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Battle of San José del Cabo
Part of the Mexican-American War
Bajamap.gif
A map of the Baja Peninsula, San Jose del Cabo is located at the tip.
Date November 20-21, 1847
Location San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Result United States victory
Belligerents
United States United States Mexico Mexico
Commanders
US Naval Jack 29 stars.svg Lieutenant Charles Heywood Mexico Lieutenant José Antonio Mijares
Strength
20 marines,
20 militia,
4 sailors,
1 artillery piece
~150 militia
Casualties and losses
none 6-12 killed,
unknown wounded.

The Battle of San Jose del Cabo was a military engagement of the Mexican-American War which on two November days in 1847, after the Fall of Mexico City.

Contents

Background

On July 21, 1847, American forces occupied La Paz, Mexico for a second time. The New York Volunteers, a militia force from New York, landed peacefully on the beaches of La Paz. Soon after they captured San Jose del Cabo, another coastal town nearby. Commodore William Shubrick of the United States Navy left Lieutenant Charles Heywood, four sailors and twenty marines, along with a 9-pound carronade to garrison the town at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula.

The small force was armed with a stock of seventy-five carbines, twenty of which were used to arm twenty Californio volunteers, fighting for rights promised to them by Lieutenant Colonel Henry S. Burton and the United States Government. The garrison's only objective, hold onto San José. The small contingent occupied the town's barracks in an old church on a hill at the north end of town which featured unintentionally good defenses.

Battle

Captain Manuel Pineda, commander of the Mexican forces during this campaign, had attacked La Paz on November 16, during which he dispatched three of his lieutenants and a force of around 150 militiamen, mainly peasants from the suburbs. Their orders were to march on San José to the south. Reaching the town three days later on November 19, apparently in the evening, the force did not attack but offered terms of surrender to the commanding American lieutenant.

Heywood refused so the next day, the Mexicans launched their assault on the town. The American force occupied their chapel barracks where they had placed the cannon at the doorway during the ensuing engagement. The Mexicans charged for the chapel in an attempt to capture the American's 9-pounder, the United States fighting men and the Californio militia put up stiff resistance.

The attack left Lieutenant José Antonio Mijares, possibly the Mexican commander, and a disputed six to twelve killed. The Mexicans claimed six deaths and Lieutenant Heywood claimed twice the number. Many others were wounded, mostly from artillery shells bursting in front of them. The Americans suffered no casualties. The Mexican forces retreated for the day, on November 21, two American whalers appeared off the coast.

The Mexicans feared the vessels to be enemy warships. So they decided to abandon their attempt to capture San José del Cabo.

Aftermath

Upon hearing of the attack at San José del Cabo, Commodore Shubrick, sent the storeship USS Southampton and the first-class sloop-of-war USS Portsmouth to reinforce Heywood's men. The Southampton arrived on November 26 and the Portsmouth on December 3.

Captain Pineda, facing two defeats, one at La Paz where he personally commanded the battle, recalled his company from San José and decided to escalate his attack strength, first at the Siege of La Paz and then again at the Siege of San José del Cabo. For his brave action, the Mexicans consider the death of Lieutenant Mijares as heroic and have placed a monument to honor him on the main street of San José del Cabo, which is called Calle Mijares.

References

  • Nathan Covington Brooks, A Complete History of the Mexican War (The Rio Grande Press, Inc., 1965). Justin H. Smith, The War With Mexico, Vols. I and II. (Peter Smith, Gloucester, Mass., 1963).
  • John R. Spears, The History of the Navy, Vol. III (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1897), pp. 401-409. K. Jack Bauer, Surfboats and Horse Marines (U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, Md., 1969).
  • President James K. Polk's Message on War with Mexico, May 11, 1846, in Documents of American History, 9th edition, Vol. I (Prentice Hall, Inc., 1979), p. 311.
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