by Richard Amero

Most historians of the Mexican-American War (1846-48) spend hours describing the invasion of Mexico and minutes summarizing events in Baja California. This neglect is explainable for the Baja California expedition was neither costly nor bloody and its outcome had no effect upon the conclusion of the war. Naval historians give the Baja California incursion more attention than general historians because the conduct of the war sheds light on the characters of naval commanders and reveals the weaknesses of an over-extended, under-supported naval operation.

During the Baja California engagement, statesmen and military commanders promised the rights of United States citizens to Baja California inhabitants only to withdraw this promise when it became impractical to keep it. On a personal note, rowdy and impressionable recruits played, made love and fought in a land of contrasts: of mountainous deserts, filled with volcanic rocks, narrow canyons and towering cacti; and of green coastal strips, beautified with pristine beaches, slender palms and white-washed towns.

On April 24, 1846, Mexican forces fired on United States soldiers occupying land between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River claimed by both the United States and Mexico. Responding to this attack, President James Knox Polk, on May 11, asked Congress to acknowledge that a state of war existed "by the act of Mexico herself." Two days later Polk signed the war bill.

As the United States had long sought but failed to acquire New Mexico and Alta California through purchase, persuasion and subversion, the Rio Grande incident offered an excuse for acquisition by force. To this end, on May 30, the Cabinet agreed to the President's proposal to name General Stephen Watts Kearny commander of an overland expedition to California. Secretary of War William L. Marcy took the next step toward California on June 26, when he authorized Jonathan R. Stevenson, a colonel of militia, to raise a regiment of volunteers in New York State to join Kearny's command in California.

In July and August, successive Commanders of the Pacific Squadron, John Drake Sloat and Robert F. Stockton, established United States control of the Pacific coast from San Francisco to San Diego. On August 17, Stockton proclaimed "having by right of conquest taken possession of that territory known by the name of Upper and Lower California (I) do now declare it to be a territory of the United States under the name of the Territory of California." (House Executive Document 60, Serial 520, 30th Congress, First Session, Washington, D.C., 1850, p. 268) As his sweeping statement indicates, Stockton often overstated facts. To make good his proclamation, Stockton, on August 19, ordered Joseph B. Hull, commander of the second class sloop-of-war Warren, to blockade Mazatlan and Samuel F. Dupont, commander of the second class sloop-of-war Cyane, to blockade San Blas, about 125 miles south of Mazatlan. Stockton's aim was to seize Acapulco, about 500 miles south of Mazatlan, and use it as a point from which to send a joint Army-Navy expedition into Mexico.

On September 2, the Cyane captured two Mexican vessels in the harbor at San Blas. after which a landing party spiked 34 cannons in the town. Commander Dupont then sailed north to the pearl-fishing town of La Paz, at the southeast corner of the Baja California peninsula. After seizing nine small boats at La Paz, Dupont secured a promise of neutrality from Colonel Francisco Palacios Miranda, governor of Baja California. Continuing north in the Gulf of California, on October 1, the Cyane seized two schooners at Loreto, about 150 miles north of La Paz, and, on October 7, cannonaded Guaymas on the mainland after Colonel Antonio Campazano refused to surrender. A boarding party from the Cyane seized the brig Condor in the port of Guaymas, but, when they found the ship to be unusable, they burned it.

For its part, the Warren, on September 7, seized the Mexican brig Malek Adhel at Mazatlan. In October, the Warren left for San Francisco. On November 13, the Cyane followed, but not before putting in at San Jose del Cabo at the Baja California's southern tip where Dupont found the inhabitants to be hospitable. The first blockade of Mexico's west coast had lasted about four weeks. It took place during the tropical hurricane season. The blockade had been ineffective because the need for supplies prevented the Cyane and the Warren from remaining in position and because the demands of the Alta California campaign, then in an insurrectionary phase, made it impossible to send replacement ships.

On November 5, Secretary of the Navy John Y. Mason informed Stockton that Alta California would be retained and, on December 24, he ordered Stockton to impose an enforceable blockade on the west coast of Mexico to prevent the enemy from getting munitions and other supplies and to make possible the landing of American soldiers. On January 11, 1847, Secretary of War Marcy instructed General Kearny "to make the conquest of the Californias so effective that no successful challenge could be placed against it." There was confusion in Washington, D.C. over how much of California (and of Mexico) the United States wanted. With or without sanction from above Commodore Matthew C. Perry, commander of the Home Squadron, wanted to land a joint Army-Navy expeditionary force across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to separate the states of Tabasco and Chiapas from the rest of Mexico.

Andes Pico signed the Treaty of Capitulation at Cahuenga Pass on January 13, 1847, ending hostilities in Alta California. Acting on his own, Lieutenant Colonel John Charles Fremont had dictated the provisions of the treaty. On January 19, over the objections of General Kearny who had been given orders to command U.S. Army forces in Alta California and to set up a civil government by Secretary of War Marcy and who was, in any case, Fremont's superior officer, Stockton appointed Fremont to be military governor of California. He could now give the conquest of Baja California and of Mexico his undivided attention.

Unaware his replacement, Commodore William Branford Shubrick had arrived in Monterey, on January 22, Stockton, in San Diego on February 3, ordered Commander John B. Montgomery, on the first-class sloop-of-war Portsmouth, to reestablish the blockade at Mazatlan and to raise the United States flag at San Jose del Cabo, La Paz, Pichilingue, and Loreto. Montgomery imposed the blockade at Mazatlan on February 17. Commander Sir Baldwin W Walker, captain of the British sloop Constance, protested that the blockade was no longer in force because it had been interrupted. In late March, Montgomery sailed for Baja California to complete his second mission. He seized San Jose del Cabo and San Lucas, but, upon leaving, did not set up garrisons. On April 14, Montgomery accepted Colonel Miranda's surrender of La Paz, after which a committee signed articles of capitulation that granted them United States citizens' rights and the retention of their own officials and laws.

On February 15, a council meeting at Santa Anita, about 20 miles north of San Jose del Cabo, declared Miranda a traitor and named Mauricio Castro, a native of San Jose del Cabo, as his successor. Castro tried to raise a company of volunteers without success.

Acting under blockade instructions issued by Commodore James Biddle, who because he outranked Shubrick in terms of service became head of the Pacific squadron from March 2 to July 19, the Cyane, a second-class sloop-of-war, on April 23, and the Independence, a ship-of-the-line that had been cut down or razeed into a frigate on April 26, relieved the Portsmouth, which returned to Monterey.

The blockade of Mazatlan resumed April 27. Both Shubrick and Biddle had come to understandings with General Kearny concerning their joint responsibilities, a problem that Stockton could not or would not resolve. Commodore Shubrick, now junior to Commodore Biddle, was on board the Independence.

After the Independence left for San Francisco June 3, the Cyane was the only United States warship on the west coast of Mexico. To provide the friendly inhabitants of La Paz and San Jose del Cabo with a semblance of protection, Commander Dupont sailed the Cyane back and forth between San Jose and Mazatlan, which broke the blockade. Upon meeting the Cyane at San Jose, on June 20, Montgomery, on board the Portsmouth, became aware that Mazatlan was open to commerce. After discussing the situation with Dupont, Montgomery returned June 28 to San Francisco to ask Biddle for instructions. The Cyane then sailed to Hawaii for supplies. The second blockade had been as ineffective as the first.

Without ships and troops the United States Navy could not protect friendly natives nor suppress unfriendly ones. Nor could it land troops on the mainland to open a western sector to complement General Zachary Taylor's sector in the north and General Winfield Scott's sector in the east.

In March and April, the New York Volunteers arrived in San Francisco, so named in January 1847, after having completed an ocean voyage around Cape Horn. On May 30, General Kearny, acting under instructions from Secretary of War Marcy which he received April 23, directed Lieutenant Colonel Henry S. Burton, U.S. Army, and Companies A and B of the First Regiment of the New York Volunteers to embark on the storeship Lexington for La Paz. Burton's orders were to hoist the flag in Baja California, to take possession, and to assert and uphold United States' civic jurisdiction. These orders were the last issued by General Kearny pertaining to Baja California as he left California overland for the east on May 31.

On July 15, one hundred and fifteen New York Volunteers landed peacefully at La Paz. Lieutenant E. Gould Buffum, Company B, was surprised to find the prettiest town he had seen in California: "The Houses were all of adobe, plastered white, and thatched with the leaves of the palm tree, and were most delightfully cool. The whole beach was lined with palms, date, fig, tamarind and coconut trees, their delicious fruits hanging down on them in clusters."

(E. Gould Buffum. Six Months in the Gold Mines, Ward-Ritchie Press, San Francisco, 1959, pp. 132-133)

Burton reinstated the civil government on condition it remain loyal to the United States. Residents of La Paz entertained the Volunteers. To the north, at Loreto, about 150 miles up the coast, and at Mulege, 100 miles north of Loreto, Padre Gabriel Gonzalez of Todos Santos and Padre Vicente Sotomayor of Comondu incited rancheros to resistance. In late September, Don Manuel Pineda, a captain in the Mexican army, arrived in Mulege, with officers and soldiers from Guaymas and began recruiting rancheros.

On August 10, Commodore Shubrick, who had resumed command of the Pacific squadron, sent third-class sloop Dale, first-class sloop Portsmouth, and first-class frigate Congress to commence a new blockade of Mazatlan, Guaymas and San Blas. When the Dale arrived at La Paz, in mid September, Colonel Burton persuaded her commander, Thomas O. Selfridge, to sail for Loreto and Mulege to prevent the landing of supplies from Guaymas and to secure a pledge of neutrality from the inhabitants. On September 20, the Dale ran in at Mulege under English colors. After it was anchored, it lowered that flag and raised the Stars and Stripes. Lieutenant Tunis Augustus Macdonough Craven, U.S. Navy, tried to go ashore, but was stopped by a party of Mexicans. He then ordered his crew of 50 men in four boats to seize the schooner Magdalen and tow her out to the Dale. After discovering that her bottom was full of holes, Craven fired his prize.

On October 1, Selfridge sent a letter ashore warning the authorities to lay down their arms, to preserve neutrality, and to abstain from contact with the mainland. Captain Pineda answered that the Dale had transgressed the rules of war by flying English colors to enter the port and promised that he would retake La Paz "by all the arms that leave from this port." When he characterized Pineda's answer as "a mixture of bombast and defiance," Craven exposed his own shallowness. While not as terse as John Paul Jones' "I have not yet begun to fight," Pineda's reply showed dignity and restraint, rather than the bravado of a warrior confident of victory.

"The Headquarters of the Command will . . . preserve every communication with the Mexican Government, even if the whole fleet of the United States wants to stop it. This Commandery with the valiant soldiery that it has at its orders will defend and protect itself until the last drop of blood is shed."

(Pablo L. Martinez, A History of Lower California, translated by Ethel Duffy Turner, Av. Escuela Industrial No. 46, Col. Industrial, Mexico 14, D.F., 1960, pp 356-357)

Pineda's protest did not frighten Selfridge. In the afternoon, Craven, 57 sailors, and 17 marines rowed boats up a creek leading to the pueblo. The party landed on the creek's right bank while exchanging gunfire with Pineda's men on the left bank. After several volleys and considerable noise, Craven's patrol returned to the Dale. Neither side suffered casualties. Because Craven's patrol did not take Mulege, the skirmish marked the first American failure in the peninsula war.

Commerce between Guaymas and Mulege continued in spite of harassment by the Libertad, a schooner chartered from Captain Peter Davis, a United States citizen at La Paz, and commanded by Craven. Shubrick left Monterey on October 16 on board the Independence accompanied by the Cyane, the Erie, and the Southampton to reimpose the blockade on Guaymas, Mazatlan and San Blas, a blockade not being necessary during the hurricane season as the hurricanes closed the ports to commerce

On October 20, Captain Elie A.F. La Vallette of the first-class frigate Congress forced Colonel Campuzano to evacuate Guaymas. Combatants outside Guaymas cut off food and water from the port's inhabitants and clashed occasionally with the Americans until April 1848 when landing parties from the Dale forced them to abandon their positions. Lieutenant Craven and his crew of eleven, on November 10, captured the sloop Alerta, about 25 miles north of Mulege

Pineda and his officers alienated Baja Californios by pressing men into service, by requisitioning supplies, and by plundering the property of collaborators. Patriots at San Jose del Cabo, on October 23, declared United States rule at an end; however, the arrival of the Cyane, Congress and Independence five days later convinced the patriots to cease their bluster

Upon learning of insurrectionary activity at Todos Santos, about 90 miles away on the Pacific coast, Shubrick sent Lieutenant Montgomery Lewis, U.S. Navy; Lieutenant Henry W. Halleck, U.S. Army Engineers, and 30 seamen from the Independence to investigate. They left San Jose on November 1. To Halleck the highlight of the trip was his meeting with five Mexican girls at a ranch outside Todos Santos.

"Wearing dresses without sleeves and low in the bosom, like our belles at home when they wish to display their charms in the ballroom, and being too poor to afford rebosas with which Mexican ladies usually conceal their budding beauties, these belles of Pescadero, in their simple calico robes, without the wild grass, cotton, bran or whalebone, presented us as lovely figures as the eye could ever wish to gaze upon."

("Memorandum of Captain Henry W. Halleck Concerning His Expedition in Lower California, 1846-1848," in The Mexican War in Baja California, Dawson's Book Store, Los Angeles, 1977, pp. 102-103.)

At the mission in Todos Santos, Padre Gabriel Gonzalez, president of the Dominican missions in Baja California and owner of a large ranch, plied the marines with rum and palaver while secretly sending a message to Pineda's insurgents, 30 miles away, advising them to ambush the marines on their way back to San Jose.

Lieutenant Lewis' party returned on November 7 without meeting Pineda's men. Unknown to him, Pineda was preparing to attack La Paz and San Jose del Cabo.

Before leaving San Jose with the Independence, Congress, and Cyane to capture Mazatlan, Commodore Shubrick, on November 4, proclaimed: "the flag of the United States is destined to wave forever over the Californias. No contingency can be seen in which the United States will ever surrender or relinquish the possession of the Californias."

{Proclamation, November 4, 1847, House Executive Document 1, Serial 537, Washington, D.C., 1848, pp. 1084-1085)

Shubrick left Lieutenant Charles Heywood, four passed midshipmen, twenty marines, a nine-pound carronade, and 75 carbines to hold San Jose. The small contingent occupied a cuartel or barracks in an old mission on a rise of land at the north end of the town.

On November 11, the Pacific squadron gained Mazatlan without firing a shot. As with Colonel Campuzano outside Guaymas, Lieutenant Colonel Rafael Talles tried to stop supplies from reaching Mazatlan and sent raiding parties against the 400-man American garrison. Shubrick sent a request to Major General Winfield Scott, field commander of American forces in the Valley of Mexico, for 500 to 1,000 men to hold the port, but they never arrived.

Five days after the American seizure of Mazatlan, Pineda's forces, estimated by Colonel Burton at nearly 300, attacked the U.S. Army garrison at La Paz. Burton and 112 New York Volunteers occupied a position overlooking La Paz at the south side of a gulch. The Volunteers piled palm logs around their adobe barracks and an emplacement for their six-pound field pieces. The six-pounders poured canister shot on the enemy. After one day of bombardment, the Mexicans withdrew to La Laguna, about six miles away. Before leaving they burned Governor Miranda's town house.

. Simultaneously with his attack on La Paz, Pineda sent a force given by Halleck as 150 and led by three lieutenants to attack Heywood's meager force at San Jose del Cabo that had been supplemented by 20 Baja California Volunteers. Heywood refused to surrender. The night of November 20, one of Heywood's men shot Lieutenant Jose Antonio Mijares as he charged the cuartel in an attempt to capture the nine-pounder. (For his valiant deed, contemporary Mexicans have placed a monument to Mijares on the main street of San Jose, which they named Calle Mijares.)

On November 21, two American whalers, the Magnolia and the Edward, appeared offshore. Believing the whalers to be naval ships, the Mexicans retreated. In this first assault at San Jose del Cabo, the Mexicans claimed six casualties, which number Heywood said was too small by half. None of Heywood's men were killed.

Hearing of the attack at San Jose, Commodore Shubrick sent the storeship Southampton and the first-class sloop Portsmouth. Their departure left Shubrick with the storeship Lexington and a small tender to maintain a blockade at San Blas. The Southampton arrived on November 26 and the Portsmouth on December 3.

His forces increased by the company that had been repulsed at San Jose, Pineda, on November 27, led a second assault on La Paz. Burton estimated the number of attackers at about 500. Musket fire from the Volunteers kept the attackers from reaching the American position. A launch sent to Mazatlan by Colonel Burton on November 21 arrived back with munitions and provisions. The Cyane also arrived. Realizing that he was outgunned and outnumbered, Pineda gave up the siege.

While the number of Mexican fatalities during the second attack on La Paz is not known, Burton reported finding 36 graves. Historian K. Jack Bauer gave the number of American casualties during both attacks as one man killed and three wounded and the Mexican casualties as nine or ten killed and six or seven wounded. He did not, however, give a source for these figures. Lieutenant Craven noted the desolation:

"All of that part of the town not protected by the garrison's muskets was burned, the vine and fig tree as well as the graceful palm --- all being devoured. Such are the beauties of war."

(Craven, Journal, p. 80)

At the same time that Pineda was besieging La Paz, President Polk, on December 7, stated in his annual message to Congress:

"Early after the commencement of the war, New Mexico and the Californias were taken possession by our forces. Our military and naval commanders were ordered to conquer and to hold them, subject to be disposed by a treaty of peace. These Provinces are now in our undisputed occupation and have been so for many months, all resistance on the part of Mexico having ceased within their limits. . . . I am satisfied that they should never be surrendered to Mexico."

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Vol. 5, New York, 1897-1911, pp. 2388-2392)

After he heard that Polk had said the United States was "in quiet possession of the Californias," Commander Dupont wryly informed Colonel Burton: "he ought to feel very grateful for this news, for, as he rarely sleeps at night, he may take a good night's snooze on the strength of it."

(Dupont, Extracts from the Private Journal-Letters of Captain S. F. Dupont While in Command of the Cyane During the Mexican War, 1846-1848, Ferris Brothers, Wilmington, Del, pp. 219-220)

On January 12, 1848, Lieutenant Frederick Chatard of the bark Whiton removed the fortress guns from San Blas. Six days later Chatard spiked three guns at Mazanillo, about 200 miles south of San Blas. The only guns Mexico had left on the Pacific coast were roughly 400 miles south of San Blas at Acapulco.

After the Portsmouth had relieved her at San Jose del Cabo, the Southampton returned to Mazatlan. With fighting winding down, the Portsmouth, on January 4, 1848, left for Boston, Massachusetts, her home port. Americans at San Jose were once more without naval support. Heywood's garrison consisted of 27 marines, 16 seaman volunteers from the Portsmouth, about 30 Baja California volunteers, three field pieces and ammunition.

Pineda's men were lurking nearby waiting for an opportunity. On January 22, they seized eight of Heywood's men who were hauling supplies from the beach to the cuartel. About 330 Loyalists and an unknown number of Yaqui Indians laid siege to Heywood's camp. More than seventy military personnel and volunteers and 50 women and children inside the cuartel had only dried beef and salt pork to eat, and that on half rations. Aside from hunger and thirst, almost everyone was sick with fever or afflicted with dysentery.

By February 10, the insurgents held all San Jose del Cabo except the cuartel. The next day, a rifleman shot Passed Midshipman Tenant McLanahan, Heywood's second-in-command. The day following, Loyalists captured the garrison's water supply. To Americans in the cuartel, the choices seemed to be surrender or death.

Once more Commodore Shubrick, who kept himself informed of problems on all the tentacles of the naval operation, ordered the Cyane to San Jose del Cabo. As welcome a sight to the Americans as can be imagined, at sundown on February 14, the Cyane arrived at San Jose. The next morning, 102 men landed. The rescue party advanced along a two-mile road near the hamlet of San Vicente. Heywood and 30 of his men sallied from the cuartel to join their rescuers. As the Americans advanced, the Mexicans retreated. During the 20-day siege, Heywood lost three men and the Mexicans lost from thirteen (Heywood) to 35 (Dupont).

With San Jose secured, Colonel Burton, on March 15, ordered a raid on Pineda's headquarters at San Antonio, about 30 miles south of La Paz. At daylight on the following morning, Captain Seymour G. Steele, U.S. Army, and 33 mounted men charged the camp, killing three of the enemy and driving off the rest. Pineda escaped in his night clothes. The New York Volunteers lost one man, but rescued eight men who had been captured at San Jose.

Captain ("Black Jack") Henry Naglee and 114 recruits detached from Companies C and D of the First Regiment of the New York Volunteers arrived at La Paz on March 22 on the storeship Isabella. Burton could now move against the enemy without leaving La Paz open. On March 26, Burton and 217 men set out for Todos Santos, about 55 miles southwest on the Pacific coast.

William R. Ryan described the appearance of the cavalry at the start of the march:

"We had all sorts of costumes, some military, some Californian, some wearing a hybrid between the two, others habited after a fashion more decidedly brigandish than anything else, but the majority of us appearing much the worse for our rough journey through the thorns, whilst many were literally in rags."

(William R. Ryan, Personal Adventures in Upper and Lower California, 1848-1849, Vol. 1, William Shoberl Publisher, London, 1850, pp. 138-139)

On March 27, the first day out, an advance party of fifteen captured Pineda at San Antonio. On March 30, as the expedition neared Todos Santos, Burton sent Captain Naglee and 45 men to attack the enemy from the rear. Two hundred to 300 Mexicans and Yaqui Indians occupied a hill in the path of the advancing force. Diverted by the men in front, the Mexicans were easy targets for Naglee's company that charged from behind. Burton reported the clash cost the Mexicans ten men, the Americans none.

With Todos Santos secured, Burton sent Naglee and 50 men toward Magdalena Bay, on the Pacific coast, to cut off the enemy's retreat. He led the rest of the soldiers back to La Paz, arriving April 7. With him were Pineda, six officers, and 103 non-commissioned officers and privates as prisoners.

After completing a 350-mile march over narrow mule paths under blistering heat in pursuit of an elusive enemy and with only brackish water to drink, Naglee came back April 12 with five captives. Acting in spite and hatred, within a mile of La Paz, Naglee ordered the shooting of an Indian and a Baja Californio prisoner in violation of military orders. For this dastardly deed, Colonel Richard B. Mason, military governor of Alta California, ordered Naglee arrested. When President Polk granted a pardon to military personnel for offenses committed in wartime, he escaped punishment.

Around April 2, authorities at Miraflores handed Mauricio Castro --- who had replaced Pineda as commander --- to Lieutenant George L. Selden of the Cyane.

Commander Dupont, on April 29, wrote to Commodore Shubrick about a matter over which neither man had control:

"The country is completely quieted, and, from what I can learn and from personal observations, I am impressed with the belief that all men of substance and respectability would decidedly prefer the American government and will be much mortified should the territory not be included in the treaty."

(House Executive Document 1, pp, 1156-1157)

. Ironically, the American success at Todos Santos and in mopping-up operations came after the signing in Mexico City, on February 2, 1848, of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which did not allow United States' possession of Baja California.

The idleness that followed the signing of the treaty made the New York Volunteers restless. Some objected to "Black Jack" Naglee's stern discipline and harsh punishments. Others thought they should be released from military service at once. Mutinies among Volunteers occurred at San Jose del Cabo in April and at La Paz in June. Marines from the Cyane and the Independence quickly subdued the mutineers.

The fight for Baja California lasted 18 months. During this time, President Polk, Commodores Stockton and Shubrick, and Commander Montgomery promised that Baja California would become part of the United States.

On April 12, 1848, Lieutenant Halleck, U.S. Army, wrote to Colonel Richard B. Mason, governor of Alta California:

"For the United States to voluntarily surrender this country to the Republic of Mexico, and leave these Californians exposed to the loss of life and confiscation of property for having sided with us, under the assurances . . . held out to them, would not only be itself a breach of national faith, but would make us appear in the eyes of the world guilty of the most deliberate and cruel deception."

(House Executive Document 17, pp. 606-612)

In August, Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman, adjutant general to Governor Mason, ordered the New York Volunteers to return to Alta California to be discharged. Commodore Shubrick requested relief whereupon Secretary of the Navy John Y. Mason appointed Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones as his successor. This was the commander who prematurely seized Monterey in Alta California in 1842, four years before the formal beginning of hostilities.

In comparing the naval commanders who had done major work during the prosecution of the Mexican-American War, naval historian K. Jack Bauer concluded:

"His (Shubrick's) steady professionalism stands in sharp contrast to the flamboyant egocentricity of Stockton and Sloat's haunting fear of a misstep. He ranks with David Conner and Matthew Calbraith Perry as one of the outstanding figures of the war."

(K. Jack Bauer, The Mexican War, 1846-1848, Macmillan Publishing, New York, 1974, pp. 350-51)

While generally accurate, Bauer's criticism of Stockton and praise of Shubrick requires qualification. Retired U.S. Navy captain and naval historian Edward L. Beach gave Stockton credit for bringing about the conquest of Alta California "in a brilliantly executed war of tactical movement." Both Bauer and Beach gave Commodore David Conner credit for organizing the successful amphibious landing of 8,600 troops under the command of General Winfield Scott at Veracruz on March 9, 1847. Conner's plan was so successful it was a model for amphibious landings in World War II. Commodore Perry, who opened Japan to foreign trade in 1854, replaced the ailing Conner in charge of the blockade of the Mexican Gulf Coast after the landing. He launched attacks on Veracruz and smaller ports on the Gulf Coast. His successes, not being of a spectacular kind, are generally overlooked by historians.

Commodore John Sloat neutralized the northern part of Alta California in four days, having secured the submission of Monterey, Yerba Buena, Sonoma, and Sutter's Fort before Commodore Robert Stockton appeared on the scene. As there was no resistence, Sloat's skill in strategy and diplomacy was not in evidence. In the same manner, Stockton secured the submission of Los Angeles on August 13, 1846, a feat made easy because of the absence of opposing forces. Unlike Sloat, who advocated treating native people kindly, Stockton and his subordinate U.S. Marine Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie imposed harsh measures on a subjugated people, which led to a civilian uprising in Los Angeles and the retreat of the Americans. Stockton's only open act of sea and land warfare in Alta California occurred in the Battles of San Gabriel and La Mesa in January 1847, which resulted in the successful retaking of Los Angeles. Even then, he was assisted by Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny and by the inferior artillery and desultory tactics of Mexican Army captain Jose Maria Flores. Anxious to abandon his governmental responsibilities, Stockton gave U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel John Charles Fremont authority to manage the territory. Fremont was more lenient to and more popular among the native people than Stockton. In balance, therefore, Bauer's view of Stockton was accurate and Beaches' unfounded.

Unlike the ambitious and abrasive Stockton, the cool and methodical Shubrick maintained good relations with his subordinate officers. His military successes were, however, successes of logistics, not of strategy. He got American warships to the right places at the right time, leading to the pacification of Mexico's Pacific coast. This feat was simple as Mexico did not have a navy worthy of the name. Shubrick did not capture Acapulco, gateway to the Valley of Mexico, nor did he bring about an invasion of the Mexican mainland. Many naval victories were due to decisions by astute commanders, such as John B. Montgomery. and Samuel F. Dupont. Therefore, Bauer's commendation of Shubrick was correct because the difficulties that Shubrick confronted were easily surmountable.

Commodore ap Catesby Jones assigned the ship-of-the-line Ohio and second-class sloop Warren as troop transports and the storeship Southampton and second-class sloop Lexington as refuge transports. When it sailed from La Paz to Monterey, the Lexington had 130 married refugees and their children on board. The Ohio left La Paz on September 1 and San Jose on September 6 with the last of the New York Volunteers and 350 single male refugees. Refugees and volunteers who could not find a place on the Southampton and Lexington were placed on the Dale and the Warren. Among the refuges were Maria Ampara Ruiz, who later became Colonel Burton's wife; Padre Ignacio Ramirez y Arollona, a Dominican priest and friend of the Americans; and ex-governor Francisco Palacios Miranda. Many Baja Californios who sided with the Americans stayed behind because they did not want to lose their land. The Ohio reached Monterey on October 9. The total number of Baja Californios who made the move was approximately 500.

On October 24, Colonel Burton dismissed the three companies of New York Volunteers (A, B and D) which had been stationed in Baja California. On November 7, a total payment of $37,698 from a "military contributions fund" was made to those refugees who had sustained property damage as a result of military action. Meals and quarters costing $551.94 were furnished to refugees from October 1 to November 30. Several of the Mexican families who had migrated to California and many of the Volunteers resettled around San Francisco. A few Volunteers returned to Baja California, married local women and became Mexican citizens.

Looking back over the American withdrawal from Baja California, ex-Lieutenant E. Gould Buffum wrote:

"Never in the history of wars among civilized nations was there a greater piece of injustice committed, and the United States deserves for it the imprecations of all who have a sense of justice remaining in them. The probability is that some ignorant scribbler, who had cast his eyes upon the rugged rocks that girdle her seacoast, had represented Lower California as a worthless country, and, that, forgetting justice and good faith, our government left this compromised people to suffer at the hands of their own."

(Buffum, p. 144)

Lieutenant Craven was just as caustic:

"Lower California by some unaccountable baseness on the part of our government has been ceded to Mexico. . . . It must not be forgotten, that by the Proclamation of our Naval and Military commanders, the whole of California was declared to be annexed to the United States, this was not only done by authority, but under instructions from the Government . . ."

(Craven, Journal)

Most of the American soldiers and sailors who wrote about their experiences in the Baja California war questioned the reasoning that led to the exclusion of Baja California from the Mexican Cession of 1848. The wish to terminate speedily an unpopular war and the poverty of natural resources and rocky terrain of Baja California overwhelmed arguments for the area's retention. Secretary of State James B. Buchanan decided the issue on April 15, 1847, when he wrote to the United States treaty negotiator Nicholas P. Trist:

"Whilst it is of the greatest importance to the United States to extend their boundaries over Lower California as well as New Mexico and Upper California, you are not to consider this as a sine qua non to the exclusion of a treaty. You will, therefore, not break off negotiations if New Mexico and California can alone be acquired."

(Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States: Inter-American Affairs, 1831-1860, Vol. 8, Washington, D.C., 1932-1939, pp. 205-206)

The prosecution and conclusion of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 illustrate the truism that the nations of the world engage in wars for their own benefit and not for the benefit of people in other countries.

NOTE: This article is a revision of an article that was published in The Journal of San Diego History, Vol. 30, No. 1, Winter 1984

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