thus dragged the cart along, the sailors relieving each other at intervals. In this ambulance nine dead and wounded sailors were carried to San Pedro.
The march for the port was commenced about ten o’clock. The enemy followed after and fired grape - small copper shot - upon the Americans. One man only was killed, and the force was saved from a complete rout and slaughter by the steadiness of the march in the rear. The marines moved as if upon parade, never breaking their line or step. Lieut. Carter had to order his brave fellows many times to march on, when they desired to take a parting shot. Midshipman Duval, of Carter’s company, had threaten to shoot one of his men if he dared to turn back again for “another crack at the dagos (Diegos). The volunteers kept sullen silence, exasperated that they were upon the retreat when victory had been snatched from their grasp by a bugle call. Lieutenants Pinkney and Roekendorff were at the head of the column in the advance, and were every where upon the field during the retreat, preserving order. The unfortunate Americans arrived at San Pedro about dark, where they found that Lieut. Hitchcock and Purser Fauntleroy had mounted a small battery to cover the retreat in the event of pursuit, the disaster having been observed and watched from the mast-head of the frigate. Capt. Mervine ordered San Pedro to be deserted, notwithstanding Capt. Gillespie proposal to maintain himself and hold that point, if he could be supplied with water from the frigate. But Capt. Mervine declined.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!