Battle of San Pasqual: Wikis

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Battle of San Pasqual
Battle of San Pascual.gif
A map of the battle site.Mexican-American War
Date December 6, 1846
Location San Pasqual Valley, San Diego, California
Result Mexican Victory [1]
Belligerents
 United States Mexico Mexico
Commanders
Stephen Watts Kearny Andrés Pico
Strength
179-200
cavalry,
infantry,
artillery,
1 artillery piece
90-100
cavalry,
militia
Casualties and losses
17 killed,
18 wounded,
1 missing
2 killed,
12 wounded

The Battle of San Pasqual, also spelled San Pascual, was a military encounter that occurred during the Mexican-American War in what is now the San Pasqual Valley community of the city of San Diego, California. On December 6 and December 7, 1846, Stephen W. Kearny's US Army column, along with a smaller force of Marines, suffered one of the worst defeats of American forces during the Mexican-American War, at the hands of the Californios, and their Presidial Lancers, led by General Don Andrés Pico.

Contents

Background

General Kearny had orders to assume command of U.S. forces in California, but before entering California from Santa Fe, Kearny sent back 200 of his 300 mounted dragoons after hearing from messenger Kit Carson that all of California had already been captured by Commodore Robert F. Stockton and his 400 combined sailors and Marines, and John C. Frémont and his approximate 400 man California Battalion. After an 850-mile (1,370 km) grueling march across the Sonora Desert, Kearny and his mostly mule-mounted men finally reached California in a greatly weakened condition. There they met up with Captain Archibald Gillespie of the U.S. Marines, who with his small force of 36 men and a small howitzer had recently been driven out of Los Angeles. The total American forces amounted to about 179. Gillespie also brought a message from Stockton that informed Kearny of the presence at San Pasqual of a force of about 100 men mounted on fresh horses led by Andrés Pico.

The Americans did not expect the Californios to be formidable adversaries, but Kearny still wanted to capitalize on a surprise attack if at all possible. He also wanted more exact information about the enemy force in preparation for an attack the following morning.

Lieutenant Thomas C. Hammond together with a Californio deserter, Rafael Machado, and a detachment of six dragoons (one report says three dragoons and still another eleven) were ordered to scout Pico's position which was located in a small Indian village in San Pasqual Valley. Hammond's scouting party was discovered by Captain Leonardo Cota and some of his Californio-Mexican Lancers, while training in the valley below. The element of surprise was lost. At midnight Kearny ordered an immediate advance. It had rained that night. Men, muskets, pistols and equipment were wet and cold, but the troops after over six months without any action were eager to engage the Californios. Early in the morning of December 6, 1846, the column proceeded by twos across the ridge between Santa Maria (present day Ramona, California) and San Pasqual. During the descent while it was still dark and with a low lying fog, Kearny's force became strung out by Captain Cota's lancers, underestimating the well trained lancers and followed by General Pico's swift advancement. Accounts differ as to what command was given and by whom, but Captain Abraham R. Johnson is thought to have prematurely initiated action.

Battle

A charge was initiated while Kearny's force was still three quarters of a mile (1.2 km) from Pico's encampment. About forty of the best mounted officers and men got far ahead of the main body of the force. The mules pulling Kearny's howitzers bolted, taking one of the guns with them. Pico's force was already mounted and easily managed to remain ahead of the pursuing Americans on their weary mules. Their fresh horses and superior horsemanship made it easy for them to manoeuvre as they wished, and they led the advance group of Americans even farther away from their main force. The Americans did not know the terrain and the Californios did. A second separation developed until about twenty eight Americans including Kearny were in the forefront of the charge. Damp powder reduced the effectiveness of the American carbines and pistols, and they were soon reduced to relying on their sabers alone. The Californios were armed with a mixture of firearms, sabers, long lances and reatas (braided rawhide lariat).

As the leading element of the American attack drew close to the Indian village, the Californios wheeled back and fired their few firearms. One of their first shots killed Captain Johnson, but the Americans continued on and were able to fire back. The Californios retreated, and the Americans pursued. Captain Benjamin D. Moore ordered a second charge. This further increased the distance between the American elements and further reduced the size of the leading element. When the Californios again turned back, they were able to deal with Captain Moore alone. He was quickly surrounded and killed. Other Americans caught up with the action, but their weapons misfired and many of them were wounded or killed by Californios using lances. Some were pulled from their horses by the Californio's lariats and then lanced. Most of the Americans were mounted on mules and were particularly vulnerable because of the mules reluctance to wheel. It was easy for the better mounted Californios to outflank the Americans and pick them off with their long lances.

Both Captain Gillespie and General Kearny were wounded in the battle and several of the other officers were killed or wounded. Captain Henry Turner temporarily took command and organized a defensive position, which permitted the rest of the command to catch up with the battered lead element. Dr John S. Griffin, Kearny's surgeon, reported that the Americans had lost seventeen killed and eighteen wounded out of the fifty officers and men that actually engaged the enemy. The dead were buried in a mass grave. Pico's forces suffered two killed and 12 wounded in the battle.

American forces set up a defensive perimeter and sent Kit Carson, an accompanying soldier and an Indian guide to request reinforcements from the American fleet anchored in San Diego bay. Under the cover of darkness, Carson and his team were able to get to the American fleet. The badly beaten, demoralized and terrified American forces, fearing another attack by the Californios, and not waiting for Carson's return, probably withdrew a few hours later whilst the cover of darkness still prevailed. American soldiers traveled to San Diego and united with the American fleet there. During the late 19th and early 20th century, there was much debate as to which force won or lost the battle. Clearly, Kearny retained the battle area, the ability to operate and maneuver, and also the initiative, though his losses were higher. After an extensive review of the battle in 1928, the U.S. Army War College declared that General Kearny had in fact gained a victory at San Pasqual, a conclusion which is now mostly discounted by modern historians. It is generally now considered one of the worst military defeats suffered by US forces during the Mexican American War.

Aftermath

Kearny sent dispatches carried by Edward Beale and Kit Carson and requesting urgent reinforcements to Commodore Stockton, who was headquartered at San Diego, 28 miles (45 km) to the south-southwest. Stockton quickly dispatched a unit of over 200 sailors and Marines, whose arrival caused the Californios to disperse, and Kearny's battered forces were escorted to San Diego, California.

Kearny Mesa, an area of San Diego, was later named after General Kearny. Kit Carson Park on the south side of Escondido was named in honor of Kit Carson. Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, California is named after Edward Beale. In September 1942 Camp Gillespie was completed and named in honor of Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie. In 1944 it was handed over to the County of San Diego and rechristened Gillespie Field now a municipal airport.

Captain Benjamin D. Moore, who fell during the battle, was honored by the dedication and naming of Fort Moore in Los Angeles, California, which was memorialized with the Fort Moore Hill Pioneer Memorial.

The site of the battle is commemorated as San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park.

See also

Further reading

  • Coy, Owen C., PhD, "The Battle of San Pasqual," Sacramento: California State Printing Office, 1921.
  • William B. Dunne, Notes on the Battle of San Pascual (Berkeley: Bancroft Library)
  • Sally Cavell Jones, The Battle of San Pascual (Masters Thesis, USD, 1973)
  • Executive Document Number 1, accompanying the President's message at the Second Session of the 30th Congress, December, 1848, including the Report of Commodore Stockton.

References

  1. ^ Richard Griswold del Castillo. "The U.S.-Mexican War in San Diego, 1846-1847: Loyalty and Resistance". The Journal of San Diego History. http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/v49-1/war.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 

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Battle of San Pasqual
Part of the Mexican-American War
File:Battle of San Pascual.gif
A map of the battle site.
Date December 6, 1846
Location San Pasqual Valley, San Diego, California
Result see Aftermath
Belligerents
 United States Mexico
Commanders and leaders
Stephen Watts Kearny Andrés Pico
Strength
179–200
cavalry,
infantry,
artillery,
1 artillery piece
90–100
cavalry,
militia
Casualties and losses
17 killed,
18 wounded,
1 missing
2 killed,
12 wounded

The Battle of San Pasqual, also spelled San Pascual, was a military encounter that occurred during the Mexican-American War in what is now the San Pasqual Valley community of the city of San Diego, California. On December 6 and December 7, 1846, General Stephen W. Kearny's US Army column, along with a smaller force of Marines, suffered defeat at the hands of the Californios and their Presidial Lancers, led by General Don Andrés Pico. In the aftermath, the US forces still were able to reach San Diego, where the combined US military drove the Californios out of the area.

Contents

Background

General Kearny had orders to assume command of U.S. forces in California, but before entering Alta California from Santa Fe, Kearny sent back 200 of his 300 mounted dragoons after hearing from messenger Kit Carson that all of California had already been captured by Commodore Robert F. Stockton and his 400 combined sailors and Marines, and John C. Frémont and his approximate 400 man California Battalion. After an 850-mile (1,370 km) grueling march across the Sonora Desert, Kearny and his mostly mule-mounted men finally reached California in a greatly weakened condition. There they met up with Captain Archibald Gillespie of the U.S. Marines, who brought a message from Stockton and his small force of 36 men and a small howitzer which had recently been driven out of Los Angeles. The total American forces amounted to about 179.[1]

Prelude

Captain Archibald Gillespie's message from Stockton informed Kearny of the presence at San Pasqual of a force of about 100 Californio dragoons mounted on fresh horses led by the commander of all Mexican forces in California, Andrés Pico. The Americans did not expect the Californios to be formidable adversaries, but Kearny still wanted to capitalize on a surprise attack if at all possible and capture the Californios' horse herd. He also wanted more exact information about the enemy force in preparation for an attack the following morning.

Lieutenant Thomas C. Hammond, together with a Californio deserter, Rafael Machado, and a detachment of six dragoons (light cavalry)—one report says three dragoons and still another eleven—were ordered to scout Pico's position, which was located in a small Indian village in San Pasqual Valley. Hammond's scouting party was discovered by Captain Leonardo Cota and some of his Californio Mexican lancers, while they were training in the valley below. The element of surprise was lost. At midnight Kearny ordered an immediate advance. It had rained that night. Men, muskets, pistols and equipment were wet and cold, but the troops after over six months without any action were eager to engage the Californios. Early in the morning of December 6, 1846, the column proceeded by twos across the ridge between Santa Maria (present day Ramona, California) and San Pasqual. During the descent, while it was still dark and with a low lying fog, Kearny's force became strung out, and were caught in a disadvantageous position by General Pico's swift advance.[2]

Battle

Accounts differ as to what command was given and by whom, but Captain Abraham R. Johnson is thought to have prematurely initiated action. According to Sides, Kearny ordered "Trot!" which Johnson at the front of the column misunderstood and repeated as "Charge!". Kearny's force at that time was three quarters of a mile (1.2 km) from Pico's encampment. About forty of the best mounted officers and men got far ahead of the main body of the force. The mules pulling Kearny's howitzers bolted, taking one of the guns with them. Pico's force was already mounted and easily managed to remain ahead of the pursuing Americans on their weary mules. Their fresh horses and superior horsemanship made it easy for them to manoeuvre as they wished, and they led the advance group of Americans even farther away from their main force. The Americans did not know the terrain and the Californios did. A second separation developed until about twenty-eight Americans including Kearny were in the forefront of the charge. Damp powder reduced the effectiveness of the American carbines and pistols, and they were soon reduced to relying on their sabers alone. The Californios were armed with a mixture of firearms, sabers, and long lances and reatas (braided rawhide lariat) which they used with great effect.

As the leading element of the American attack drew close to a Kumeyaay revillage, the Californios wheeled back and fired their few firearms. One of their first shots killed Captain Johnson, but the Americans continued on and returned fire. The Californios retreated, and the Americans pursued. Captain Benjamin D. Moore ordered a second charge. This increased the distance between the American elements and further reduced the size of the leading element. When the Californios reversed, they were able to confront Captain Moore and his forces alone. He was quickly surrounded and killed. Other Americans caught up with the action, but their weapons misfired and many of them were wounded or killed by Californios using lances. Some were pulled from their horses by the Californios' lariats and then lanced. Mounted on mules, the Americans were particularly vulnerable because of the mules' noted reluctance to wheel. The better mounted Californios easily outflanked the Americans and picked them off with the long lances.

Both Captain Gillespie and General Kearny were wounded in the battle, and several of the other officers were killed or wounded. Captain Henry Turner temporarily took command and organized a defensive position, which permitted the rest of the command to catch up with the battered lead. Dr John S. Griffin, Kearny's surgeon, reported that the Americans had lost 17 killed and 18 wounded out of the 50 officers and men who engaged the enemy. They buried the dead in a mass grave. Pico's forces suffered only two killed and 12 wounded in the battle.

After setting up a defensive perimeter, the Americans sent Kit Carson, an escort and Indian guide to appeal for reinforcements from the American fleet anchored in San Diego Bay. Under the cover of darkness, Carson and his team reached the American fleet. The badly beaten and demoralized American forces, fearing another attack by the Californios and not waiting for Carson's return, probably withdrew a few hours later under darkness. The US forces traveled to San Diego and united with the American fleet there. Together they were able to drive Californio forces out of San Diego.[3]

Aftermath

Kearny sent dispatches carried by Edward Beale and Kit Carson and requesting urgent reinforcements to Commodore Stockton, who was headquartered at San Diego, 28 miles (45 km) to the south-southwest. Stockton quickly dispatched a unit of over 200 sailors and Marines, whose arrival caused the Californios to disperse. The new forces escorted Kearny's battered troops to San Diego, where they arrived December 12.[4]

Some time after the battle, General Kearny wrote that the US had achieved victory since the Californios had "fled the field",[4] but, his was not a highly shared view. Officers of the United States Navy viewed the battle as a defeat of the U.S. Army, while the Californios saw the engagement as a victory.[4] To this day, who won is disputed.[5]

During the late 19th and early 20th century, historians debated which force won or lost the battle. Clearly, Kearny retained the battle area, the ability to operate and maneuver, and also the initiative, though his losses were higher. The victor of the battle is still debated. The battle is also unique in that it is one of the few military battles in the United States that involved elements of the Army, Navy, Marines, and civilian volunteers, all in the same skirmish.[6]

Legacy

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Pages 140 to 149, Sides, Blood and Thunder
  2. ^ Pages 148 to 151, Sides, Blood and Thunder
  3. ^ Pages 154 to 165, Sides, Blood and Thunder
  4. ^ a b c Richard Griswold del Castillo. "The U.S.-Mexican War in San Diego, 1846–1847: Loyalty and Resistance". The Journal of San Diego History. http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/v49-1/war.htm. Retrieved 18 October 2008. 
  5. ^ "The Battle of San Pasqual". The California State Military Museum. California State Military Department. http://www.militarymuseum.org/SanPasqual.html. Retrieved 24 March 2010. 
  6. ^ "San Pasqual Battlefield Site Location Project". www.sanpasqual.org. http://www.sanpasqual.org/. Retrieved 9 July 2010. 

References

  • Sides, Hampton, Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West, Doubleday (2006), hardcover, 462 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-50777-6

Further reading

  • Coy, Owen C., PhD, "The Battle of San Pasqual," Sacramento: California State Printing Office, 1921.
  • Dunne, William B. Notes on the Battle of San Pascual (Berkeley: Bancroft Library)
  • Executive Document Number 1, accompanying the President's message at the Second Session of the 30th Congress, December, 1848, including the Report of Commodore Stockton.
  • Jones, Sally Cavell, The Battle of San Pascual (Masters Thesis, USD, 1973)


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